Involving Your Vet in Senior Dog Care

Involving your vet in senior dog care

Involving your vet in senior dog care

I cannot overstate the importance of involving your vet in senior dog care.

I rely on my vet so much to help me care for Red, at times I feel like my life revolves on him and his schedule. I’m so worried when he’s not around, I’m terrified of what will happen to Red since there’s not much choice where I live, and I wouldn’t trust her life in his colleagues’ hands.

Okay enough of that, let’s begin.  

Your first step

If it’s been awhile since your dog has been to the vet I strongly recommend you make an appointment for a health check. I know you haven’t felt it was necessary because your dog is fine, but the reality is – subtle or even obvious involve your vet in senior dog caresigns are often missed because they are attributed to the natural aging process. Also, dogs are very clever at hiding pain so he could be experiencing a fair amount and you may not realise.

During the check up your vet will have a listen to his heart, feel for lumps, bumps and abnormalities, check his teeth, eyes and ears and likely take blood and a urine sample.

I advise you to bring a urine sample with you so they don’t have to try and squeeze it out of him if he doesn’t feel like peeing on demand. It’s true!! The urine sample should reach your vet within two hours of collection, and be caught mid-stream. Don’t refrigerate it!

The next step

At your appointment your vet will discuss his obvious findings, then wait for any test results to come back before he can present you with a treatment plan.

Some of the obvious issues may be your dog’s weight and the state of his teeth. Fat and obese dogs are at greater risk of serious health issues, not to mention increased pressure on joints, leading to pain.

It is often the case that dogs’ teeth are in terrible condition. For some reason we tend to ignore, or are simply unaware of, the importance of good oral hygiene and the impact dental disease can have on their overall health. The problems may be minimal, or will require dental surgery, your vet will give you his recommendations.

The “plan”

Your vet will create a health care plan based on your visit and test findings, and it is critical you follow it, otherwise what was the point?

What's my secret to keeping Red as well as possible? It starts with amazing vets I trust. Click To Tweet

At home care

In addition to following your vet’s advice, there are lots of things you can do at home to offer your senior dog the best care possible.

Brush your dog’s teeth daily, or as regularly as possible. If that’s not going to happen, water additives, dental powders sprinkled on food, dental chews and toys are all helpful. It’s a case of doing the best you can and involve your vet in caring for your senior dogsomething is better than nothing

Dehydration can be a problem in senior dogs, and dangerous if ignored. Have clean, fresh water available at all times, and if your dog has trouble moving around put a few bowls around the house so he’s never far from a water source. Go to him and offer water if he doesn’t seem to be drinking enough on his own

Follow the weight loss program your vet has provided you with, and do not sneak him treats on the side

Pay attention to any changes in behaviour, no matter how slight, and alert your vet immediately

Give your dog the recommended supplements and/or medications, and if you feel he is recommending too many drugs have a chat about alternatives, or visit a holistic vet

Make sure your dog is getting some physical exercise, appropriate to his abilities

Provide mental stimulation in the form of puzzles, interactive or treat dispensing toys 

Include him in family outings as long as he’s feeling up to it. Mobility aids such as ramps and strollers are wonderful products that will be a big help

How much I rely on my vet to help me care for my senior dog Red

A bit of history

As Red got older and her medical problems increased, so did the amount of drugs she was prescribed. It got to the point where every time I brought her to the vet with a concern, she was put on another medication. Of course if her body has absorbed way too many chemicalsit’s necessary it’s necessary, but surely alternatives can be effective as well! The problem is, I’ve never had a holistic vet or any that offered alternative treatments.

She was put on a prescription heart food many years ago, but when kidney problems developed she was switched to a kidney diet. If you read the ingredients it’s shocking. Where’s the nutritious food?

My wonderful holistic vet Pepe

You may not be aware we spent the past four months in Spain, where I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful holistic vet to help me care for Red and Jack. I had wanted holistic care for Red for a long time, but distance and circumstances prevented me from making that a reality. Before we left I did my research, so we were ready to get started not long after we arrived.

Our first meeting 

I immediately liked him – his obvious compassion for the suffering of animals in Spain, dedication to his patients, philosophy about pet care, availability 24/7 and house calls to boot! 

During our first meeting he spent over an hour getting to know me, Red, asking about my concerns and discussing how I care for her. I had sent him a list of her medications in advance, as well as the name of the food she was on deciding what to feed a senior dogso he would be prepped.

He was truly horrified by the number of drugs she was taking each day, and sad because of the stress and damage it was causing her little body. He was also less than pleased with the diet she was eating.

In order to get a clear picture of Red’s medical condition he took blood tests. In addition to checking for the “usual” he also runs more specialised tests to gather information vets don’t typically look for. Once he got the results back, he created a recipe for a whole foods home made diet tailored specifically for her needs, not a generic one he recommends to every patient.

The next thing he did was replace three of her medications with supplements. He wanted to take things very slowly which is why he chose only three. He also asked me to stop giving her two he felt were not necessary, and we left the rest as is.

