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My pet is growing older how do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable

My pet is growing older. How do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable?

My pet is growing older how do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable

One of the indisputable facts of life that everyone has to come to terms with is that time waits for no one. Yes, time does not wait for you or me or Fluffy. The same thing can be said when it comes to dealing with terminal illness and death. This is always a very sensitive subject as it is very close to the heart. However, as a grieving pet parent, I have come to understand and learn that sharing my own experiences and lessons with grief and loss has helped give comfort and validation to many. I was honored when Hindy reached out to me and asked if I wanted to share my own experience and tips to deal with grief.

Yep. I’m a grieving pet parent too. After suffering with thyroid cancer, my furry best friend Dusty earned her angel wings at the age of 13 ½ years old. It was the hardest experience to live through but I made it. How do I manage? I take it one day at a time. One of the most common questions I encounter since she passed is “My pet is growing older. How do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable?” Can you relate? Do you ask yourself the same question? Well, today I’ll share what I have learned and give you tips that have helped me greatly in the process.

My pet is growing older how do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable

I know death is inevitable. What do I do?

Whether your pet has a terminal illness or just aging gracefully, that time will come when they will get their angel wings. However, just because we understand the science that we as humans will outlive our pets, does not make it any easier to deal with. So, what do you do when you know the inevitable is going to happen? Here are my tips!

  1. Document everything!

Record and snap pictures of all the good days. Take video AND photos of your pets while they are alive and here with you. So, when that day finally comes, these images will serve as ever lasting memories of good days with your pets. Seeing memories of them looking well and vibrant will make all the difference when it comes to reflecting back on your time together.

  1. Spend quality time together.

Knowing you have limited time left means spend every available moment with your furry family member while you can. As I mentioned, time waits for no man, so cherish the minutes while they are here. For example, sitting on the couch watching TV together or sitting in the park on a bench taking in the fresh air, is all you need. It is not what you do together, but rather bonding and just being in each other’s presence that is important. Enjoy each other’s company. You won’t regret it.

  1. Check off that bucket list!

With that quality time, if your pet is able to get around comfortably, there is no better time than the present to accomplish those bucket list items. Has your pet never been to the beach? Get in the car and take a road trip. Never been to a pet friendly hotel? Pack your bags. Did you consider a family photo shoot with your dog using a pet photographer? Book that appointment. Or how about a spa day? Let’s go.

Pamper your pooch with a once in a lifetime memory to make them feel good. Don’t forget your camera or video to capture these moments too!

  1. Consider making final arrangements in advance.

This is awkward and difficult because who really wants to think about this? I can tell you from experience that pre- paying for final expenses in advance did help me a little bit because when you are saying goodbye to your best friend in their last moments, the last thing on your mind is paying an invoice and selecting cremation and urns. So, I encourage any pet parent to consider making final arrangements with your vet or pet crematorium in advance.

Speaking of which, with respects to final arrangements, you do not necessarily have to take your dog to the vet. Depending on your circumstances, you can arrange for in home euthanasia. Some pet parents find this alternative to be much less stressful for all involved. Your furry family member can rest in peace in the comfort of their own home surrounded by loved ones.

This is just another option to consider that you may not have otherwise thought about.

  1. How will I know when to say goodbye?

When the time comes you’ll know. I can’t even explain it, but it’s instinctual. Your pet will give you signs and clues that the quality of life they are living just isn’t what you want for them. 

Honestly, think of the bigger picture. Think of their ability to function day in and day out. Ask yourself, are they able to use the bathroom regularly? Are they drinking and eating? How is their energy level? How is their mood? Think about all the collective factors of quality of life, not just the number of extra days you can get with them. What would you want if you were in their shoes?

And even if you don’t know what to do, you can consult with your veterinarian to help you get clarity to help make that final decision, all factors considered. Essentially, do what is best for the pet. Make them as comfortable as possible. Choose quality of life over quantity of life.

how do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable

When your pet finally gets their wings…

When your pet does finally pass on, you have to adjust to a whole new way of living. You are forced to cope and deal with the realities of life after your furry family member is no longer here.

What have I learned? I can tell you that dealing with grief has many unexpected challenges.

Facing the harsh realities of the real world

  1. Understand that although you were anticipating this to happen, it’s still a shock.
  2. You’ll come to realize that although you knew a lot about grief, there are some things that will surprise you. Here are 12 Things I’d wish I’d known about grief.
  3. Understand there are 5 levels of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. You will experience a roller coaster of emotions.

One minute you’ll be cool, calm and collected and the next a blubbering mess. And that’s okay. It’s all part of the process of grieving.

  1. You’ll feel guilt! This one is huge. As a pet parent you continually ask yourself questions like,
  • “Did I do everything I possibly could have to help my pet?”
  • “What if I tried another treatment?”
  • “How could this happen?”
  • “Maybe if I did things differently…”

What you’ll realize is that all the “what ifs” will not bring back your pet. Also, remember that in life we do the best we can with the current knowledge we have at the time, so don’t continue to beat yourself up over your decision. Learn to accept and forgive yourself. 

Your furry family member knows and felt how much you loved them while they were here with you. There is no debating about the love between you both. So, know and understand, our pets are not holding a grudge against us for they are at peace, so you should not beat yourself up either.

  1. Your pets are gone in the physical, but their energy, spirit and love remains with you.

What do I mean? You may disagree, however in my personal experience, I’ve had odd happenings occur after the death of my pet. Some things science cannot explain.

For instance, I’d find myself going to work and feeling cool breezes on my neck for no apparent reason in a heated room. At home, I’d be on my laptop and in the corner of my eye see a fluffy tail around the corner. Or while lying in bed fast asleep, I’d feel the bed mattress sink as if there were paws sinking in mattress springs. These are all happenings I experienced after the death of my pet.

Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar? Just know that you may or may not experience things that science cannot quite explain. I’d like to think that’s our pet’s way of getting our attention and letting us know they are with us in spirit. Love never really dies.

  1. Not everyone will be kind and empathetic.

The bond between a pet and a parent is more than just a human animal bond. Our pets are family to us. And like family, the bond runs deep. They share our most precious moments and memories, secrets and more, so when they pass on its devastating.

Understand, that while you grieve not everyone will be empathetic and sympathize with you. Also, what you may come to realize is that the most insensitive comments and reactions, may come from the people closest to you!

I’d love to tell you everyone will be respectful and empathetic to you, but quite frankly people will say the darndest things. If it sounds unbelievable, then you must read 5 Things NOT to say to a grieving pet parent! You would be shocked at some of things people may say. Often times the comments can be insensitive and heartless, such as “It’s just a dog. You get another right?” Or “He wasn’t going to live forever.” Sounds unfathomable right? I wish I could tell you no one would ever say such things, but it does happen, so brace yourself for the unexpected.

  1. Your daily routine will never be the same.

The passing of your pet means so much more than just somebody out of the house, it also means a life altering change to your daily routine, family dynamic and lifestyle. Realize that you now need to create a new normal for yourself and your family (including other pet siblings).

Understand that you are not the only ones grieving in the household. Our pets grieve too. And just like humans, pets show us their grief in different ways. Death of a pet impacts the whole family, including our other pets, so take that into consideration.

Banding together and being a support system for each other is essential to help start the healing process.

  1. Grief can impact you mentally and physically.

Grief and depression often times go hand in hand, however did you also know that a broken heart can result from such emotional pain? Have you heard of broken heart syndrome? It is a physical condition backed by science, that explains human heartbreak as a result of such loss, like death of a pet, can give us symptoms identical to severe anxiety and a heart attack.

The emotional pain we feel not only impacts our mind and emotions but also transfers to the body in the physical. With this in mind, it’s so important to take care of yourself.

Now, this leads me to a few tips I’ve used to take actionable steps to cope with the grief.

my pet is growing older how do I cope with pet loss

Tips to cope with grief and find healing

  1. Explore all your resources

When you are experiencing pet loss, make no limit to the amount of resources to use. Try everything including watching videos on You Tube, visiting pet loss blogs, searching for online grief support counseling, therapists, talk to friends and family and even journal or pray. Use all your resources to get you through. Here are just a few:

Professional Bereavement Counseling and support

https://aplb.org/

Rainbow Bridge Pet loss & grief support community

https://www.rainbowsbridge.com/

Brent Atwater – Pet medium and communicator

https://www.youtube.com/user/BrentAtwater

  1. PLEASE Remember the good times.

See this is where that documentation I mentioned before comes in handy. Re-watch video clips and photos to help remember the good times spent with your pet. One of the most difficult things about coping with grief is replaying the last moments when your pet fell ill and was dying. Change the narrative in your head.

Make the choice to not relive those heart wrenching moments but relive the happy times. Revisit the old photos in your keepsake box. Watch old video clips of your pet running around the yard without a care in the world.

Having these positive memories to reflect on makes a world of difference for your mood and your mind. Instead of crying sad tears, you’ll be crying happy tears because you’ll be reminded of the good quality of life you gave your pet while they were here with you.

  1. Find a way to memorialize and honor your pet.

Find a way to keep the memory of your pet alive. Are you looking for an idea? I’ll share a few ways you can honor the memory of your pet right now.  

