5 Ways to keep your senior dog healthy and happy
My dog Champ is always leery when we visit the vet, and it's understandable. While our vet is amazingly gentle with him, the last time we were there, Champ left without part of his intestine, sporting the cone of shame. Dogs don't forget things like that.
The moment Dr. J walked in to the room, Champ stuffed his 85-pound self under my chair and pretended he didn't exist. It took a fistful of treats, a tug and a scratch behind his ears to coax him out of hiding.
Then began the exam of the problem area: the bump on his butt. I honestly thought it was nothing. He's 11 years old; weird things are bound to happen to his aging body. Shoot, my grandma grew skin tags. Totally harmless. Maybe the bump was just a hemorrhoid.
Champ, our Champ, was fine. He was eating and acting normally. It was just a bump. Only it wasn't.
It was a tumor, and there were more: one on the back of his neck, and one on his chest.
In June 2015, Champ had surgery to remove the tumors—and thankfully, those tumors were benign. He came out with a reconstructed booty that even Kim Kardashian would be jealous of, and he is even livelier than he was before the surgery.
Someone yelled "Dirty underwear!" and he went wild for an entire five minutes.
Because our Champ is a senior dog, we take special care to keep him happy and healthy. He's at that stage in his life in which the aging process is wearing out his joints, deteriorating his eyesight and hearing, and grizzling up his beard. Here's what you can do to help keep your senior dog happy and healthy through his golden days:
1. Take your dog to the veterinarian for at least one yearly wellness testing.
As much as my dog loves to hate the vet, it's the only way to make sure you're getting a thorough physical examination of your dog. This can also include urine and fecal exams and additional vaccinations. Wellness testing is particularly important in geriatric dogs, since an older animal has a greater chance of contracting a disease or developing an ongoing but stable condition that needs to be monitored.
2. Feed your dog a nutritious diet, including plenty of fresh water.
Remember when you were a teenager and could eat all the things and didn't gain a single pound… but now you just think of nachos smothered in cheese and poor life decisions and wham, 20 pounds later and you're reaching for your stretchy pants? Senior dogs are a lot like that. As they age, their nutritional needs change, too. Their metabolism slows down, and their activity may also change pace.
You may need to adjust how frequently they eat, increase their fiber intake, or decrease their portion sizes. Consult with your veterinarian to see what will work best for your dog.
3. Maintain a healthy weight.
Just like with us humans, obesity causes many health problems, and may shorten your dog's life.
4. According to what he can physically do, make sure your dog receives adequate exercise.
In Champ's world, he plays "fetch the tennis ball" for an hour. In the real world, that's roughly five minutes. But every day, we take a gingerly stroll around our neighborhood so that he can mark his driveways. Do what they can handle.
5. Give your dog lots of love.
It should go without saying, but give them lots of love and attention. After all, no matter what they do, be it lounging on the couch snoring, or snuggling on your lap snoring, or lying by your feet snoring, or just staring at you with those adorable eyes: They spend their entire day filling your heart with happy.