Another aspect of caring for a senior dog Pepe believes very strongly in is acupuncture, as he feels it is critical in helping get the body back into balance. He recommended twice weekly to start, with a view to reducing the frequency. I was concerned how Red would handle it given that she’s blind and wouldn’t know what was going on, Red having acupuncturebut she was okay. He played her favourite calming music, Through a Dog’s Ear, which helped. We went twice a week for about 3 months.

Pepe’s attitude about the role of a veterinarian in our pets’ health

Contrary to the recommendations of yearly checks, twice yearly for seniors, or the “once in a blue moon” visit for a problem, he believes it takes:

  • Kind and caring pet parents
  • Better relationships between people and their vets
  • People following the vet’s advice
  • A whole foods home cooked diet
  • Acupuncture
  • Supplements
  • Medications when necessary

Involving your vet in senior dog care – conclusion

I hope I managed to convey how important it is for me to have a vet I trust, and how much I rely on them to help me care for all my animals, but especially my 16 year old, the love of my life, Red.

I don’t believe she would still be here if I wasn’t so diligent in her care, and didn’t have the standards I have for her vets.

How much do you involve your vet in your senior dog’s care? Sharing helps others so leave your comments below or on my Facebook page.

Involving Your Vet in Senior Dog Care
Hindy Pearson
Helping people care for their senior dogs
I am a certified dog trainer and pet care consultant, specialising in working with rescue dogs and first time pet parents. I foster and adopt senior and special needs dogs, and advocate for shelter adoption of all animals, particularly older dogs and cats. I am currently working on a spay/neuter program in Spain.

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33 thoughts on “Involving Your Vet in Senior Dog Care

  1. It’s so important to have a great relationship with your vet and to have confidence in them. My vet is leaving his practice and I’m so disappointed.

    1. I hope you find another one you love and trust as much as I assume you do this one. I would be lost without my vet, but unfortunately the one I have here in England isn’t in the office every day and I don’t trust the others he has on staff. I live in a small town with no other options so it’s scary.

  2. It sounds like you found a truly wonderful, compassionate veterinarian for Red. It’s so important to have a vet you can trust, especially as our beloved pets age. Great tips, as always.

    Also… I thought Red was SO much bigger! Seeing her in the vet’s arms caught me off guard. I thought she was much larger. She’s cute as a button 🙂

    1. Pepe is amazing but he’s in Spain and we’re not at the moment. I love my vet here in England but he’s not in the office all the time, and I wouldn’t trust Red with any of the others on his staff. She is cute isn’t she!! She weighs about 8 or 9 lbs. I know I always think she’s a bit bigger but when I see a picture of me walking her I can’t get over how tiny she is. Put her next to my neighbours huge German Shepherd and you’ll really see scale!

  3. It’s so important for pet parents to be comfortable with their pet’s vet and most importantly be able to discuss and truly understand what and why procedures and medications are being prescribed. I have been with our vet for over 15 years, I even drive out of the way to have my pets seen by her. I dread the day she retires.

    1. Tell me about it. To be with a vet you trust so much and for so long is incredible. I drove 50 minutes each way twice a week for three months to see Pepe for Red’s acupuncture. They should not be allowed to retire. My dentist just retired and I’m still shell shocked. Doesn’t he know I need to see him!!

  4. I can’t agree any more–YES YES YES YES! While we live with them and can alert to subtle changes, the partnership with a veterinarian is critical to take care of our pets. Thanks for shining a light with all the great details of the benefits.

    1. Thanks Amy! Having a vet I love has always been a number one priority, but as Red is getting older and has so many health issues, I’m worried when my vet isn’t in the office. I don’t trust the others on staff, and it makes you realise how much you depend on them. I’d pay him to be on alert for me if I could.

  5. This is a wonderful, in depth post. Many aspects of it hit close to home and I’m so glad that you found a holistic vet. We are lucky to have one locally and I strive to meet in the middle with both modern and alternative therapies. Acupuncture and therapeutic massage are so important. Glad to hear the amount of drugs have been reduced. It sounds like Red is in wonderful hands.

    1. Thanks Heather. Unfortunately we’re back in the UK and my wonderful holistic vet is in Spain. I have a great vet here too but not holistic, and there’s no one anywhere near me. Although Pepe will always use supplements when possible, he will of course prescribe medication if it’s in the best interest of the patient. She’s in good hands here as well, but my vet isn’t in the office every day, and once office hours are over forget about it. Understandable of course, it’s unusual for someone to be available 24/7 like Pepe is.

  6. That Pepe sounds great I want one of him for Dolly and Taffy! I agree about acupuncture and if there is ever a chance it could help with my girls I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a try, and holistic medicine is always worth checking out. Great post!

    1. He’s amazing, I want him too but he’s still in Spain and we’re not! I’ve read a lot about holistic vet care but it’s the first time I’ve been able to experience it first hand. I have to say I love the philosophy, the kind and gentle approach, and of course I like that Pepe will always be ready to prescribe medication if it’s in his patients best interest. He’s always lean to natural, but happy to balance both. I miss him!!