  • Are you a fan of jewelry? You can get a custom-made jewelry piece made in your pet’s image such as a pendant necklace or a keychain.
  • Are you into gardening or have a large yard? Consider planting a tree in your pet’s memory.
  • Do you have kids that lost a best furry family member? Get a custom-made plushy toy made in your pet’s image.
  • Do you have tons of photos of your pet? Create a keepsake photo album or keepsake box of photos and trinkets to have on hand.
  • Not the DIY type? How about send a monetary donation to a local pet charity in memory of your pet?

These are just a few options you may want to consider.

  1. Take time to grieve and find a support system.

Take adequate time to grieve and cry. Don’t try to be a super hero and hold all your emotions inside. It’s healthy and normal to cry, get angry and express your emotions when grieving. Truth be told, there is no time limit on grief.

We as bereaved pet parents just learn to live with grief as the days pass. Will it get easier over time? Yes. Will the pain disappear?… Let me ask you this, “Will the love you had for your pet disappear?” No.

Having a support system is so important. Don’t hesitate to speak about your emotions and pain to other family members and other pet parents. Chances are they  have also been in the same situation and can relate to your experience.

Also, explore online communities for support. A great resource for support is this blog, Facebook pet loss support groups or communities like Rainbowbridge.com focused on helping bereaved pet parents find healing. 

  1. Figure out what to do with their belongings and toys.

Whether you want to keep or donate your pet’s belongings is up to you. There are plenty of local shelters always looking for supplies like old towels, toys and blankets, water dishes for homeless pets in need.

Honestly, putting the items away or donating items is helping you to move in a forward direction with the healing process, not erasing their memory.

  1. Remember to take care of you.

Seek out professional help if you have trouble functioning with your day to day routine, feel suicidal or otherwise depressed and overwhelmed to the point that you cannot effectively go about your day.

Be honest with your family or closest friends about your grief. A solid support system is meant to help you work through your grief and give you the tools to do so as well.

Secondly, the physical toll grief has on the body is real. Before I mentioned broken heart syndrome which in some cases can feel like a heart attack. So, it’s important we pay attention to our bodies and consult with our physician if changes occur.

  1. Find positive means of coping.

Exercise

Get out the house and exercise. Fresh air will do you good to help clear your lungs and your head. Walking, even just a casual stroll for 15 minutes, will get your blood moving and endorphins pumping.

Eat healthy

Eat clean and get plenty of water for proper hydration. It’s amazing what healthy fresh foods like greens, fruits and vegetables can do to help stabilize your mood over high sugary foods and junk which gives you a high and then crash after an hour. The better your diet, the more stable your mood will be. This will only help you to be on the track to healing faster.

Try new hobbies

Tap into your creative side. This could mean journaling in a notebook or using adult coloring books or taking a pottery or paint class on your own. Take this time to try new things. Take a day trip to a new place you’ve never been before or buy tickets to a concert to see your favorite artist. Have lunch at a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try and bring a friend.

The point is to consciously take your mind to a positive space and get out of the house and keep moving in a productive capacity.

  1. Live life to the fullest and serve others.

What do I mean by this? Live life as your pet would want you to in order to honor them.

Infuse your life with positivity and joy. Turn your pain into purpose and consider volunteering or fostering too. Do something productive and positive with your time. Get involved in activities that bring you joy but also help others. When you give, you receive a sense of purpose and fulfillment. This is a great way to help cope and find healing in the process.

Remember to have gratitude, even in difficult times like these because although we have pain, experiences such as these only make us so much stronger. Essentially, what you will come to learn is to have gratitude for the love shared, humility in knowing life is short and joy in knowing although your time together was short, you wouldn’t change it for the world. Never take life for granted.

  1. Last but not least, take it one day at a time.

Many ask, “How long before I start to feel normal again?” Honestly, I cannot answer that for you. Only time will tell. Grief has no time limit and everyone is different. Don’t compare your pain to others and also don’t feel the need to rush your healing process.

Everyone deals with grief in their own way, loves in their own way and heals on their own time. I hope sharing these tips and life lessons really resonates with you and helps provide comfort to you when you need it most.

Talking about grief and pet loss is never easy but a topic that impacts all of us at one point or another. Know you are not alone in your pain, I have lived this experience and continue to daily.

With time and these helpful tools, you will learn that you are so much stronger than you realize and that healing doesn’t mean forgetting your furry family member, it means honoring them by making the choice to put one foot in front of the other and move in a forward direction.

Our furry friends lived on this Earth to fill our lives with joy, laughter and love and I’m sure, even on the other side, they would still want that for our lives now and forever.

 

 *****************************************************************

Kamira Gayle Impurrfect LifeKamira Gayle is the creator and author of Impurrfectlife.com a blog dedicated to helping bereaved pet parents find comfort, joy and healing after pet loss through inspiration and art!

 

the love of my life my senior dog Red

Life After Red

the love of my life my senior dog Red

You never know how you’re going to grieve, or what you’ll find the hardest to cope with, until that time when you say goodbye.

I knew Red’s time with me was drawing to a close, and I used to think about what life would be like without her.

Having spent almost every moment of the past 9 years with her (except for when I was on vacation), I couldn’t imagine a life that didn’t include her. She was around 8 when I brought her home, and being blind she did require some extra care. Of course as she got older and her health issues started she became my entire focus, and every day revolved around her.

I also have another dog named Jack, so between his long walks, feeding both (Red multiple times a day), making sure she ate on those days she wasn’t interested, and keeping her comfortable as she snuggled next to me on the couch, my writing was done in the quiet moments in between.

Naturally I knew I would be heartbroken and devastated. I knew I wouldn’t be sorry to see the pee pads off the floor, and I assumed I would be churning out articles like a machine with all the free hours (yes hours!!) I would have.

And then she died…. broken heart

I am heartbroken and devastated, and as predicted I’m thrilled to not see pee pads covering every square inch of my carpet, but the rest of it is a surprise.

I’m lost.

Every day consisted of a routine 100% dedicated to Red’s care, and now I have all the time in the world and I don’t know how to fill it. It’s been almost 2 weeks so I’m slowly starting to write again, and popping into my FB group to my senior dog Red eating a chew stickcomment, lend support, welcome new members, but it’s a struggle.

I’ve lost my muse and the inspiration behind my articles. I feel like a phony, writing about senior dogs and their care when I don’t have one anymore. The experiences are still there, my desire to help is still strong but the passion has faded. I’m sure when I welcome my next old dog into my home it will return, but for now I’m just going through the motions.

The kindness of strangers

The support and genuine outpouring of emotion from fellow bloggers and group members has been overwhelming, and I don’t seem to have the perfect words to express my gratitude. Take note – this is all from people I’ve never met.

Where is the kindness from people I know?

Life After RedRemember when I said you don’t know how you’ll handle things until they happen? I’m experiencing rage, something I never could have predicted. Don’t worry not the dangerous kind where I’ll do something stupid, but a slow simmering disgust and bitterness at every single person I know who has not bothered to say “I’m sorry.”

 

It makes me feel like Red didn’t matter. Boy did she matter.

What’s interesting is, most aren’t people I call friends so I’m surprised I care so much. Having said that they certainly are at the very least acquaintances, people I’ve known for years who I chat with when I see, which is almost daily. So yes I absolutely expect it. Not a word!

I don’t care if they’re uncomfortable, I care even less if their “reason” is because they don’t want to upset me. I lost Red, I couldn’t be more upset. A simple “I’m sorry” is all it takes…but nothing.

Of course death is a very uncomfortable subject and no one knows what to say, but I can’t imagine chatting with someone I know who suffered a loss and pretending nothing happened. I’d feel like crap.   

I’m as uncomfortable as the next, but the first thing I say is “I’m so sorry” and then I say “I know there’s nothing I can say that will help.” It breaks the ice, it eliminates the awkwardness, and most of all I’ve offered some comfort to someone who is grieving.

My two so called friends who I met because they’re neighbours…the silence from them is deafening. Yes they offered condolences when I saw them, but that was it. Yes they both know I like to be alone, but how about a text? my senior dog Red out for a strollNo awkward encounters, just a kind gesture. I intellectually know I matter to them, but that’s nowhere near enough for me to ever have anything to do with them again. They know how much I loved Red, but if that isn’t enough they certainly saw my support for them when they had surgeries. I’m afraid them telling me I can talk to them when I’m ready isn’t enough, not by a long shot.

Do you know two of the people I’m talking about are nurses, one a health care worker? Isn’t their behaviour even more outrageous!

My vet’s office was no better

My vet is amazing, and I know for a fact Red would not have been with me all these years without him. I also know they dropped the ball. I don’t know if Red’s ashes arrived yesterday when I called to find out where she was, or were sitting there a day or two. Ashes come in you call, that’s it.

You send a condolence card within a day or two, and take a minute to make it sound heartfelt.

My previous vet would send a handwritten card, signed by him, the next day. You can’t imagine how much that always meant.

