Saturday, November 27, 2010

Helping Your 'Good Old Dog' Navigate Aging : NPR

Helping Your 'Good Old Dog' Navigate Aging : NPR

As dogs age, taking care of them becomes more difficult. Owners of aging dogs often struggle with their pets' dementia and incontinence— as well as navigating through the maze of end-of-life care decisions.

Among the basic things owners need to know about raising older pets, Dodman says, is that older dogs are typically more sensitive to extreme temperature changes because of changes in their metabolism.

"They're really like older people," he explains. "Older people are often the ones who are the victims of these freezing bouts or extremes of heat. They're less able to thermoregulate. So we have to take account of that by making sure they have some kind of blanketlike coat or contraption on to keep them warm and not keep them out so long in cold weather. The same goes for heat.

Dodman also recommends moderating exercise for older dogs, because heart and lung function do deteriorate. And he warns owners who purchase dog food packaged specially as a "senior diet" for their pets.

Older dogs can also develop canine cognitive dysfunction, says Dodson, which is the human equivalent of Alzheimer's.

How to measure the age of your dog
"The smaller dogs live longer, and very large breeds live quite a short life span. So if you take an older dog, you might want to multiply by 8 or so to come up with its human equivalent years and for small dogs — say between 10 or 15 pounds — that number drops to 6. So you multiply by 6 to come up with its human equivalent."

Excerpted from Good Old Dog: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Happy, Healthy, and Comfortable by Nicholas Dodman. Copyright 2010 by Nicholas Dodman.

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