About 10% of all dogs develop some form of heart disease during their lifetime, and that risk increases with their age. We know you want to keep their heart healthy because they keep your heart happy. Here are some ways you can help your dog’s ticker stay in tip-top shape.
Feed a healthy diet.
A healthy diet affects every part of your dog’s body, including their big loyal heart. Being overweight makes the heart work harder, so make sure they eat a healthy, nutritious diet every day. And keep those treats to a minimum — no matter how much they beg.
Make sure they get regular exercise.
Dogs dig cardio, and it’ll do your heart good, too. Whether you both prefer fetch, running, walks, surfing, whatever ... it’s all good as long as it gets your dog’s heart pumping.
Be a heartworm-hater.
Heartworms are nasty — and sometimes deadly — parasites that infect dogs through mosquito bites. Like their name suggests, they live and breed in a dog’s heart, lungs and blood vessels. Fortunately, there are a number of preventive medications your dog can take to keep them safe. Check with your vet for options that work best for you and your pup.
Brush your dog’s teeth.
Plaque, tartar and bacteria in your dog’s mouth can get into their bloodstream and cause heart issues. Brushing their teeth and giving occasional dental treats can help keep their smiles bright and hearts healthy.
Know the dog breeds most susceptible to heart disease.
Some breeds, such as Chihuahuas, miniature and toy poodles, boxers, English bulldogs and Great Danes, are more prone to heart disease. If your pet is one of these breeds, keep a watchful eye out for the signs of heart issues, and talk to your vet about possible preventive measures you can take.
Know the signs of heart disease in dogs.
Some symptoms of heart disease in dogs include:
- Frequent coughing
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of energy
- Tiring easily or not wanting to play or go for walks
- Changes in weight
- Trouble sleeping
- A swollen abdomen
However, these symptoms could be indicative of many health issues, so you should consult your vet to be sure.
Go to regular vet checkups.
One dog year is about five to seven people years, and a lot can happen in that time. Regular vet visits, especially for older dogs, can help identify problems early on so you can start treating them sooner.
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Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy and Active
It depends on the breed of dog, but your pet's senior years generally begin at age 7. Louise Murray, DVM, director of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of Vet Confidential (Ballantine, 2008), tells you what you need to know to keep your older dog spry and happy.
Senior Dog Health: Preventive Health
At this stage, Murray recommends taking your dog to the vet twice a year. "So much can happen to an elderly dog," she says. Your veterinarian can take blood annually to test liver and kidney functions. "Discovering problems early is extremely important," she says. Your vet can be on the lookout for conditions that often affect older dogs, such as anemia and arthritis.
Senior Dog Health: Urination, Bowel Movements, and Appetite
Pay attention to what might be subtle changes in your dog's habits: Is she drinking more water or urinating larger amounts? These behaviors might indicate a liver or kidney problem. Have your dog's bowel movements shifted? This could indicate a digestive issue. Diabetes or digestive problems might cause your dog to eat more but still lose weight. Knowing the dog's patterns can help the veterinarian determine a course of treatment.
Senior Dog Health: Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicines
Continue to use preventive medicines.
Senior Dog Health: Dental Health
Clean your dog's teeth daily. If she has tartar buildup, you might need to have her teeth professionally cleaned at your vet's office, which requires sedating your pet.
Senior Dog Health: Exercise
Your dog is probably less active, so steady, moderate exercise is best for her now. Don't turn her into a "weekend warrior" who, after lying around on weekdays, accompanies you on a 10-mile hike on Saturdays. This is especially hard on an older dog's joints.
Senior Dog Health: Diet
Your veterinarian might wish to put your dog on a senior diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Senior Plus. These formulations contain nutrients specifically geared toward older-dog health.
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