The card I received from this practice would have been okay (barely) for someone they’ve only seen a handful of times…but us! I couldn’t even count the amount of time we spent there and how well they knew both of us, yet not a message from the vet or anything remotely personal.

my senior dog Red and I in El TorcalWhen I picked up Red’s ashes yesterday I brought the card along. I spoke to one of the staff (Helen) who knows me a long time (as they all do) and calmly expressed my opinion about the lack of effort or anything heartfelt. She told me it was their “standard” response, but she also agreed we deserved better. I told her not to bother asking them to send me another because it would have no meaning.

Let me back up a bit.

When I first walked in yesterday Helen gave me such a warm and genuine hug. She loved Red, as they all did, but wasn’t there when it happened, so it was the first time she had seen me. That hug showed me compassion and that Red and I mattered. She told me she had wanted to call the next day, but the staff told her not to because I was too upset.  

I know they were trying to be considerate of my feelings, I just wish they had realised how much her gesture would have meant.  

Am I being too hard on people?

I suppose some may think I am but I don’t care, I will not make excuses for anyone in this situation. Even if the attitude is “she was just a dog” it’s about the person grieving, me in this case and what I need, not about them and how uncomfortable they are.

Is it possible to know what will make someone feel better in this situation? I would say the answer is no, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate knowing you cared enough to offer some form of comfort. How about a card slipped through the mailbox? Some flowers left on a doorstep? A text letting them know you’re thinking about them?   

A lesson to be learned

I now know the greatest lesson Red was here to teach us is compassion.

Not just by people seeing the worth of a senior dog, how much joy she brought me, or the way I cared for her. I my senior dog Red in Spainnow clearly see it will be to teach people to reach out to anyone who is grieving. I don’t suggest knocking on peoples’ doors, goodness knows I wouldn’t answer, but offer your condolences. It won’t take away their pain, but I can assure you they won’t be any more upset by it then they already are. What it will do is show them who they lost mattered in this world, and so do they.

My final words

No amount of comfort can mend my heart, but boy do the messages of support make me feel like Red and I matter.

I can’t imagine ever looking at any of those people with anything other than the disgust I currently feel and I’m okay with that, although it makes me sad to be in that position.

Thank you Red for teaching all of us a very important and painful lesson about compassion.

You did good in this world!

Must have senior dog supplies

Must Have Senior Dog Supplies

Must have senior dog supplies

I see so many lists for new puppy items, but not so many for senior dog supplies!! What’s up with that…senior dogs also need stuff!!

If you’ve shared your life with your dog since he was a puppy, I’m sure there’s no shortage of supplies, but have you adapted them to his changing needs? If you’ve just adopted an old dog, congratulations you’re amazing by the way, then you’re definitely going to need to do some shopping.

I put together this list based on my experience living with seniors, and figuring out ways to keep them as comfortable as possible. Oh did I forget to mention active as well?

This list is as extensive as possible, but don’t worry…it doesn’t mean you have to get everything!!

Must have senior dog supplies

COMFORT

senior dog supplies you must haveOlder dogs may feel the cold more than their younger counterparts, so having outerwear handy is a good idea. As Red got older and we moved to a colder climate, she wore a sweater indoors and out a good part of the year. Whether yours will need one will depend a lot on the temperature and how much hair he has!!

Warming mats: self-heating or electric – Another way to keep your pup warm on a cool night is to have a warming pad on the bed. Available in a self-heating style or plug in, the choice is up to you but do be careful of cords.  Call me paranoid but I prefer self-heating, and I used to keep one on Red’s bed all year round.  

Orthopedic bed – If your dog is experiencing joint pain, an orthopedic bed may provide the comfort he’s looking for. Some also come with magnets, which you may have heard are used to help relieve pain in human arthritis sufferers.

Bed with raised sides and low front – Another style your dog may like is one that has 3 sides raised so he can lean against them like a pillow, and an open front to walk right onto the bed. No leg lifting needed!!

a comforter is a great senior dog supply

A big comforter – Another option for a relaxation spot is a single or double comforter. I don’t know about you but my senior dog always liked variety so if she wasn’t in the mood for one style, there was always another to try. This turned out to be her favourite the last few years because it was so poufy, yet flexible enough for her to shape into the style she wanted.

Fleece blankets – comfy and cosy, I never have too many! When one or two were in the laundry I always had another I could grab. I kept one on every bed in the cooler months, and they were perfect for cuddles on the couch.

Waterproof dog bed cover – if your dog has accidents, a waterproof cover may cut down on the number of times you have to wash the bed, and it’s certainly easier to wash.

Raised food and water bowls – I found as Red got older I wanted to raise her water bowl so she could get to it a lot more easily, and I do believe it made her more comfortable. I did the same with her food bowl but I held it for her so she could find the food more easily. She was blind, and it was particularly helpful when she wasn’t as interested in eating as she had been.

more must have senior dog suppliesCooling mat/bandana/shirt/jacket for the hot weather – This is a must if you live in a hot climate. I have the bandana for Jack who doesn’t do well in the heat and it makes a big difference. My neighbour bought a cooling jacket for her senior Shepherd and she couldn’t get over the incredible results. She was able to go back to taking her walks in the warmer weather.

Nanny cam – A nanny cam is a great tool for keeping an eye on your senior dog when you’re out. Perfect if you’re curious about what he gets up to, or he’s not well and you want to check up on him.  

Pee pads – I always say I wish I had bought stock in the company, I could not live without this product. Whether I line the carriers with them when travelling, or cover my entire floor, they are a “must have” if your dog is having accidents. They are available as disposable or washable.

Doggie diapers – A very popular item for dogs with incontinence, diapers come in disposable or washable versions. Many pup parents put a sanitary pad in for better results.

Carpet stain and odour remover – A necessity for cleaning up accidents, and believe me they somehow find a way to pee in between the pee pads!! As with any product, not all are created equal so you may have to try more than one to find what works best for your carpet. If you prefer natural products there are plenty on the market, or you can make your own.  

MOBILITY AND SAFETY

Ramps and pet steps – They serve the same purpose as a mobility aid, but the one you choose will depend on the need. For help getting into the car, a ramp is typically what you want, just check the incline isn’t too steep and be sure it’s foldable for easy storage in your vehicle. Steps are most often used for getting onto the couch for example, as a ramp would take up a lot more floor space and be too steep.

a pet stroller is a must have senior dog supplyDog stroller – My all time favourite invention, and a product I can’t say enough great things about…so rather than repeating myself I will let my previous articles do the talking.

Non slip socks/booties – If your dog is having mobility issues, is less steady on his feet and seems to be slipping on your hardwood or tile floors, non-slip socks or booties may be the answer.

Carpet squares or yoga mats – If your dog won’t let you near him with a pair of booties, as mine never did, a perfect solution is covering your slippery floor with some carpet squares or yoga mats.

Wheelchair – Whether your dog has lost the use of his legs, or is having trouble standing and walking on his own, a wheelchair can drastically improve your dog’s quality of life.

Sling or harness – An option in many mobility cases, I used one when my dog was recovering from spinal surgery due to paralysis. I couldn’t have taken him for walks without one!

Toe grips – Another mobility aid in your arsenal, made of rubber they slide over your dog’s nails and add traction on slippery surfaces.

product for a senior dog supplies list

Foam padding for table and chair legs/doors – If you have a blind dog, or one suffering from dementia who’s confused and bumps into things, some foam padding is perfect for table and chair legs. As you can see in the picture, I put them at head height on the door as well. You can likely find the foam at a DIY store or maybe even cut a pool noodle lengthwise and use that.

Adjustable pen – If you worry about your dog’s safety when you’re out, an adjustable pen will give him some space to roam, but limits it. They come in various sizes so you can create as big or small a space as you like.

Bike basket or trailer – There were many times when I would take my senior dog Red with me on my bike, and she would sit so nicely in my basket. I’ve also seen many other cyclists who have a trailer for their dogs and they’ve loved it! What a great way to do something you love, and include your older dogs too!!

NUTRTION AND SUPPLEMENTS

Diet – I always say senior dog nutrition (actually pet nutrition in general) is an absolute minefield, filled with conflicting information from “experts” and pet parents who are convinced their recommendations are the best. Senior dogs don’t necessary need to eat senior dog food, but when choosing the best diet I would start with a check up to determine your dog’s health status, if there are certain foods he should stay away from…

List of foods for when your dog won’t eat – It’s not uncommon for there to be some challenges getting a senior dog to eat when they’re not feeling well, or suffering from health issues. I know from my own experience how frustrating and worrying it can be. Do yourself a favour and have a list of possible foods that are safe for your dog, in the event he loses interest in his current diet. It will save you a lot of last minute scrambling. For my dog’s condition I know that boiled chicken, rice, Skyr, white fish such as cod and no fat cottage cheese were some of the options.  

Mobility – In addition (or instead of in some cases) to the medications your vet may have prescribed for your dog’s joint pain, natural supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels and turmeric golden paste are known to be extremely helpful.

