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Veterinarians Say It's Time For A Senior Pet Shape-Up

Reebok was adopted from
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     There are an estimated 18 million senior dogs in the United States today, and although many owners understand that their dogs are no longer puppies, many don't realize how fast their dogs are aging and the changes in diet and lifestyle that their senior dogs need. That's why The Iams Company and Pfizer Animal Health have teamed up to create an initiative called Senior Careª.
    Veterinarians across the country are taking part in the initiative designed to encourage owners of dogs that are 7 years and older to visit their veterinarian for a Senior Careª health check. The campaign is dedicated to helping owners understand the changing needs of their aging pets, and the wisdom of getting health checks at least twice a year.
      "On average, owners of puppies take their new pet to the veterinarian four to five times in the first year," says Dr. Dan Carey, a veterinarian with The Iams Company. "Owners also feed puppies food specially formulated for growth and development. This is not just because people lavish love and  attention on a new pet. Owners have been well-educated about the special nutritional needs and health care that their puppies need. Senior Careª is an initiative to educate owners that their old and trusting canine companions have unique nutritional and senior dog medical needs too."
     In a recent practitioner study conducted by the Veterinary Medicine Publishing Group, almost all veterinarians (98 percent) agreed that older dogs have different medical and nutritional needs and could benefit from specialized care, health testing and dietary planning. A further 91 percent pointed to the fact that diseases associated with aging could be more easily identified if owners brought their dogs in for checkups more than once a year.
     "By paying attention to their dog's health, noting small changes in appearance and behavior, and reporting those to the veterinarian at regular checkups, owners can go a long way to improving the quality of their senior dog's life," says veterinarian Dr. Steve Fox, from Pfizer Animal Health.
"Although signs like bad breath, a reluctance to exercise, or disorientation can seem very minor, they could signal common age-related diseases such as dental disease, arthritis or canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. All of these diseases could be debilitating if left untreated, and all are manageable if diagnosed early and treated with appropriate new medications available from veterinarians. A trip to the veterinarian is encouraged and could maintain the quality of a senior dog's life."
     As well as a general examination to check for stiffness, heart murmurs, bad breath, behavior changes, skin lesions and other typical signs of common aging diseases, a Senior Care checkup should include a consultation with a your veterinarian about the special dietary needs of senior dogs and any lifestyle changes that may be needed, such as an increase in exercise or creating a more stable, routine environment for an older pet.
          Day-to-day considerations, like proper nutrition and regular exercise, are very important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for senior dogs. Your veterinarian may also recommend basic blood and urine tests as a baseline for measuring future changes. Regular blood testing can help identify diseases in their earliest and most treatable stages.
  Dogs, like humans, tend to gain weight as they reach middle age. Obesity increases the risk of serious diseases and health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart and lung disorders. Weight-loss steps include limiting the number of calories consumed; feeding several small meals daily rather than one large meal; modifying behavior to prevent regaining lost weight; choosing a senior dog food that provides the proper balance of protein, fat, calories, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals for aging dogs; and increasing exercise.