By Heather Zorn P.A.S

Even though your dog may be considered a canine senior citizen, you wouldn't necessarily know it to look at him. Depending on the breed, dogs slip into the golden years at anywhere from 5 to 9 years of age.

Smaller breeds, such as the West Highland white terrier, tend to live up to 14 years or more, whereas some of the larger breeds, including the Great Dane and Irish wolfhound, often don't live beyond 8 or 9 years and begin to slow noticeably around the age of 5. Generally, the smaller the breed, the longer its life span, with most of the in-between sizes enjoying a life span of between 10 and 12 years.

With aging comes a slowing metabolism, which often means fewer of those long wrestling and fetching sessions. This, coupled with your dog's tendency to store fat, may produce a pudgy pooch, so …
•Ask your vet to help you choose the right food.
•Change his food to a higher-fiber, fat- and calorie- reduced "senior" formulation (high-protein foods may help your dog maintain his lean body mass).
•Your vet can also help you keep track of any changes in your dog's weight, which may signal an illness.
•Another way to keep your dog fit is to avoid letting his daily exercise slide, no matter how content he seems to be watching the world from the front window.
•Slow down your pace and shorten your walks, if need be, but don't forgo activity altogether.

To help your dog get his stiff, arthritic joints moving each morning, or to help ease the nagging pain of hip or elbow dysplasia, spend a few minutes gently messaging his joints. If you're short on time, you might consider focusing on his ears and feet to give him a jump-start to a pain-free day: According to practitioners of dog acupuncture and massage, the ears and feet contain all the energy paths for the entire body (although such pats are scientifically unproven). As an added bonus, when you're massaging your dog, you'll be likely to notice any lumps, bumps, and skin and coat changes, all of which should be reported to your vet. Softer bedding and vet-approved vitamins might also soothe creaky joints.

A little compromise is to be expected. If you notice that your dog is having trouble hopping up onto his favorite couch, either teach him to stay down, place a stool nearby to help him hoist himself up or provide a soft pillow for him to lie on. Loading your older dog into the car can also become a problem. If he can't jump into the back of a high minivan, or even hop into the back seat of a car, use a strong plank of wood with a nonslip surface as a ramp to help him walk with dignity into his favorite cruising seat. Elevating his food dish to chest-height is an especially good idea with an older dog, since bending only contributes to more pain and neck-strain problems. Do all that you can to ensure that his comfortable daily routine doesn't change too much. Dogs don't like to veer too far off their familiar course.

That distinguished gray beard, those white tufts between his toes and his salt-and-pepper coat are other signs that your dog is getting along in years. However, don't let the gray fool you into thinking that he doesn't need as much grooming as he used to. Brush and clean him as always, using a more delicate touch if necessary. In addition, don't chalk up consistently bad breath to the normal aging woes. It may be a sign of illnesses such as liver disease, chronic indigestion or stomach ulcers. Chronic halitosis can also be caused by periodontal disease, which can, itself, lead to other health problems, including heart, lung and kidney disease. Keep up with your dog's dental and gum-care routine and report consistent or recurring breath problems to your vet. As always, check your dog's ears, eyes, nose, coat and full body, keeping alert for any changes that may signal illness.

Animal Nutrition Solutions is dedicated to providing you, as a consumer, the education tools you need to make smart decisions when it comes to the nutrition of your dog or horse. We want you to understand our feed labels, as well as competitors, and be able to make an educated decision regarding what your dog or horse needs and what he/she doesn’t. Animal Nutrition Solutions is committed to providing the best available nutrition to your dog or horse, to supplement what is lacking from commercial feeds.  We use the highest quality ingredients in our supplements with the necessary amounts per dose to have the highest efficacy. A new supplement line has recently been released, featuring CANINE GOLD for dogs and Equine Mineral Balancer and Equine Mineral Balancer with Joint Support for horses.