OK – the title of this post is a bit of a trick – there really is no way to age-proof your dog. After all, aging is inevitable – it is part of the development that begins for all of us in the womb, continues through childhood/puppyhood, through the adult years and into the years beyond that. Certain conditions are indeed more common as dogs age, and we must expect them, anticipate them, prepare for them now, and then make some compromises for them at the time needed. The key isn’t to STOP aging – the months and years will pass no matter what we do – the key is to take steps now to preserve functionality, and, later, to focus more on the abilities – and less on the chronology.
Taking human aging as an example, the seeds of successful aging are sown in your younger years, by obtaining exercise, good nutrition, good medical care, and, hopefully, you have a fulfilling job, a strong social structure as well as a variety of hobbies. Your genes and environment also play an important role, but those are not as much under your own control, of course.
How does this relate to your dog? Well, health is both a nature and nurture phenomenon. You can’t control the nature part – your dog’s genetic hand was already dealt long before you were on the scene. However, you, the owner, are the one with the type of brain that allows you to think about something you want to do for your dog, trot on over to the Internet (or the library) to get the information you seek, (hopefully) consult your veterinarian about it, and then, do it. On behalf of your dog, you can educate yourself, choose the right foods, provide preventative health care, and learn how to control your dog’s environment – YOU provide the majority of the nurture part of this equation. Dogs don’t have the cognitive abilities to do these things for themselves – so that is where you come in. You – and this blog….