As dogs’ life spans increase with modern veterinary care and better nutrition, it's more likely that dog owners will find themselves living with an aging pooch. The dog that was once a puppy is now the old friend you know so well and with whom you share so many good memories. In his golden years, he still has much to give and enjoy, even though he has slowed down considerably and spends much time snoozing on the couch. Come to think of it, dogs age a lot like us, though their life span is considerably shorter. How old is old for a dog? A year in a dog’s life is supposed to equal 7 of ours, but how accurate is that formula? Well, that depends on the size and breed of the dog. For big dogs, a ratio of 8 to 1 is more applicable, whereas for little dogs it is as low as 6 to 1. What can you expect as your old pal ages? Might he suddenly collapse from a heart attack? Not likely, though dogs can get congestive heart failure which is slowly progressive. Could he begin to lose his place mentally? Yes, indeed he could. Some dogs even get a doggy form of Alzheimer’s disease.
Does your old friend need a senior ration? Not really. You can even harm an old dog by switching to a so-called senior ration just because he reaches a certain age. It's best to feed dogs what they are used to until an indication for a new ration become evident; for instance, they appear to have trouble chewing or develop digestive problems.
The answers to the many questions dog owners may have about their aging pet will appear in Tufts Cummings Veterinary School’s next book, Good Old Dog. The book will be released in November 2010, though it is possible to place advance orders on Amazon.com. My opinion is that it should be required reading for anyone caring for an aging dog.