Anxiety – There are many reasons your dog may be experiencing anxiety, including dementia, so here are few things that can help –

  • Thundershirt
  • a Thundershirt should be on the list of senior dog suppliesAdaptil plug in/spray/collar
  • CBD oil
  • Valerian
  • Skullcap and Valerian
  • Calming dog music
  • Lavender essential oil (it can be diffused by lighting a tea light than adding a few drops to the melted wax then relighting the wick to diffuse the scent)

 

**Before changing diets or adding supplements, I highly recommend you speak with your vet first.**

PHYSICAL EXERCISE AND MENTAL STIMULATION

Sling or harness for extra support – I mentioned this in the mobility section but it’s worth mentioning again. If your dog is having trouble walking, please don’t just leave him on his bed to sleep his life away. In addition to any pain medication, supplements or physical therapy you may be doing, having a sling or harness will give him extra support so he can get out there and get some exercise which, believe it or not, does help joint pain.

Exercise indoors – There are times when your dog may not be feeling up to enough of a walk, or the weather is so miserable it’s not going to happen. Finding exercises to do indoors is the perfect solution. They include –

  • Rolling a ball down the hallway
  • Playing hide and seek
  • Create a bit of an agility course even if you don’t have much room. A broom can be slightly elevated so he has to lift his leg to walk over it – a couple of pillows spaced widely on the floor he has to walk around.


Snuffle mat – Perfect to keep dogs entertained and a chance to expend some energy and even challenge them mentally. Typically made of rubber with a lot of fleece strips attached, treats are hidden amongst the strips and your dog then has to find them.

Puzzle or treat dispensing toy – Another great tool for mental stimulation, find a toy that’s challenging so he has to figure out how to get the tasty treat inside. Too hard and he’ll lose interest, but many can be adjusted to various degrees of difficulty.

GROOMING

Shampoo and grooming wipes – There are plenty of reasons why your dog may not enjoy the groomer as much as he used to, or finds it difficult to stand for any length of time. Giving him a bath at home means shorter visits!! Grooming wipes are also handy for a quick clean.

Brush – Brushing your dog is a wonderful opportunity to bond and just hang out together…and most dogs love it!! Some senior dogs develop lumps, bumps and growths so a soft bristled brush may be best.  

Dental care – Brushing our dogs’ teeth is as important as brushing our own and there are a lot of products to help.

finger toothbrush on senior dog supplies listToothbrush – There are many styles of toothbrush including long handled, electric and one to fit on your finger.

Toothpaste – Toothpaste comes in a variety of flavours and textures, you’re bound to find one your dog likes.

Dental wipes – If your dog won’t let you near him with a brush, perhaps a wipe will be acceptable?

Dental chews – If you can’t get near your dog’s mouth to brush his teeth, how about a dental chew?

Water additive – Whether all else fails and it’s your only option, or another dental care tool, pour some in your dog’s water and he will get some benefit.

 

You may be wondering what’s so special about this list, you have almost everything on it!! A senior dog is still a dog, and the majority of the supplies you have for a puppy will be the same for a senior, with a few differences.

Having said that, a first time dog parent, or someone who has never raised a senior dog before will find this list very handy.

 

Tell me, do you have anything for your senior dog that’s not on this list? Sharing helps others so please leave a comment below or come chat on my Facebook page.

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.

 

 

*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running.

 

 

Red in her stroller in Spain

Saying Goodbye to My Sweet Girl Red

Red enjoying the sun in Spain

One week ago today, on May 18, 2018 at just after 11:00am UK time, I said goodbye to my sweet girl Red.

This is not easy for me to write, especially because I never discuss my feelings, but it’s spilling out of me and I can’t stop it.

What inspired me? While there have been some lovely condolences expressed by my incredible Facebook group members, one I saw this morning really hit me and the words started flowing.

Saying Goodbye to my Sweet Girl Red

Her name is Paula Busch (Paula I hope you don’t mind me mentioning you), and even though she has said goodbye to her much loved dog Ramsey she still stays in the group to help. There was something about the way she asked how I was doing that opened the floodgates…so rather than just replying “fine thank you” I realised this post needed to be written, and for people to know the impact Red had on my life and others.

How am I doing? Not well. I’m heartbroken, I hear Red coming down the hallway and pushing against the hallway door to come and see me. I find myself just about to tell my husband to not bang the door because Red is sleeping, and I’m still surprised when I don’t see her bed on the floor next to mine.

I’m having a very hard time checking in with the group at the moment, but I’m forcing myself to offer a bit of advice when I can. You’ve all done such a great job of keeping things going the past week, I’m so grateful, but I also feel responsible for things as well.

I managed to write a couple of articles, but that’s only because they were mostly written and just needed “tweaking” but I’ve lost my enthusiasm for my much loved website.

I’ve lost my muse and feel like a phony both with my website and my group. Yes the years of experience I have caring for senior dogs is with me, but I feel like “who am I” when I don’t share my life with an old dog at the moment. Jack isn’t at the “senior” category yet!

Sightseeing with her dad and brother

In the past when I was living in Florida and lost one of my “oldies” I would go back to the shelter where I volunteered and bring home another one. Although I’m no longer there, sadly there is no shortage of old dogs that need homes, yet I can’t offer mine just yet.

I loved Red more than words can ever express, yet I would be lying and deceiving you by saying it was all a bed of roses and nothing but a love fest. For most of the 9 years we spent together it was, but when I realised she had dementia 2 ½ years ago, that’s when the really challenging and stressful times began. When her dementia progressed and her selegeline was no longer helping like it had been (that was about a year ago), the stress was pretty much constant.

She was blind when I adopted her, obese with a heart murmur, and over the years she developed many health issues but they were all managed thanks to my wonderful vet Lubo. It was the dementia, and more recently the chronic pancreatitis that make things extremely difficult at times.

I had no problem making her the centre of my universe, and having my life revolve around her. I adopt old dogs and with that comes the responsibility, and of course the joy of caring for them…whatever that means.

The financial strain was enormous as well. She was on a lot of medication, and some of it was crazy expensive even buying online.

The worry she might have another seizure, the panic she would need emergency care in the middle of the night with no hospital near me and no car to travel, and the dread when she needed a vet and mine was not working that day absolutely took its toll.

I still feel the same worry and stress, I guess they’re residual!

Snoozing with her foster puppy

I have been able to take the pee pads off the floor and now I walk into my home and I see just carpet…a high price to pay. I admit I’d rather see pee pads than a stain on my carpet, but they were always messy and made me feel disorganised.

I knew the day was coming when I would have to say goodbye, and I was sure it would end up being a quality of life decision because of dementia. The type of decision I’ve only had to make once before and haunted me for months. Did I wait too long? Should I have waited a bit longer? Every day in the last few months I would think about it. Red was never in pain and I always knew as much as she had my heart, I would never allow her to linger because I didn’t want it broken.

I prayed for a bad test result one day, because then I knew my decision would be “easier” to make. There it is, black and white, nothing else to be done and then last Thursday I got that bad test result. I was shocked, devastated and relieved knowing it was pretty much made for me. I could have said goodbye that day but I would have felt like I rushed something, and that kind of decision can tear you up inside and haunt you if you aren’t sure.

When I took her home and she didn’t eat I made the call for the next day. Did she eat later? Of course she did. Did she eat that Friday morning? Of course she did. I brought her to the vet anyway and we had a conversation.

I could have waited a few days but why? I couldn’t reverse the test result, she was still so skinny and barely eating, how would postponing my heartbreak help her?

First place in the dog show

I have devoted the last 9 years of my life to caring for and loving her. Did she stop me from taking vacations? Not when my pet sitter was around. Did we take lots of day trips together? Absolutely. Was she a very well traveled dog? You bet. She came from Florida, flew for a couple of short visits with me to Toronto, and made quite a few trips between our places in Florida and England. Did she bring me incredible joy? No question about it, and now I am paying for it with incredible sadness.

It is because of her I started my website, and because of my experiences with her and those who came before her, I created my group as a way to help others who may not have the support and access to information they need.

In the aftermath

I’m lost. I always thought when I didn’t have Red to care for, all the extra hours would be spent writing even more articles and helping even more. Sadly I now have all those extra hours, but I struggle to have the strength to fill them. I wander aimlessly, turn the tv on during the day (something I never, ever, ever do until the evening) and get through the day.

I’m hurt. I understand it’s probably a generational thing, public displays of emotion, every thought bared on social media, and condolences offered. Okay but don’t I deserve more from a family member who did nothing more than respond to my notice with a sad emoji?

enjoying a walk in the park

My 2 “friends” who like to tell me how important I am and that we’re like the 3 musketeers have disgusted me. One of them replied to that same notice on FB with a “so sorry babe you were a great mum” but how about a private message? She knows I turn inwards in grief, but how about a text to tell me she’s thinking of me or here for me? She’s my neighbour so I see her around, and she knows I don’t want to talk about but how about some flowers?

When she had surgery or broke her nose in a fall recently, how many times did I check on her?

My other “friend” was away for 10 days, but news travels fast where I live so I assume she knows, certainly the first friend I mentioned would have told her. Let’s say she didn’t know – she’s been home 4 days and no text to say hello. If she did know it’s even more upsetting. When her mother died did I not express my condolences to her right away? When she had surgery recently was I not checking on her every day, asking her husband how she was doing? Did I not prepare a basket for her so she wouldn’t be bored during the day?

