Adult Dog Care
Modern veterinary medicine has made tremendous strides in adult dog care and in protecting and repairing the health of our “best friends” – our pets are living longer than ever before! This happy state of affairs has led to the interest in a relatively new aspect of canine well-being – dog care for the aging dog!
Just like people, our pets go through life stages of growth, maturity, and aging. The passage from one stage to another is often blurred, and owners must be on guard to recognize the signs that their dog is getting older.
Old age comes at different times for different breeds of dogs and different individual dogs. Giant breeds tend to age early, for their life expectancy is generally less than 10 years. Large and medium-sized breeds have a life expectancy of 11-14 years, and small breeds can live 15 years or longer.
In addition, when looking at an overview of adult dog care, a strong, healthy dog will probably age later in life than a dog that is stressed by disease or environment earlier in his life. And dogs that are spayed or neutered before six months of age ordinarily live longer than dogs that are not “fixed.”
Nutritional Dog Care
Adult dog care requires sufficient nutrients to meet energy needs and to maintain and repair body tissue. The amount you feed your adult dog should be based on his or her size and energy output. Activity levels vary dramatically between pets, and will play an important role in determining caloric intake.
As a responsible dog owner, one of the most common pitfalls you’ll ever have to watch out for is overfeeding. Attempts to shower our dogs with love by means of big meals and tons of tasty treats are sweet – but misguided! In dog care, as with humans, extra weight can lead to health problems. Be sure to indulge your four-legged friend with affection – not food!
Exercise for Adult Dog Care
As dogs age, they naturally require less exercise than when young, but this does not mean you should ever stop your walks altogether. Your dog will be able to tell you when enough is enough, so watch for signs of tiredness while you are out together. Exercise is an essential part of great dog care efforts – keeping the animal fit, showing interest in them and preventing boredom. Without exercise, a dog may very well become a problem because boredom can lead to chewing and other behavioral issues.
Play time is also an important part of a dog’s life, so make sure there are plenty of toys and plenty of opportunities to play with members of the family. But, dogs must also have their own space, so make sure your pet is not disturbed when asleep, and that children in particular know not to encroach on the sleeping area.
Medical Health Dog Care
All dogs – whatever their age – benefit from regular check-ups at the vet. If you notice any symptoms of illness, take your dog for a check-up promptly. As animals age, they exhibit a range of signs – ranging from stiffness after rest, loss of hearing, diminishing eyesight, to poor appetite. Most of these dog care symptoms are straightforward and nothing to worry too much about, but it is best to get them checked.
If your dog experiences a loss of appetite, or starts to drink excessive amounts, then you should take him to the vet as soon as possible!
Ear problems can also be common. If you notice a smell, inflammation, wax or discharge, or if your dog is shaking his head a lot, consult your vet promptly.
Dog Care Vaccinations
So, you’ve made it through the ever-eventful first-year puppy stage, and are now looking forward to providing continued dog care for many years for your canine companion. Here are some things you need to know to make those years as happy and healthy as possible for your pal.
Once your dog is out of the cute puppy stage, he will have different dog care needs. Some vaccinations require regular boosters, so this is a great time to have your dog checked over by the vet. He will provide details of any regular boosters that may be are required – it is essential that these be kept up to date!
Distemper, Parvovirus, and Rabies vaccinations are all 3-year vaccinations after the initial sets are finished. Veterinarians recommend receiving these vaccinations on a rotation where the dog will receive one of these vaccinations each year. For example:
- Distemper (booster in 1 year after the initial vaccination series)
- Parvo (booster in 2 years after the initial vaccination series)
- Rabies (booster in 3 years after the initial vaccination series)
In addition, from then on:
- The Bordetella is a yearly vaccination, although some boarding and grooming facilities may require this to be given a little more often.
- An Annual Intestinal Parasite Exam (fecal) is recommended.
- The Heartworm Antigen Test is recommended to be done every other year in addition to regular preventative medications.
Dental Health Dog Care
Dental problems are common with adult dogs, so keep an eye on teeth and gums, and look for signs of dog care problems such as redness, inflammation and plaque. If you see any of these, take your dog to the vet to be checked. Chews and strong toys can help prevent dental dog care problems, and regular brushing helps enormously.
After your dog reaches a few years of age, tarter begins to build up at the junction of the gums and teeth. If this tarter is not removed, it builds up until it undermines the tissue and causes receding gums. The area can then become infected, which leads to bad breath, as well as pain for your pet. Severe gum infections, abscessed teeth, and cheek ulcers can also develop as a result.
Chronic infections of the teeth and gums also cause other health problems throughout the body. Bacteria enter the bloodstream from infected teeth and cause infection in organs such as the liver, the kidneys, the heart, and also the joints.
Good dental health dog care can lengthen your dog’s life an average of 10 to 20% through the prevention of secondary problems. But you can also help reduce dental problems by:
- Feeding a dry dog food daily.
- Brushing (with toothpaste designed for animals) daily or weekly.
- Scheduling regular dental exams and/or routine dental cleaning and polishing.
Internal & External Parasite Dog Care
Even clean dogs can pick up fleas and ticks – but once your dog has them, they can be difficult to get rid of. These dog care parasites can breed in bedding or in your carpets and furniture, so it is wise to treat your dog regularly with a preventative, recommended or obtained from your vet. Do not disregard the problem until you actually see fleas or ticks on your dog – by then, they may be much more difficult to cure!
Worms – roundworms and tapeworms – also require regular preventative treatment. Although there are many treatments available to combat them, it is best to consult your vet for advice on the most effective ones available. Regular dog care treatment – every three months – is usually recommended, especially because there is a small risk of passing roundworms to humans.
According to the American Heartworm Society, canine heartworm disease develops when a dog is bitten by a mosquito carrying microscopic heartworm larvae (juvenile worms) of a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis. As a mosquito feeds, these microscopic larvae are deposited on the dog and quickly penetrate the skin to begin their migration into the dog’s bloodstream. Adult heartworms can grow 10 to 12 inches in length and make their home in the right side of the heart and pulmonary (lung) arteries, often causing lung disease and heart failure.
Happily, as is with most parasite dog care issues, this is an easily preventable disease! It is recommended to have your dog tested at least every other year, as well as keeping your dog on a preventative medication.
So, is adult dog care that important? You bet it is!
As the body slows down, it uses less energy, so the tendency to deposit fat is increased. This is the time of life when those little treats start to catch up! Some dogs lose weight due to poor digestion or illness (always consult your vet if your dog is losing weight). Other changes make your dog’s mouth drier and swallowing may become difficult.
The skin becomes less elastic, the coat loses its shine and white hairs may start to appear. Hearing and sight deteriorate, and your pet may become less efficient at remembering things. Sleep patterns often change, with some older pets becoming restless at night. The muscles and bones become weaker, and the immune system may not work as well, so your pet becomes less able to fight off infections, and there can be deterioration of the internal organs such as the heart, liver and kidney.
However, it’s not all bad news! As we have pointed out here, improvements in dog care medicine means that there are now drugs available to help reduce some of the effects of old age in dogs. Age is no longer a reason to accept ill health, and even old dogs can lead happy, active lives.