Dog Sydney HoelscherOur pets are more than just pets. They are our best friends and family members. As they age, they often need help to navigate their surroundings and to be comfortable in their everyday life. We generally consider a dog or cat to be “senior” when they reach seven years of age. Larger dogs, unfortunately, have shorter life spans. Cats tend to live longer than dogs, so depending on weight and breed, some cats may not be “seniors” until they reach 10 or 11 years of age.

How Can You Help?

1. Raise their food and water
As your pet ages, it may become more difficult for them to lower their neck to eat food or drink water. Purchase or build a raised platform to elevate the food and water bowls. Food bowls for cats should be placed in a location where your cat can approach from any direction and not be forced to have their back exposed to other animals in the household. Cats may actually need their food and water dishes moved to a lower location as jumping can be difficult or painful.

2. Modify the Litterbox
For older cats, arthritis pain can make it difficult to jump over the side of a regular litter box. There are litter boxes on the market with lower openings designed for older cats, but you can also use a storage bin with an entry way cut out in the front. If you have more than one cat, make sure to have one more litter box than the number of cats that you have.

dog scratchingIt’s not a coincidence that your dog gets ear infections at the same time each year! It is very likely that your dog is having an allergic reaction to weed pollens that are present in the environment late in the summer.

When an allergic dog contacts the offending pollen, his immune system reacts by releasing histamines and other chemicals into the skin, causing intense itching. Often the itching affects several areas of the body, such as feet, legs, armpits and face. Sometimes the only area affected is the ears. Rubbing at the ears then allows yeast and bacteria (normal residents on the skin of the ear) to proliferate and cause an infection.

Dog runningAs veterinarians, we spend many hours educating our clients on the importance of exercise, nutrition and obesity in their pets. We work hard every day to deal with conditions such as arthritis, joint injuries and metabolic diseases that could have been prevented by a nutrition and fitness program.

Even dogs who aren't overweight can exhibit behavior problems due to the lack of exercise. It is so important to maintain a well-balanced, enriched lifestyle for our pets. It excites me when I talk to pet owners who understand the importance of fitness for themselves as well as their dogs and ask me about safe exercise programs for their canine companions.

How Soon Should You Start Running with Your Dog?

The absolute first step in starting any exercise program, as with ourselves, is to have your pet's overall health assessed by your veterinarian. There are many factors to be considered when it comes to determining whether your dog can be a runner or not. For example, breed, conformation (the way the skeletal system is aligned during development), age, etc. For most dogs, regular running should not be started until they are 8-9 months old. You risk causing permanent damage to joints and bones if regular, high impact exercise is initiated too early. Large and giant breed dogs take much longer to develop their musculoskeletal system than medium and small breed dogs, so 8-9 months may even be too early for them.