I have been called self-absorbed and I agree to a certain extent that is true. I’m not always the most thoughtful person, but I certainly have been to them.

Nothing can excuse what they’ve done, or haven’t done, and although I may be friendly when I see them, our coffee mornings and get togethers are over since I can never ever see them in the same light. As comfortable as a topic this is for all of us, there is no excuse for not even sending a simple “so sorry thinking of you” text.

Snoozing with her foster puppy

My plan

I’m slowly starting to get back to my website and my writing, and I will do my best to spend more time in the group.

Today has been a really bad day, I’ve been crying most of the morning, even during my acupuncture session!! It’s expected of course, but Red’s ashes will be back with me soon enough and I will take hers and Saffy’s and put them in a memorial urn necklace I have, to carry them with me always.

I will adopt another senior dog, quite possibly from Serbia. My husband and I would like to go away January and February (if we can figure out what to do with Jack) so ideally it wouldn’t be until March. Having said that there’s no way I can wait that long to care for someone else that needs me. We’re going away in 2 weeks for a few days and perhaps I’ll foster some kittens that need to be bottle fed.

I wasn’t blessed with this level of compassion and not always have an outlet in which to express it.

I have no idea if this made sense or not but I wanted this to be straight from the heart as the words flowed.

 

I love you Red more than words can ever express. My heart is broken, I know in time it will mend, but I will never forget you and the joy you brought to my life, and by extension the good you did in this world.

Would your senior dog benefit from New Zealand green lipped mussels

Would Your Senior Dog Benefit From Green Lipped Mussels?

Would your senior dog benefit from New Zealand green lipped mussels

Are green lipped mussels the next “great thing” for our senior dogs? Let’s take a look and see!

What are they and are they really green?

Green lipped mussels (or GLM) are a type of mussel found only in New Zealand, and the shell is rimmed in green.

Benefits  

  • Natural inflammatory
  • would your dog benefit from New Zealand green lipped musselsReduces pain
  • Protects joints
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Strengthens bones
  • Helps in repair of cartilage
  • Preventative

What makes green lipped mussels so powerful?

Just like fish, green lipped mussels contain Omega-3 fatty acids, but it is the combination of fatty acids, minerals and antioxidants found in the mussels that makes them so powerful.  

How much to give

There is no set answer for this one, as the amount of GLM that will be beneficial for your senior dog depends not only on his or her size, but also the severity of the condition. The amount given may also have to be increased or decreased depending on the results you see…or don’t see.

Here are some suggestions to help get you started 

Speak to your vet and ask his opinion

Follow the recommendations on the label of the brand you purchase

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, significant improvement was seen in dogs given the following amounts –

  • Dogs weighing less than 25kg/55lbs – 450mg per day
  • Dogs weighing 25-34kg/55-75lbs – 750mg per day
  • Dogs weighing more than 34kg/75lbs – 1000mg per day

How to administer green lipped mussels

While it is often suggested the most effective way is to sprinkle it onto your dog’s food, the study I mentioned above suggests dogs showed significant improvement whether it was given that way, in a treat or as an ingredient in dog food. The fact it is helpful in various forms, increases the likelihood you will find something your dog will accept.

How long until I see results?

Natural supplements tend to take longer to have an affect than medications, so it may take several weeks for you to notice a difference.

Side effects

There don’t seem to be any concerns about side effects, although there is a very slight chance your dog could be allergic to shellfish. If you see any symptoms such as your dog scratching, upset stomach, difficulty breathing or lack of interest in food (possibly due to nausea), please call your vet immediately.

Are all green lipped mussels supplements created equal?

Not all supplements are created equal, and green lipped mussels are no exception. It’s important to understand the manufacturing process in order to choose the best brand. Heat destroys the nutrients naturally found in the mussels, so if they are steamed open you want to stay away from that brand. Look for cold extracted instead.

There are also many supplements that contain GLM but it’s not always easy to determine how much it actually contains, or the manufacturing process.

You may want to start by checking with your local health food store, and speaking with a knowledgeable salesperson.

Are GLM better than anti-inflammatories?

It depends what “better” means to you. When the “right” medication is found and dosage determined, then they absolutely do help with the pain associated with arthritis. By the same token there are often side effects that come with these drugs, and may be experienced by your dog.

More and more pet parents are looking for natural alternatives, and GLM are definitely worth looking into.

Keep in mind not every drug or supplement will be effective for every dog.

Are other supplements for mobility needed?

There is no definitive “yay” or “nay” answer to that question, but more a matter of the severity of the pain your dog experiences, and what will work best for him or her.

You may find you are able to reduce the amount of pain meds, or eliminate them completely, once you’ve started GLM

Some dog parents find the greatest effect when taken with glucosamine/chondroitin, while others add fish oil as well.

What the studies show about efficacy

Evaluating Complementary Therapies for Canine Osteoarthritis Part I: Green-lipped Mussel

Effect of a diet enriched with green-lipped mussel on pain behavior and functioning in dogs with clinical osteoarthritis

Improvement of Arthritic Signs in Dogs Fed Green-Lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus)

Always check with your vet

I always advise checking with your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet, and that includes the addition of supplements. In my case because Red had chronic pancreatitis, it was critical I kept an eye on the amount of oils in her diet and that definitely included fish oil.

If your vet isn’t as familiar with alternative therapies as you would like, bring an information sheet with you. If he still isn’t able to offer you the advice you seek, a visit to a holistic vet may help. If you do end up with a second vet, communication between all parties is key for the safety of your dog.

 


Do you give your senior dog green lipped mussels? What condition are you treating? Do you see any positive results? Sharing helps others so please leave a comment below, or on my Facebook page.

 

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.

 

*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running.

 

 

How to choose the right pet stroller for your senior dog

How to Choose the Right Pet Stroller For Your Senior Dog

How to choose the right pet stroller for your senior dog

If I had to choose one thing that has made a huge difference in my life and the life of my senior dog, I would have to say it’s a pet stroller. Although we would never have left Red behind on a day trip (unless we had a pet sitter), having the dog stroller made it a lot easier to include her. I highly recommend every senior dog parent purchase one, but it turns out our stroller had another use I never could have foreseen.

Almost 2 years ago my dog Jack became paralysed quite suddenly, meaning within the span of just a few hours. During his recovery he was only allowed 5 minute walks, but I also wanted to make sure he wouldn’t get bored or start feeling depressed. With the permission of the neurologist I took Jack out every day in the stroller, making sure we stopped in to see some of his favourite humans along the way.


He’s now fully recovered, but when he’s running around on a hot day he’ll often take a break by lying underneath it in the shade it creates. He has also been known to hitch a ride part of the way home until he gets his second wind!

You may have already started looking for a pet stroller and become somewhat overwhelmed by the number of styles and options available, or you have yet to start because you haven’t a clue where to begin. Either way I’ve got you covered.

I’m going to be discussing the various features you’ll find in a pet stroller as well as things to be aware of, to help you choose the best one for your senior dog. The more features it has, the more beneficial it will be.  

How to choose the right pet stroller for your senior dog

Considerations

Weight the stroller can accommodate

Do follow weight guidelines, as the frame has to be able to offer enough support. If your dog is at the recommended weight or even just below it, I would play it safe and buy a bigger size.  

Size dog it can accommodate

what features should you look for when choosing a dog stroller

Weight and size are 2 different things. While the stroller may accommodate your dog’s weight, not all dogs who weigh the same have the same measurements!! I suggest measuring from his nose to his tail, and his width, then check the interior dimensions of the stroller.

How does it look?

Helping you choose the best pet stroller for your senior dog

Nothing wrong with having a nice looking stroller if that’s important to you, so it’s good to know there are various colours and prints to choose from.

Ease of folding

foldable is a great feature when choosing the right pet stroller

You will absolutely want your dog stroller to fold for ease of storage and ease of use. Most need two hands to fold it, some just one.   

Quality

Be sure the stroller you choose is sturdy and can accommodate the size of your dog. The last thing you want is to be miles from home with a broken axle or a cracked wheel, and a 40lb dog you couldn’t possibly carry.

Handle height and placement

Is the handle height comfortable? If not is it adjustable? Some have the option, others do not. Placement refers to how far the handle sticks out, and if it’s far enough so you don’t kick the back wheels when walking, especially at a faster pace.

How easy is it to push?

How to choose the best pet stroller for your senior dog

Pushing an 8lb dog on a paved path is one thing, but what about an 85lb dog over rough terrain? Too much hard work, and no one will benefit. How easy will it be to jog or do off road walking with a dog inside? A lot of that will be down to the weight of the stroller itself and the type of tires.

Multiple uses

Sometimes a stroller is just a stroller, but other times it can also be a bike trailer, car seat or even a pet carrier.

Folding canopy

features to help you choose the right pet stroller

A canopy is an important feature that will protect your dog from the sun, rain, even bugs. Having one that folds means options – keep it open so your pup can enjoy the beautiful weather and have a great view, but when it becomes too hot, it offers shade while still allowing him to see.

Viewing port

important feature for a senior dog stroller

I love this feature and it’s one my pet stroller has. There is an area on the canopy that is mesh with a Velcro flap, which not only provides an extra source of ventilation when the canopy is closed, it also means I can check on my dog easily without stopping. No need to open the entire canopy, or walk around to the front of the stroller.

