February 15, 2013

Definition:

The general rule for determining average life expectancy is: the larger the dog, the shorter the life span. Small breeds age slower than large ones. So, while the average 50lb dog may live 10-12 years, the average Chihuahua may live for fifteen years or more. Great Danes and other giant breeds may be lucky to enjoy more than about 8 years. Generally, small to large dogs may be considered “senior” at about age 7.

How it affects pets:

Age-related disorders include diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, chronic small bowl inflammation, obesity, kidney issues, arthritis, joint pain, dental disorders, Cushing’s disease, cancer, and liver problems. The first tangible signs of aging are slowing down during exercise or taking longer to get up.

If your senior dog shows any of the following signs, a veterinary exam is a good idea: Loss of appetite, excessive thirst, a cough, lameness, incontinence, excessive appetite without weight gain, changes in mood/behavior, unexplained vomiting/diarrhea, confusion or disorientation, vision and hearing problems, lethargy, sudden weight loss or gain.

Causes:

Major focus of research into the aging process is on the destruction and damage of DNA, mostly by oxidation. Leading causes of oxidation are pollutants, toxins in the air, water and food supplies, disease, stress, hormone dysfunction, long-term consumption of a poor diet. The long-term use of steroids or certain other medications, as well as long-term consumption of a poor diet, excessive vaccines and insufficient exercise can increase a dog’s chances of developing some of the age-related issues listed above. An overload of carbohydrates may contribute to many diseases, including pancreatitis and diabetes.

What types of foods do holistic vets recommend?

Choose for your senior dog a healthy wholesome diet that is free of additives, preservatives and fillers. Many holistic vets recommend a diet with minimal or moderate grain content or only whole and unprocessed grains. If your senior dog is overweight, choose a diet that is lower in carbs and/or fat to help maintain a leaner, healthier weight and body condition.

Other modalities to consider:

In addition to a wholesome natural diet, offer a life for your dog that contains minimal stress and provide plenty of exercise, fresh air, and sunshine. Avoid any unnecessary vaccines and opt for titers instead and use flea and tick products only when necessary. Routine blood work and urinalysis is recommended to provide a snapshot of your dog’s health and catch any concerns early.

The focus should be on prevention. Many age-related health issues may be avoided or delayed with a holistic approach that includes nutrition, supplementation, an appropriate exercise regimen and preventative, routine veterinary care, perhaps bi-annually instead of annually.

Acupressure, acupuncture, and massage can provide minimally-invasive relief and balance for many age-related aches, pains and health concerns.

Diets that meet some of the parameters vets suggest for senior dog needs:

Embark – Low-carb, grain-free, moderate fat, turkey
Keen - Low-gluten, whole oats, lower-protein, lower phosphorous, lower-sodium, moderate calories/fat, made with turkey
Force - Grain-free, gluten-free, moderate fat, protein, and calories, made with chicken
Zeal - Grain-free, gluten-free, low-fat, low-carb, higher protein, made with fish

Resources

American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association - http://ahvma.org

Our Holistic Care Directory