In this week's podcast, I give examples of 6 different things we can be doing with our senior dogs to help prevent the onset of disease or injury.
One of the biggest talking points I cover is the importance of keeping our senior dog's at their ideal weight.
Now, when I'm in exam rooms with my clients, I find myself laughing at the conversations I have with owners because cutting back on our pet's food and treats can be tough and I know this first hand thanks to Becca!
But let’s talk a little bit about this topic because it has some big implications for our senior dogs.
Allowing our senior dog's to be overweight even by a few extra lbs can negatively impact a senior dog’s life. DAILY. Unfortunately, this trend in dog health continues as studies have shown that our pet’s are getting more and more obese every year. And as they get overconditioned other diseases are starting to increase like arthritis, IVDD, tracheal collapse, etc. That’s big. Obesity is also associated with over 20 different diseases in dogs and so we know that keeping them trim MAY in fact delay the onset of disease.
So, let’s go back to what is actually happening at home and I'll use an example of Becca my labrador retriever mix.
Becca is about 15 years old and her sole mission in life... IS EATING. In fact, nothing makes Becca happier than when she thinks we’re about to eat or we sit down to eat or even the notion of food occurs in her head. In fact, sometimes there is no food around but she’s still dancing thinking of food and I know this because she likes to dance in front of the cookie cupboard and doesn’t stop dancing or walking back and forth to me until cookies have been sufficiently delivered to her.
Becca demands cookies while I work from home. She is hard to resist!
But here’s the thing: Becca limps in her back legs on occasion. And on our x-rays that we’ve taken of her, we have found that she has VERY bad hip arthritis and very bad lower back arthritis. The best thing that I can do for Becca is: keep her trim. NO matter her love for food.
Now, I express my love for her by keeping her trim and getting creative with cookie time. And I don’t just try to keep her ‘near her ideal weight.’ I want her to be at her ideal weight because every pound counts both in weight and in the fact that fat has been shown to have pro-inflammatory mediators that may contribute to joint disease.
In addition, the extra weight means our walks aren’t as long which means that the muscle loss that she has developed in her old age will continue to occur at a fast rate and I just don’t want that for her.
I want her health. And I want her health more than Becca wants her cookies....
So, working on keeping her at a good weight is what we do. Now I have to watch this closely as dog’s age as often what you may see is that older dogs will initially have the propensity to gain weight and then later on, it switches so that we have difficulty keeping weight on them. So we really need to watch them closely with regards to that and adjust our food intake based on weight checks and body condition assessments with your vet. Your vet can help you figure out if your dog is at a good weight, but I’ll link to a pdf so you can see what shape a dog at an ideal weight takes on.