Amount and quality of mesh   

thick quality mesh is an important feature when choosing the right dog stroller

More mesh means more breathability, and a better view for your dog if he’s too small to see out the top or if he’s lying down. Pay attention to the sturdiness of the mesh, too thin and he can claw it and tear it.

Enclosing the stroller

choose a pet stroller that can be fully enclosed

I would say most strollers have the option of completely enclosing it, and I like that for a couple of reasons. One being added protection from the weather, the other for safety to prevent him from jumping or trying to jump out. When open the canopy attaches to the stroller with a zipper or non-zip option.  

How many points of entry

rear entry is a great feature in a pet stroller

Some strollers have one way to put your dog in and that’s through the top, others also have a rear zippered entry. This is particularly handy if you have a bigger dog, or you are unable to lift him. If it’s low enough to the ground your senior dog may be able to walk right in, but if he can’t a small step will help.

Safety tether

safety tether is a great feature when choosing the right pet stroller for a senior dog

A leash attached to the stroller, it’s a great safety feature should your dog get anxious and try and jump out, or so excited he can’t wait to get out. Depending on who is in the stroller I may keep hold of the leash, but I also use this clip as an extra safety measure.  

Tires and wheels

important features when choosing the best dog stroller for your old dog

Not all tires are suitable for all terrains, plastic being perfectly fine for smooth pavement, while air filled better for rougher and uneven surfaces.  

Fixed wheels or swivel? My stroller has swivel wheels which is fine for pavement, malls and other smooth surfaces, and good for turning corners and manoeuvrability. Fixed wheels are best for jogging and off road. Many strollers have wheels you can let swivel or fix into place.  

Rear locking wheels

rear locking wheels on a pet stroller

An excellent safety feature to stop a stroller from rolling, you simply engage and disengage with your foot. Perfect for public transport, stopping for a chat, parking the stroller while walking the dog, or even while loading and unloading your pet.

Storage basket

storage basket is a great feature on a dog stroller

For me a storage basket underneath the stroller is a must have, so check the size before you buy. On day trips we do take a knapsack, but having the basket means quicker access for things like – an extra sweater, human and canine water and snacks, sun hat, sun tan lotion….

Parent tray

parent tray is a great feature on a pet stroller

Most strollers have it, although configurations may differ. It’s super convenient for items you want to keep close to hand such as water bottles, keys, phone, treats…  If you like to keep a water bottle within easy reach, check the depth of the holder. Mine is perfect for a small bottle of about 8oz (250ml) or so, anything bigger and it will fall out if we walk on rougher terrain. It’s not a huge deal although slightly inconvenient. I put it in the canopy when it’s closed but when it’s open I have to put it in the storage basket.  

Latch to keep pet stroller closed

latch to keep pet stroller closed is a very handy feature

Trust me when I tell you it’s a much needed feature. This latch is affixed to one part of the frame, and once it’s folded you click it onto the other part and it keeps the stroller closed. Unfortunately ours was lost (I don’t want to blame anyone, but it wasn’t me!!), and believe me it’s a nightmare without it. I should really try and find a replacement.

Rain cover

Some pet strollers come with it, most don’t, mine didn’t. The good news is they can be purchased separately because they are handy to have should you get caught in a rainstorm. Even if the stroller fabric is water resistant, if the rain is heavy enough it will get in through the mesh windows.

How to choose the right pet stroller for your senior dog – conclusion

If you have a senior dog who isn’t able to walk too far or join you on day trips, then you definitely need a pet stroller. It can be as basic or fancy as you like, and they come in a wide variety of prices to suit most budgets. Now that you see how wonderful they are, you don’t have to leave your old dog at home, or stay home because you don’t want to leave him alone. It can absolutely be a life changer…for both of you!

 

Sharing helps others so please leave a comment below, or on my Facebook page.

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.

 

*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running.

How to make moving day stress free for senior dogs

How to Make Moving Day Stress Free For Senior Dogs

How to make moving day stress free for senior dogs

Moving is stressful no doubt about it, but did you know it’s up there with job loss, marriage, divorce and death?

I have moved a lot, but that’s what happens when you have wanderlust, and most of that moving was done with dogs and cats in tow. Yes they were usually seniors!! I’ve moved apartments in the same city, moved to different countries and even continents. Needless to say I’ve learned a few things along the way, so I thought I’d share my words of wisdom.

Naturally I’m focusing on senior dogs as I write, but these tips will work no matter how old or what type of pet you share your life with.

They know!

How to Make Moving Day Stress Free for Senior DogsI find it incredible how animals have an uncanny ability to sense when something is up, and I have witnessed it enough times that I know it to be true. What’s most amazing to me is how they seem to know you’re going to move even when it’s just an idea…before the M word has even been uttered.

I don’t even have to bring a box into the house for them to start acting all weird!

Then the disruption starts

  • That schedule you’re so proud of is but a distant memory
  • Meal times may turn into “whenever I remember” (okay not really but you know what I mean!)
  • A walk is “squeezed in”
  • Evenings snuggling up on the couch are nothing more than a happy memory (for humans and pets!)

I’d like to think I’m being a bit melodramatic, but as moving day nears it’s not an uncommon scenario.

Yes it would be great if schedules could be followed, but that’s not entirely realistic so the only thing we can do is the best we can do. Don’t beat yourself up, you’re doing a great job.   

The good news is there are ways to minimise a move’s effect on our animals, which I believe to be particularly important if they are elderly and/or have anxiety or other health issues.

BEFORE THE MOVE

stress free moving with your dog

Here they are, in no particular order 

 

Get your dog used to seeing boxes and suitcases a good couple of weeks before you’ll start packing them, by leaving them out for him to explore. If possible bring them in one or two at a time. Don’t make a big deal about them, and when he starts to sniff around and he’s calm reward him with a favourite treat. It will get him used to seeing them before the commotion starts.

Have a support system. Make arrangements for your dog’s care when you’re too busy or you need to get him out of the house because potential buyers will be dropping by. Ask friends, family and neighbours if you can call on them, perhaps even at the last minute. Connecting with a dog walker or two is a good idea, as is checking out day care facilities should you need a safe place for a few hours.

Do what you can to stick to their schedule of meal times and exercise. Many old dogs are sensitive to changes in schedule, particularly those with dementia or anxiety for example, and that can be a stressor in itself. If your dog is on medication it is even more important to watch that clock! If at times you need a hand call on that support system. Having said that you need a break, so going for a walk with the dog is a de-stressor for you as well.

I know from experience there are times a realtor will call with a last minute request to show your home. Keep a knapsack packed with water, bowls, treats and a favourite toy so you can grab and go.

Double check that microchip and tag details are up to date, and have a tag with your new contact details made and ready to use.

Start playing a CD of dog calming music now, I mean rightnow…okay when you finish reading!! When you find the ones he relaxes to, those are the ones you will play while packing because it will remind him of the relaxed state he felt. The two that work best for my dog are Through a Dog’s Ear and Relax My Dog. There is a 13 minute sampler of the first on Youtube so you can try before you buy, and the second has hours of free music to play. Through a Dog’s Ear is Red’s favourite!

An open house is not a place for a senior dog, or any pet for that matter. If you won’t be hanging either around then no problem, you and your dog can enjoy a day out. If, however, you want to be a part of it call on your support system.

Put him in doggie daycare for a couple of hours and see what he thinks. If he likes it you now have a place to take him when you’re busy, or he needs to be out of the house.

All the dog stuff should go in a clearly labelled box so when you reach your new home, you can unpack it first and get him settled right away.

If possible ask the realtor to come by with buyers during your dog’s walk time. It allows him to stick to his schedule as much as possible, and the less often he sees strangers traipsing through his home the better. Obviously it won’t always be possible, and you certainly don’t want to miss out on a sale, so for those times call on your trusted support system.

Pack up your dog’s favourite bed, crate, toys and blankets at the last possible moment. You want him to feel safe and comfortable for as long as possible.

If you will be driving to your new home and it’s quite a long distance, I recommend you keep a harness on your dog throughout the trip. If he’s never worn one before, now is the time to start getting him used to it. Rest stops can be hectic and new surroundings frightening, so don’t take a chance of him panicking and slipping out of his collar.

Pack a separate bag just for your dog of all the things you’ll need during the trip, trust me it’s easier than rooting around yours. Don’t forget –

  • Medical records
  • Pet passport/paperwork if crossing borders
  • Medication for the trip plus a few days extra
  • Food for the trip plus a few days extra
  • Large bottle of water
  • Favourite toy
  • Blanket
  • Food and water bowls

You may also want to play that dog calming music during the drive but a word of warning – be careful because it may relax you so much you’ll fall asleep…I’m not kidding. When I play Through a Dog’s Ear for Red, I end up snoozing and that’s on the couch!

If you’re moving out of your area, find out where the nearest 24 hour emergency hospital is. I also recommend starting a search for some possible vets you’ll want to check out when you arrive. Having some contact numbers is a wise precaution should your dog be feeling unwell after the journey.  

