Dr. Karen Weeks, a veterinarian at Frontier Village Veterinary Clinic in Lake Stevens, answers questions this week as part of a series of Q&As on the health issues facing aging dogs. She is shown, above, with her 12-year-old dog, Riley.

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Dr. Karen Weeks, a veterinarian at Frontier Village Veterinary Clinic in Lake Stevens, answers questions this week as part of a series of Q&As on the health issues facing aging dogs. She is shown, above, with her 12-year-old dog, Riley.

Question: What age is considered senior?

Answer: Eight years old is generally considered senior, however, this number is about as arbitrary as designating humans seniors at age 65.

Larger dogs, like Great Danes, may be considered seniors at about 7 and generally have a shorter life span than smaller-breed dogs. Smaller breeds, like Yorkshire terriers, may be considered seniors at about 10 or so.

Question: What kind of special health issues do you most commonly see in your senior patients?

Answer: The most common are dental disease, osteoarthritis and obesity. Other common problems are diseases of the endocrine system, itchy skin, ear infections and cancer.

Dental disease: Oral health in dogs is as important as oral health in people. Tartar, gingivitis and periodontal disease often can be painful and affect the whole body.

Think of it as an infection in the mouth. Much of that tartar is comprised of bacteria. When the gums become inflamed, the bacteria can cross into the blood stream and travel throughout the body, including to the heart, liver and kidneys.

The best way to prevent dental disease is to brush your dog’s teeth. Using dog toothpaste and brushing for 10 seconds a day can make a huge difference in preventing tartar accumulation and gingivitis.

Osteoarthritis: Dogs can lose mobility for many reasons — osteoarthritis, neurologic degeneration, or both. Osteoarthritis is very common and is often diagnosed based on history, physical examination and radiographs.

Most pets can be treated with medical management and have a very good quality of life.

We have many modalities to treat pain secondary to osteoarthritis.