Aging is a natural process of life in all species affecting cells, tissues, and organs within the body. Age itself is not a disease – but disease often occurs due to the body’s cumulative impaired ability to repair itself. With senior dogs, many experience painful joint conditions, such as arthritis, chronic diseases, cardiovascular disease, cataracts, dental issues, incontinence, and chronic degenerative diseases. Almost all of the above conditions are caused by the deterioration of one or more of the organ systems. But does it have to be this way? Just like there is new advances in human health, your dog can benefit from the same progress in science.
Let’s discuss the different areas of the body that age and how these areas impact your dog’s overall wellbeing.
There are several behavior issues that can arise with older dogs. Many senior dogs may become grumpy and prefer solitude over company. Some may experience disorientation and memory loss which causes them confusion. These symptoms are often the result of pain and discomfort which can be relieved with herbal or homeopathic remedies. Recommend: Omega 3's to keep cells well oiled and walls strong, Probiotics.
Many senior dogs experience cognitive dysfunction, or diminished brain function. Symptoms include memory loss, disorientation, and lack of interest in being social. This occurs because nerve cells are not always spectacular at reproducing themselves, and as your dog ages, the number of brain cells decreases. As the cells shrink, your dog’s cognitive abilities also shrink. Recommend: Omega 3, Vitamin D
Hearing loss is a common result of aging and is a progressive disorder. Recommend: Homeopathic care for ear health
As dogs age, the cartilage lined-joint becomes damaged and this can be painful. Natural wear of joint surfaces can also cause inflammation. For more information on Arthritis, visit our previous article.
The tissues of the lungs tend to become less elastic with age, causing many dogs to prefer less strenuous exercise. In susceptible breeds, the cartilage rings of the trachea can lose strength, causing an airway disease called collapsing trachea. This can in turn put more strain on the lungs. The lungs are also a common site for metastasized tumors to spread. Recommend: Lycophene and Ginger found in Longevity,
Due to the detoxification purposes of the liver, dogs that have been exposed to a lot of toxins over their lifetime may suffer from disease. Detoxification is extremely important for overall health otherwise the waste buildup will lead to a break down in the body causing much worse diseases. Recommend: Milk Thistle or Dandelion found in Elimay Detox
Incontinence isn’t rare with senior dogs. The cause of this may be the result of increased thirst or decreased control of the bladder. If your dog is having problems with incontinence, have your veterinarian examine your pup. Blood work may also be needed, as hormonal imbalances can also cause incontinence.
Fortunately, there are preventative measures you can take to ensure your dog ages as comfortably as possible.
Feeding a home-prepared diet is optimal for keeping your dog’s health in top shape. Regardless of how good the commercial food you are feeding is, as your dog ages, his/her abilities to utilize food will begin to decline. Diet should be frequently evaluated to determine that your dog’s diet is working for him/her at the specific point in his/her life. If you would like more information on homemade diets, please ask me.
Adding supplements to your dog’s diet may be beneficial, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, herbal antioxidant blends, and vitamin blends. A digestive enzyme and/or probiotic or prebiotic can be added to each meal to optimize digestion. An essential fatty acid supplement such as omegas is helpful in protecting the joints, liver, skin, and overall immune system. There are also many specific supplements available for certain conditions.
Herbal remedies can be very supportive and helpful to senior dogs.
Dandelion or burdock root can be used as a liver toxic, improving the elimination of toxins from the body, as well as increasing bile production and digestive enzymes.
Spirulina, wheatgrass, or other greens can be mixed with your dog’s homemade food to provide trace minerals and antioxidant protection. Astragalus root and Siberian ginseng can strength the immune system. Brain function may be improved by the addition of antioxidants such as Vitamin E and products containing ginko biloba.(2) A lot of these are again found in Elimay's Longevity supplement.
Joint and connective tissue degeneration can cause severe pain. This pain can be relieved with supplements of glucosamine, horsetail, or yucca root. Typically you would use Elimay's Pain Care supplement for Pain relief in your pet as well as for many other benefits.
Homeopathic remedies and acupuncture may also help to combat painful conditions and illnesses with little risk of major side-effects.
Avoid major stresses, such as extreme temperatures, too many people, or changes in routine that could potentially stress your dog out.
Also, reduce the amount of toxic chemicals your dog is exposed to daily. Pesticides, herbicides, cleaning products, flame retardants, and much more can all contribute to your dog’s health negatively. These toxins affect your dog’s liver, which, as your dog ages, can wear out. Due to the natural body mass and rate of respiration, dogs are more susceptible to toxin chemicals in the air.
For many senior dogs, holistic and alternative therapies can be incredibly beneficial. Dogs age in a shorter time frame than us humans, so examinations with the veterinarian every 6 months may help to identify and prevent new health issues. We recommend finding a holistic veterinarian in your area to help prescribe remedies and treatments best suited for your dog’s needs.
Keeping your dog’s immune system strong and healthy should be approached from many different angles to attempt to keep all systems functioning well. Many holistic veterinarians will say that the most important part of keeping your dog’s immune system strong is a quality, balanced home-cooked diet. It’s crucial to view the “big picture” of your dog’s health and try to improve as much as you can.
1) Glaze, Mary. Diseases of the Geriatric Canine Eye. Western Veterinary Conference Proceedings. 2009.
2) Isaka, N et al. Benefits of a Novel Nutraceutical (Senilife®) in the Management of Early Signs of Brain Ageing in Dogs. Companion Animal Behaviour Therapy Study Group. 2009.
About Dr. Deborah Shores
Dr. Deborah Shores is a graduate of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has many years of experience working in animal hospitals and clinics from Virginia to South Carolina, treating mainly dogs and cats. She has a special interest in nutrition and holistic veterinary medicine and plans to pursue an acupuncture certificate at the Chi Institute in Florida. She has two cats and recently lost her 8 year-old Australian Shepard to liver cancer.