DURING THE MOVE

moving to Spain with dogs in the car

Not all tips will be relevant as so much depends on how you’ll be travelling and where you’re going, and as before they are in no particular order. 

If your senior dog is suffering from anxiety and takes comfort in your presence, try and keep him with you even through the upheaval. Of course you’re the best judge so if you don’t feel it’s a good idea, reach out to one of your support group until you’re ready to go. Even if they just take him for a walk in the neighbourhood it can help keep him calmer.

As soon as your start your journey, put the new dog tag on the collar. Until you reach your destination I would leave both of them. I prefer laser engraving as the letters and numbers are a lot clearer than regular engraving, and they last longer. 

It would be wonderful if you could keep to your dog’s schedule during the actual move, but depending on how you’re getting to your new home, that may not be possible. If you’re driving you could plan rest stops around the same time as feeding and walking times, but no one can expect you to be bang on schedule. Of course if you’re flying, especially if your dog is in cargo, that just won’t be possible.

Have one person responsible for watching the dog when the movers are there. Not possible? Put him in a crate in a room no one has to go into. If a crate is not an option, ask a neighbour if you can bring him over or put him in doggie daycare for a few hours.

Some rest stops are crazy busy, but if you have to stop for gas you have to stop for gas.  Some turn offs are quiet areas with nothing but a bathroom if that, so aim to stop there when it’s time to feed and walk the dogs. If “busy” is the only option, park as far away from other cars as possible, and try and find a quiet spot. Make sure the harness is on and do the best you can!

Have his favourite bed, blanket and a couple of toys with him in the car. If he’s flying, you can put his blanket in the crate. 

Keep your dog well hydrated throughout the journey. If he’s flying in cargo, half fill the water container then freeze it. Staff will add water before the crate is loaded onto the plane, so the melting ice should give him enough to drink during the flight.

Don’t forget car safety whether that means a crate, carrier/travel bag or seatbelt.  

If the weather will be cold, don’t forget to pack him a sweater and coat.

Some cuddle time is definitely in order during the car ride, so you may have to spend time in the back seat with him.

WELCOME TO YOUR NEW HOME (OR “AFTER THE MOVE”)

stress free moving with your dog

Exciting! Overwhelming! Where do I even begin! Perfectly natural reactions when entering your new home. Don’t worry everything will fall into place.

Your dog’s routine and schedule resume the minute you walk through the door. He may be in unfamiliar surroundings, but at least his schedule will be familiar.

I don’t recommend you give your dog free access in your new home right away. It’s unfamiliar, strange and can be unnerving. Accidents in the house are not a good start, and with the door opening and closing he can easily get out and lost in a new neighbourhood, never mind country. Keep him with you, on a leash, until things settle, and he will feel comforted being close to you.

Set up a corner for your dog right away with his favourite bed, blanket, and toys. Show him the water bowl, plug in the Adaptil if it worked and play the calming CD. 

When you have to go out, block off your dog’s area until he has settled in. The smaller space will help him feel safer. If he’s been crate trained even better. What about leaving the crate out with the door open so he has a hidey hole to escape to!  

Don’t wash the dog’s blankets quite yet. Familiar smells may put him at ease and help him settle faster. I’m stating the obvious by saying if he’s peed all over it/them, this suggestion doesn’t apply!!

Resist the urge to throw a housewarming party right away, or spend evenings out establishing a social life. Of course you want to settle in and make friends, just be sure to spend time with your dog as well.

When first walking in your new neighbourhood aim for quiet times at first. If you live in the heart of a very busy city there’s not a lot you can do, unless you find a less busy time of day. Use the harness!!

Keep doing the activities your dog loved! If you used to enjoy going to a local café and sitting together outside watching the world go by, keep up that fun tradition.

Avoid doing the things your dog hates right away. For example, if he hates taking a bath, don’t throw him (I don’t mean that literally!!) into the tub on your first day in the new home. That’s bound to cause tons of anxiety, and maybe even create negative associations.

Be mindful about leaving him out in the yard alone while still getting settled, unless there’s no way he can get out. Some dogs may try and escape back to their old homes, even if they don’t yet realise they’re in a different country!!

If possible, try not to go back to work or start your new job the next day. Help your senior adjust, and especially if he has dementia, he’ll be even more confused if left alone in a totally strange environment.

ADDITIONAL STRESS BUSTING TIPS

I may have mentioned some of these stress busting tips above, but I wanted to create this section specifically to highlight some of the options you have to choose from. Not every suggestion will work for every dog, it’s likely going to be a case of trial and error.

Anti anxiety medication

There are medications your vet can prescribe to take the edge off, but sometimes you have to play around with dosages until it works. It goes without saying, although I’m going to say it anyway, don’t do that without guidance from your vet.

If you prefer something more natural keep reading…

Relaxing music

When my senior dog Red started pacing and not settling for hours, and before I realised it was dementia, I was struggling to find something to calm her down. I discovered a cd called Through a Dog’s Ear, and it was remarkable. Within seconds of playing it she would relax and fall asleep. It is engineered to help relax anxious dogs, no matter the cause, and it’s absolutely worth a try. There is a 13 minute sampler on Youtube so you can see if it works before you buy.

The second thing I tried for her was called Relax My Dog, again on Youtube and there are several to choose from. Some of them last for hours so you don’t have to spend a dime.

A word of caution – if you’re playing it in the car, be careful it doesn’t make you drowsy. When I play Through a Dog’s Ear for Red I usually end up having a snooze it’s so relaxing, but I’m on the couch so there’s no worry.

Pheromones

According to the Oxford Dictionary pheromones are “A chemical substance produced and released into the environment by an animal, especially a mammal or an insect, affecting the behaviour or physiology of others of its species.”

Naturally calming, there are several products that mimic those produced by animals, and they are available as plug in diffusers, sprays, wipes and collars.  

Rescue Remedy

A Bach Flower remedy, it is used for animals who are fearful, anxious or have been through a traumatic experience. Three or four drops in your dog’s drinking water or a couple directly on his tongue is what’s recommended. Do your research to determine what’s best for your pup.

Valerian

Easy to administer, I’ve used Valerian for my senior.  A combination of Skullcap and Valerian is even more soothing.

Massage

Massage can go a long way to calm an anxious dog, and the great thing is it can be done anywhere anytime. My dog Jack loves a good massage, and after a few slow and gentle motions he’s fighting to keep his eyes open.

Thundershirt

An anti anxiety wrap, the Thundershirt is a tight fitting garment that wraps around your dog’s body and calms him, much like swaddling does for a baby.

A few final thoughts

air travel with dogs

I have done my fair share of moving with dogs and cats, all seniors with the exception of one dog. Twice I moved to a new home in the same city, so it was as simple as putting them in the car for the short drive. Once it was a drive to Spain from England with two dogs, one of them my golden oldie Red. Mostly it’s been animals flying in cargo.

When rehoming isn’t an option, you do the best you can to make their journey as stress free as possible. Will there be an adjustment period? Of course, and don’t be surprised if your dog seems out of sorts for a few days, and that includes being off his food. If this persists, or something doesn’t seem right, please take him to the vet.

Best of luck on your new adventure!!

 

 

**Was your new home in the same city or out of the country? How did your senior dog handle the journey? What steps did you take to help? Has he settled in? Sharing helps others so please share your experiences below or on my Caring for a Senior Dog Facebook page.**

 

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.

 

*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running.

 

 

 

 

JEM and the misfits post header image

JEM and the Misfits – A Lifesaving Initiative

JEM and the misfits post header image

I recently added a new section to my website called Senior Dog Lifesavers. As the name suggests, it is dedicated to highlighting the work of the kind and compassionate souls who rescue senior dogs.

A few weeks ago while searching for lifesavers to feature, I came across a woman named Julie Docherty (or Jem as she is called!) who rescues Chihuahuas. I had to reach out to her and ask if she was interested in participating, and happily she said yes.

I hope you find her story as inspiring as I do.

When did you adopt your first senior dog?

MoMo from JEM and the Misfits

My first adoption was in 2011 with MoMo, who just happened to be a senior. I have more information (and a video) on mywebsite discussing the details, but I fell in love with MoMo from a picture and made the remarkably easy adjustments to bring him into my life and schedule, which included a lot of travel at the time. Momo was a champion travel partner back in the day, and I feel because he was older (and wiser), he was more easy going, relaxed. MoMo just loves people and was a hit everywhere I took him. It was incredible to me that a dog could be so loving to humans, after coming from a situation where they had failed him in so many ways. I’m not traveling as much anymore (which allows me to have 4 dogs and a cat, currently) but MoMo continues to be my champion people person seven wonderful years later.

JEM and the Misfits

When most people are looking for puppies, what made you want a senior?

Once meeting MoMo, the concerns that he was a senior became very secondary. I had never really considered rescuing a senior. I was very naive to the fact that so many senior pets were being dumped in shelters. With the support of the rescue (Tiny Loving Canines) who had pulled him from the shelter’s euthanasia lineup, I was nervous, yet excited to bring MoMo home. We bonded quickly. He still had a few health issues which needed addressing, namely his eye with a ruptured cornea. A graft surgery to save the eye ultimately didn’t take and it had to be removed. I was disappointed about this news, but quickly realized there was nothing that would stop me from loving him.

