How to give a dog a vibrant life into old age:

AS Max the First neared his 17th birthday, we knew his days were numbered. He approached the wrong side of the door to go out and often started to pee in the vestibule, a common sign of cognitive impairment.

Long walks - and sometimes any walks - were out of the question.

But not until I was home all day and heard him whimper almost constantly did I realize that we were not doing this much adored pet any favors by prolonging his life.

I've been diligent about routine vet visits and all the shots now recommended to prevent debilitating ailments.

But having just read a very comprehensive book as background for preparing this column, ''Good Old Dog,'' by the faculty of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, I realize that I've this far made one important slip.

I have never brushed Max-II's teeth.

Dr. Jean Joo, who trained at at Tufts in veterinary dentistry, noted :that although dogs usually don't get cavities, they are prone to gum disease that can lead to tooth loss and allow normal bacteria to enter the bloodstream.

Max-II now has a vet-approved toothbrush and enzymatic paste that I try to use nightly, supplemented by the chew treats I've long given him that purport to produce dental hygiene.

But as with people, probably the most important measure for keeping dogs healthy and promoting a long, active and happy life  -both for the dogs and their owners - is to keep them trim.

A fat dog is not a happy do, even if precious pet treats that they beg for for must be denied.

Max -II gets to lick my empty dinner plate, but leftover food goes into the fridge or the trash. He also get weighed at every vet visit, so I know whether the half cup of kibble he gets twice a day is too much or too little to keep him lean and healthy.

LIKE people, as dogs get older they often develop one or more chronic diseases.

But unlike people, those aren't likely to be coronary artery diseases or atherosclerosis, though dogs can develop congestive heart failure, especially if they have a malformed heart valve.

[Rather than heart disease, cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs, and unfortunately its symptoms are often missed until it is too late for a cure.]

In addition to dental disease, dogs are susceptible to diabetes, making some dependent on twice-daily insulin injections that their owner must administer.

And with the enormous increase in canine obesity, mirroring the rise in obese people, dogs are now developing Type 2 diabetes at alarming rates.

Be alert to signs of diabetes in your dog.

Increased thirst and a more frequent need to pee, as well as weight loss despite a hearty appetite.

The honor and serving of advance research on Dogs and Life, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Jane E. Brody.


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