  7. Having a trustworthy vet is critical. We didn’t at one point and it undermined every ounce of trust we had for vets for months and months.

    I am doing my best for Dusty and hope we will have our new vet open soon. I want to do my best for him and wish I was more qualified to judge things myself.

    1. I’m sure you’re doing your best for Dusty, and don’t be too hard on yourself. We’re not vets or vet techs, we can only find the best care available. I have, literally, suffered deadly consequences because of incompetent vets, and I try not to beat myself up about it but it’s hard not to. They seem trustworthy until… Hope your new practice opens soon. Are you in an area where you don’t have many vets?

  8. It’s so important to have a vet, or two throughout your pet’s life. We are not vets, they have so much knowledge we can benefit from. Open communication is important.

    1. I’ve had more bad vets than good unfortunately, but we really do have to trust them with our pets’ lives. As long as we take an active role, alert the vet when there’s a problem, have open communication as you say and believe in their competence there’s not a whole lot more we can do.

  9. It’s so true that there are subtle signs that humans might miss, but a vet will pick up on. That’s the reason for annual visits even if there’s nothing wrong.

    1. Most vets aren’t in a position to pick up on signs since they see our pets so rarely. I keep a close eye on Red, and when I see something that doesn’t seem right, no matter how subtle, I immediately go to the vet. He relies on me to report my concerns, and I take videos when appropriate, and I rely on him to turn my concerns into a diagnosis and treatment. I was seeing a holistic vet recently for a few months, and one of the things he explained was his belief a vet, pet parent and pet should have a better relationship than a yearly visit. He also didn’t believe it was often enough to keep pets in peak condition. Interesting to hear varied opinions.

  10. I have a holistic vet too and I love her! And she’s happy to recommend more conventional care when it’s necessary so I get the best of both worlds. Acupuncture has done wonders for my dogs. Thanks for this!

    1. That’s so great to hear. You must feel so confident knowing you have the best of both worlds. Unfortunately my holistic vet is in Spain and I’m back in England. He’s so sweet he said he would try and help me long distance, whether that was interpreting test results or sending me supplements to help Red.

  11. The hard part is finding a vet that is also holistic … I find that the hardest part. Sadly, most are not open to that.

    1. I agree Sonja. Most aren’t and the only reason I had a holistic vet is because we were in Spain for a few months. I certainly don’t have one in England, I just can’t stand the pushing of drugs and the masking symptoms rather than understanding why the problem arose in the first place.

  12. Wonderful post, Hindy. I’m so glad you found a holistic vet for your dogs, I’d love to work with a holistic vet too. So many Vets just prescribe more & more medications, too much!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    1. Thanks Cathy! I wish I still had my holistic vet, but he’s in Spain and we’ve returned to the UK. So sad! That’s what drove me to a holistic vet – the constant medications for every little thing. Yes there are times when they’re necessary, but there are many times when natural will do just as well.

  13. Great post. I can testify to how important it is to have a good relationship with a vet you trust. I know before my cat Dusty passed I definitely appreciated my vet’s compassion and concern for my fur baby despite the terminal outcome. They made it a point to make sure she had the best quality of life possible while also working with me using alternative holistic remedies. I’m still forever grateful for that relationship and when I adopt again, I’ll be keeping the same vet.

    1. Thanks for sharing Kamira. You were very fortunate to have such a compassionate vet, caring for Dusty. Unfortunately not everyone has such a positive experience, which is sad because we rely so much on them to help us care for our animals. I’ve had some terrible experiences that led to the death of two of my dogs.

  14. I am really amazed that the vet you found in Spain spent an hour talking to you during your visit. That is truly amazing and I fear probably rare. About 10 year ago, I had three senior cats who all passed away within a year. It was incredibly difficult, but we were fortunate to have an amazing vet who helped us through it.

    1. I know it is amazing. That level of caring and compassion is not seen enough I’m afraid, certainly not in my experience. I’m so sorry to hear about your cats, I’ve had two die within 6 weeks of each other and it’s never easy. What definitely helps is to have a wonderful vet to help.

  15. It’s so important to find a vet you like, trust, and one who will listen to you when taking care of our fur children. Our veterinary practice has several vets, but I usually ask for 2 specific individuals to see the girls.

    1. It’s great you have a choice, and have found two you trust. Hopefully the don’t have the same days off!! I don’t like the other two vets at my vet’s practice, and he’s not there every day so that’s always a worry.

  16. It is so important to have a good vet you trust. I liked my vet for Nala Cookie and Isabelle for 15 years but he did not get along with Kilo. I have to find a new one. Your holistic one in Spain sounds incredible.

    1. Good luck in your search, I hope you find one you can really trust. He does sound amazing doesn’t he? Too bad I’m back in England and he’s still in Spain!! I felt so safe for Red, knowing he was always around.

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