Your Questions: 'How can I make the best of my dog's twilight years?'

Q. In the past few months I've noticed changes in our beloved 11-year-old Labrador. I've only just realised that he is getting older and I don't know how to deal with it. What will happen to him in his twilight years and how can I make sure he makes the best of them? Pat, Edinburgh

A. Firstly, I have to congratulate you on the success of your Lab. Usually age catches up with dogs much sooner, especially in larger breeds. One of the most important things you need to do is cultivate a good relationship with your vet. He will be able to help you with any issues that arise. It is recommended that you pay a visit to the vet every six months when your dog is older. I would be inclined to go more often than that, because some diseases which senior dogs are prone to do not show signs until a late stage. So make sure you keep a close eye on your pooch.

As canines get older their metabolism and nutritional requirements change and your vet should be able to advise you on a suitable diet. It's good to talk to a vet about a dietary supplement to help relieve pain in his joints if he is showing signs of stiffness. Also, bear in mind that his exercise regime has to change; it needs to be appropriate for his age. Instead of walking him for an hour, choose a route where you can both sit down for a rest and he can have a drink of water.

In later stages of their life, dogs become very sensitive, vulnerable and need lots of attention, so make sure that you are giving it to them. A simple pat when you come back into the room or a regular once-a-week grooming session are good ways of showing him that you are there. Finally, think about changing his bed so that it is more supportive and comfortable, because he will certainly be taking longer and longer naps.

Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort an early visit to the vet is always recommended