The Ten Most Important Tips for Keeping an Older Dog Healthy

1. Establish a relationship with the best veterinarian you can find. For most older dogs, it is advisable to make an appointment with the vet every six months. Your vet should be someone whom you trust and with whom you feel very comfortable.

2. Become informed about the conditions common to older dogs and the therapies used for them. Be alert to symptoms, bring them to your vet's attention promptly, and be prepared to discuss treatment options.

3. Feed your older dog the best food you can afford; consider feeding him a home-prepared diet and two small meals daily rather than one large one.

4. Don't overfeed your dog. Obesity will create health problems and shorten his life.

5. Consider the use of dietary supplements such as glucosamine/
chondroitin for arthritis.

6. Give your senior dog adequate exercise, but adjust it to her changing abilities.

7. Attend to your dog's dental health. Brush her teeth daily and have them cleaned professionally whenever your vet advises it.

8. Tell your vet you wish to have your dog vaccinated only once every three years, as currently advised by the major veterinary associations.

9. Be diligent in controlling fleas and ticks and keep your dog and his environment scrupulously clean.

10. Make your senior dog as much a part of your life as possible, and do all you can to keep him interested, active, happy and comfortable.

old pet, new companion

Get the pet that is right for you and your lifestyle.
Regardless of whether you choose a dog or a cat, if you work a lot, have a lot of different hobbies, or are just getting up in years and not as active as you used to be, here's a piece of adoption advice.

Get a really old dog or cat. Go to the shelter and adopt an eight- or nine-year-old animal no one else wants.

Especially if you're not going to be home for 10 hours a day, a puppy or a kitten is not a good fit. They're balls of energy, they're learning about the world and they're either going to destroy your home or become very frustrated.

The take-home message for stay-at-home dogs for those who work a lot is that you need to provide them with some physical activity outlet each day to ensure a healthy mind and body, even if it is a short walk around the block. Breeds such as Labs may need to be walked at least 30 to 45 minutes per day while purse-pets such as Maltese may need much less.

Which pet is right for me?
The consensus among animal experts is that there's no textbook answer when it comes to finding the perfect pet. The best plan is to assess your lifestyle and compare it with the temperament of the pet you're considering. And, if you're adopting from a shelter, it's important to discuss your lifestyle with the shelter employees, who can help you find the best animal companion for you.

If you're out of the house for long hours, cats are considered a generally safe bet, don't count out a dog. A healthy, happy dog sleeps up to 18 hours a day anyway, and if they've been properly trained they can hold their bladders for quite a while too. You may even consider teaching your dog to use a 'pee-pee pad' for those extra long days when you're away from home.

Key factors to consider when choosing a dog:

— Exercise needs

— Size

— Natural temperament

— Coat (short-haired dogs may shed more when running around the house and long-haired dogs tend to lose their hair during brushing.)

— Is your living arrangement suitable?

— Are you financially prepared to care for your dog? Food costs can run upward of $75/month for big dogs, plus vet bills if your dog gets sick or injured.

How you pick your dog really depends on what appeals to you. List all the types of dogs you're considering and get on the Internet to look into the specifics of the breed. The dog needs to fit in to your lifestyle. For example, if you'd like to have a companion on your daily jog, consider a breed that will take to that kind of activity.

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