Just like humans, dogs struggle with physical changes and loss of abilities as the body ages. Owners who are aware of these challenges can help to keep their dogs comfortable and happy. For example, if an owner understands that an older dog's body is less able to regulate temperature, he or she can be conscientious about bringing the dog inside when the weather is particularly hot or cold.
Owners must also understand that older dogs are particularly susceptible to digestive disturbances. Veterinarians can advise on foods that provide the proper nutrition for a senior animal, while also helping to control the dog's weight.
Weight control plays a pivotal role in alleviating strain on the joints and improving range of motion. This is particularly important for dogs who struggle with arthritis, though it also helps to reduce the dog's risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other serious illnesses. Owners must take care, however, that any weight control measures do not restrict the intake of the carbohydrates that help the dog feel well fed.
Exercise also helps to keep the dog's weight down and joints healthy. Any exercise regimen should be manageable for the dog and not far above what he or she is used to doing, particularly if the animal has mobility problems. Mobility issues and body pain may also be indications that accommodations, such as the purchase of soft bedding or installation of ramps, must be made to keep the dog comfortable at home.