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Old Dog, New Tricks to Staying Healthy

The Martha Stewart Show

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but it sure is tricky trying to keep an aging pooch in pristine health.

Dogs are living longer these days due to advancements in veterinary medicine. Of course that's wonderful for owners, but it also means accommodating older dogs' unique dietary needs and other considerations.

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, veterinarian and author of "Good Old Dog," shares advice for ensuring that your dog's golden years are both abundant and comfortable.

Choose the Right Food
Proper canine elder care begins with the right stuff in your pet's feeding bowl. Look for a dog food that's recommended by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which you'll see right on the label.

If you choose to supplement your dog's diet with vitamins or homemade food, do your research. For example, too much vitamin E can cause bleeding problems; vitamin A is good for the coat, but too much can stunt bone growth; and high levels of nutmeg and onions can be dangerous for your dog.

Many owners give older dogs glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements for creaky joints. While they haven't been thoroughly researched, these should not harm your dog.

Maintain Healthy Weight
Obesity is a problem for dogs of all ages, but its effect on health is particularly acute with older dogs. The solutions are simple: Feed less at feeding time, choose a lower-calorie food, and reduce treats. If your dog is still hungry after meals, try supplementing its diet with frozen string beans.

Pay Attention to Changes in Your Dog
As your pet ages, its eyesight, hearing, and energy level will fade. This is not necessarily cause for alarm, but do closely monitor your dog for drastic changes.

It's natural for dogs' eyes to look opalescent, but if you see large black spots, that may be a sign of cataracts. If your dog is hesitating while going up stairs or walking, arthritis could be responsible. If you're concerned, have an x-ray done.

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