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Assisting the Geriatric Canine Patient

We all age, including our geriatric canine companions.  Aging can be done gracefully.  Quality of life is far more important than quantity of life, although both would be ideal, right?  Is it possible to improve not only quality but also longevity?  The answer to this is yes, but the right approach needs to be taken, making it more of a lifestyle than a passing fad or just a regimen. Our canine pets depend on us to make the right choices.  The more understanding we have, the more informed we are in the choices we make. Growing old for our pets does not have to be a ‘bad’ thing.  It can be done gracefully.

Our canine pets are a vital part of our lives, being our friend, family companion and loyal partner.  They often follow us around each day, mimicking our actions, investigating the environment and even alerting us to possible danger.  Given their level of loyalty, they deserve the best care possible to ensure their health.  Making the right decisions is not always easy and honestly, there is no true and tried method for all of them.  We just have to see the big picture, aiming to improve it through proper choices in diet, herbal supplements, mental stimulation and exercise.

Aging Canine Geriatric Dog Running
Aging Canine Geriatric Dog Running

Why do we age?  Simply put, we age as a result of inflammation and oxidative cellular damage.  This is a process that we are all exposed to and will encounter.  One quote that comes to mind is that mortality in pets/humans is 100%, but the process to which it happens can be greatly modified to improve quality.

Inflammation is a cellular process that in the chronic or long term nature, is damaging to cells.  It can impact cell function, cell structure, impact organ function and health and even predispose to diseases including allergies, arthritis, diabetes, skin conditions and even cancer.  The more inflammation present, the less health we have. Oxidative damage is cell damage created as a result of free radicals produced either in the body, exposed to the body or ingested by the body.  Both inflammation and oxidative stress are a part of life.  We can’t curb them 100%, nor do we want to, but more so we aim to manage them better, control them instead of allowing them to control us or our pets.

The most common conditions seen in the aging geriatric canine are:

  1. Arthritis
  2. Back/Hip Problems
  3. Vision deficits
  4. Hearing deficits
  5. Diabetes
  6. Cancer
  7. Gastrointestinal complaints
  8. Liver compromise
  9. Kidney/Renal compromise
  10. Allergies/skin conditions

The interesting thing is that there is one common denominator to all of them….INFLAMMATION.  Yes, it is true and research will indicate this no matter what health condition we are contending with in our pet.

This inflammatory process tends to increase as we and they age, but is also pushed along or accelerated by other contributing factors.  These contributors will include not only age itself, but diet, body weight, exercise status and even concurrent medications, which includes heartworm and flea/tick preventatives. Anything foreign or chemical that we are putting into or onto the body can elicit an inflammatory response, contributing to the process over time. In some cases, medication usage has resulted in significant health impairment even in the short term.  I am not saying to avoid these medications or preventatives, but more so just to be aware that they do not come without harm.  The more knowledge we have, the better decisions we can make.

The goal is key to improving quality and even quantity to life is to manage that inflammatory process and mitigate oxidative cellular damage.  

How do we do this for our canine companions?

  1. Minimize medication and preventative usage, including HW and flea/tick medications
  2. Be aware of vaccines, what is truly needed and overused
  3. Optimize diet, consider home cooked meals instead of processed commercial diets that are loaded with processed ingredients, artificial ingredients, additives, colors and fillers.  These chemicals can dramatically contribute to poor health and aging over time and in many cases, the nutrition they are receiving from the diets is far inferior to a whole food regimen.  Nature is always best!
  4. Exercise and mental stimulation go a long way to keep the body and mind fit.  Routine walks, running or even tossing the ball or frisbie are great methods to keep them fit and stimulated.  Exercise and mental stimulation are favorable for the body and even help to reduce inflammation and improve cell function, improving the outcome in many disease processes.  There is a reason why exercise is recommended for most diabetic patients.
  5. Herbal therapy and daily supplementation can be a vital part of overall health and even fitness.  Through proper herbal supplementation, a targeted approach can be made to assist not only in better management of any current illness, but also helps to manage inflammation and protect against oxidative cellular damage.  Herbs and nutrition can also assist the body in its repair process, helping to overcome daily damage that is inevitably encountered.

Herbal Formulas to Promote Canine Health In Aging

The goal is to promote health, not necessarily treat or ‘cure’ any specific disease.  If we promote health and support that body in the right way, disease is less likely to occur and the aging process can be slowed.  Through the use of specific formulas we can not only promote a healthy inflammatory response, protect against oxidative damage but also promote cellular health through natural nutrients present in those herbs.

Several bangs for the buck!

Formulas that we routinely use and recommend include:

Cur-OST SA:  This is our main companion animal formula that is used in a high majority of cases and can be used as a starting point for any patient.  The Cur-OST SA helps to promote a healthy inflammatory response, but also provides antioxidants in several forms to combat oxidative damage.  There is also a nutritive base to the formula to promote cellular health and even herbs to help keep the immune response healthy and strong.

Cur-OST SA Pure: This is a more targeted and simplified formula, targeting mainly the inflammatory response and oxidative damage.  It is a critical care type of formula and beneficial in those pets suffering moderate discomfort or for those larger pets that require higher dosing.  It is a good formula but does not provide nutritional or immune support.

Cur-OST SA Total Support:  This is a formula similar to the Cur-OST SA, providing similar benefits, but also targets the gastrointestinal tract, promoting health in that region. GI problems are very common in canine pets, but may or may not be evident as diarrhea, gas or even constipation.  Many cases of allergies, including skin, ears and eyes, are tied back to improper immune function, stemming from underlying poor gastrointestinal health.  This formula helps in all four areas; inflammation, oxidative damage, nutritional support and gastrointestinal health.

Aging is inevitable in all of us, including our pets.  There are many things that are out of our control, but many things are in our control which include choices about medications, diet and proper supplementation.  Our goal is to control or change what we can.   In most cases, there are several factors tied in with any given disease or illness. When we see the big picture, we improve outcome. If we do this properly, quality of life is improved and suffering is reduced.


Author:  Tom Schell, D.V.M., CVCH


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