We’re all getting older, even our dogs. As your senior pet slows down, there are things you can do to make his golden years as happy and delightful as the puppy years — minus the chewing on everything!

Pay attention to the signs. As your dog ages, you may notice that he has less endurance when exercising and may be slow to rise out of bed.

He may show less interest in toys, games and/or food. He may have less patience for young children or younger, active dogs. He may appear at times to be confused, disoriented or less responsive than when he was younger.

Senior dogs may also have occasional accidents in the house. While these behaviors are common with an aging dog, they can also signal a possible health problem.

Not unlike aging humans, older dogs are more prone to several health issues including arthritis, obesity, deafness, blindness, chronic kidney disease, dementia, cognitive dysfunction, incontinence, cancer, growths and tumors.

While these conditions may sound scary, there are steps you can take to catch problems early and make your dog’s senior years comfortable and happy.

  • See your vet every six months for wellness exams and health screenings, including complete blood screening and urinalysis, for these are essential factors in keeping your senior pet healthy.
  • Get routine dental care. Dental disease is nearly epidemic in older dogs and bad gums can mean bad news for a dog of any age, but especially a senior.
  • Change to a high-quality, senior dog food formula. These often have fewer calories (to prevent weight gain), higher nutrient levels and lower protein levels (taking less of a toll on aging kidneys).
  • If you notice a change in your dog’s energy and endurance levels, take slower, shorter walks several times a day rather than one or two long walks. However, do not stop exercise or significantly decrease it because your dog still needs to be active.
  • If your dog is having trouble getting around, consider ramps or stairs for getting up to furniture and place mats with grip bottoms on hard floors.
  • Get a high-quality orthopedic dog bed to give your dog’s old and achy body extra comfort.
  • Give your dog more frequent potty breaks and consider putting down puppy pads for accidents.
  • Give your senior dog a good massage every now and then. He will love the pampering and you can check for any unusual lumps and bumps that may develop.

Unfortunately, dogs just do not live as long as we would like them to. However, you can make your dog’s senior years golden by giving him proper vet care; healthy, age-appropriate diet and exercise; and lots of love, affection and attention.

While your senior dog may sleep more and interact less often, it is important to keep him engaged with the family and cherish every moment that you have together as he grows older.

Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. ARNO operates a volunteer-based, no-kill shelter in the Elmwood Industrial section of Jefferson Parish and depends upon the generosity of people from all over the country who have followed it since Katrina. Contact ARNO at arno.advocate@gmail.com, http://www.animalrescueneworleans.org or leave a message at (504) 571-1900.