For me, a senior pup was a perfect fit. Yes, MoMo has taken his share of medications and needed some medical care, but puppies still seem so much more work to me. Nothing is getting chewed in our house (none of the pups have teeth left!) and there is no need for long walks to burn off energy. It’s mostly naps and cuddles here.

How many senior dogs have you saved?

JEM and the misfits

MoMo has had quite a few “siblings” since he’s been with me. I’ve tried fostering pups, but find myself getting irrevocably attached really quickly. I’ve had a handful of success stories, but mostly I discover their homes are with me. So, including MoMo, I’ve personally had 8 senior rescues at various times since 2011. My exception was bringing home a 2 year old Chi I named Frida Kahlo. She had been dumped in a shelter with broken leg bones which had gone untreated for some time. When I got her, I had a friend in mind who I thought she would be the perfect match for. After a year and a half of rehabilitation on Frida’s part, and a little convincing of my friend, the two are now inseparable. This experience with a younger dog helped me to recognize that it was seniors I enjoyed working with the most. Oh, and another exception was made 2 years ago when I brought home Rosita Bonita, a 2 week old kitten found on the streets. She has been raised by her Chihuahua grandparents so I often refer to her as a Cathuahua.

People often ask me “Why just Chihuahuas?”. The truth is I love all animals and all dog breeds, I just especially love how Chihuahuas look, and endlessly get a kick out of such big personalities residing in the smallest of packages. Additionally, Chihuahuas are the second most euthanized breed in America, and in California they are the most euthanized, so the need for homes is great. From careless breeding practices to people not understanding or respecting the commitment of this often long-lived breed, heartbreakingly high kill numbers exist.

Choli from JEM and the Misfits

Where do you find them? Are people calling when they have an old dog to rehome?

I’ve been involved with rescues since bringing MoMo home and that is how my pups have found me. As our social media platform has grown, people are reaching out to me about finding homes, but I myself am not a rescue and when I can, I try to redirect them to rescue groups in their area. This new responsibility is always a bit difficult for me, since I’m hearing directly about dogs who have been given up on. I wish I could take them all.

Lady Paloma Linda from JEM and the Misfits

What reaction do you typically get from friends, family, people you know when they hear you adopted an old dog? And then another old dog?

My family, especially my fiancee is very supportive of me and I’m really grateful for that. I have many friends who are involved with rescue who “get” me, which is essential to have on those challenging days. I also have friends without pets who consider me a crazy Chihuahua person, but in the nicest possible way. I have complete respect for people who love animals, but recognize their lifestyle is not suitable to be a responsible pet owner.

When the Misfit family expands and I see bemused looks on peoples faces, I enjoy being an example to them of what is possible with a change in perspective. I think for too long attitudes of animals being disposable has existed. If I can get someone to examine what their values are from seeing what I’m up to, then that feels like a win. I like to think of Jem and the Misfits as being ambassadors for senior rescue. Our goal is to spread the joy of senior rescue. I realize it’s not for everyone, but I’ve experienced it as a wonderful enrichment to my life and I’m excited to share that.

Manzana from JEM and the Misfits

Have you noticed a difference in attitude towards seniors since you started saving them?

I feel social media in general is helping to increase compassion for animals. Historically, pretty much anyone would pause to watch a video of baby animals. Now it seems like stories of animal compassion, specifically towards special needs and senior pets, are gaining momentum too. Several featured stories about us have more than 10 million views. I’m not sure if there is a way to measure, but my guess is that senior rescue is becoming more popular. I hope it’s true! One of my favorite kind of comments on our accounts is when people tell me they have been moved to adopt a senior.

What has been the toughest background story of one of your dogs?

Like most dogs who end up in shelters, my pups all have stories of hardship and neglect. Often I found myself wanting to explain in detail to people what had happened in their past, because I was appalled anyone could treat these loving souls that way. I felt their stories needed to be exposed. While I think it’s really important for people to hear how poorly animals all around us are being treated, I’ve recently learned the value of being careful not to speak about it around my dogs. They don’t need to hear me retell their horror stories, and now that they are happy in their new life we have created a new story together.

That being said, all my pups have arrived to me (via their rescue groups) after having been “holding on by a thread”. MoMo was emaciated, flea-infested with a painfully damaged eye, Choli arrived to me on a pillow because he couldn’t really stand (he was debilitated from severe dental disease), Paloma was bald and skinny, having been dumped after she stopped producing puppies for a breeder.

Their resilience with love and encouragement and good nutrition is a beautiful thing. It’s my honor to be part of this rehabilitation process and help them create their new story.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

My biggest challenge is something that the pups help me with every day. It’s to stay in the moment. It’s easy to get down, feel overwhelmed, hopeless, or sad about a health challenge with the pups, the reality that our time with be limited, or simply by the sheer numbers of suffering animals out there. Their futures can be scary to think about, their pasts have been heartbreaking, but there is peace and cuddles, joy in the present moment with them, and it’s such a gift. They aren’t dwelling anywhere else but the present, and it’s a beautiful reminder to me.

Do you rely on donations to help you care for them?

Since we are not a rescue but a self-funded home with a sanctuary feel, I’ve felt a little uncomfortable receiving donations. Our social media response, however, has made me rethink this and already we’ve had some generous friends send gifts which have been used to help us buy supplements and supplies. We now have a PayPal account set up to receive donations under jem@jemandthemisfits.com

Eight things I learned caring for a senior dog

Eight things I Learned Caring For a Senior Dog

Eight things I learned caring for a senior dog

I shared nine fantastic years with my dog Daisy who sadly crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in April when she was 13.

She had arthritis from the age of four when I first rescued her, but was so lively and only slowed her down in her final few months.

Two months before we lost her, Daisy was diagnosed with dementia, and a week before she passed her vet suspected she had a brain tumour.

Caring for a senior dog is both rewarding and heartbreaking and I found the advice on this website so helpful and comforting.

You go through so many emotions and it can be difficult, so I wrote this article about some of the things I learned caring for Daisy in the hope it will help other owners.

Eight Things I Learned Caring For a Senior Dog

Ensure they have quality sleep

All dogs love snoozing in the day, but I learned not to let Daisy sleep for long periods. One of the signs of dementia is restlessness at night.

Before Daisy was diagnosed we had a few nights where she woke up at 2am and wouldn’t settle. I took her to bed and she either sat shaking, wide awake or circled around the bed.

So we’d go for a walk and eventually she would go to sleep.

Her restlessness and insomnia were on the list of unusual characteristics that we took to her vet who said it was most likely she had dementia.

In the final months, she would settle in her crate on a huge soft pillow, or sleep on a comfy bed, with blackout blinds or with me in the human bed.

I also monitored sleep quality with her FitBark activity monitor.

Make walks/playtime fun

Like many owners, I was guilty of using my phone while out walking with Daisy until I learned how our pets hate it.

I made sure walks were special time for the two of us. Sometimes I’d take her ball and do very small throws for her – a modified version of something she really enjoyed.

Some dogs might not want to walk quite so much, or not fancy going out in the cold weather but it’s important to keep them mentally stimulated.

Play games at home with them. Daisy liked her tug toys and games where we hid treats under cups for her to find them, and we used a Ruffle Snuffle enrichment mat and a Lickimat too, both were really reasonably priced and gave her a lot of happiness.

Your dog might not be bounding around like they used to or tend to sleep more but giving them your attention often is still really important.

Give them food they really enjoy

When Daisy was diagnosed with dementia I was recommended a book called Whole Pet Healing by an American vet, Dr Dennis W Thomas.

He talks about the benefit of giving dogs wholesome, balanced meals rather than processed food and explains that as dogs age, their body temperature can start to cool.

They seek out warmth, for example lying in the sun or by a fire or radiator. Daisy did this and Dr Thomas said to give her food that is warming in nature to offset the cold imbalance.

As I work from home I had the luxury of being able to cook for Daisy so I made her slow cooked casseroles with chicken, beef or lamb and rice or potatoes and veg served warm.

She had wet food so she had the nutrients she needed. It meant she enjoyed her food, took her medication without a fuss and was a happy girl.

Warming foods are chicken, beef, lamb, venison, white rice, oats, asparagus, carrots, potato, pumpkin and butternut squash.

Eight things learned from caring for a senior dog

Hide their medication as much as you can

I read a book called Remember Me by Eileen Anderson with lots of helpful advice including tips on how to minimise the stress of taking medication for your dog.

Find a food your dog loves – Eileen suggests all kinds of things from meatballs to peanut butter.

Daisy had two Vivitonin tables a day which ideally should be taken on an empty stomach.

Her vet said they could be put in a tidbit so I’d wrap them in a piece of slow cooked meat or inside a sausage. I kept tablets in the fridge too – it helps disguise their taste.

You don’t want to distress your dog when they take their medication. Her Activait and YuMove supplements were mixed in with her food and I ensured her food was so nice she didn’t care!

Daisy also had Metacam for her arthritis, and I gave her this in a syringe just as I put out her food bowl. The excitement of her food distracted her.

Create a safe space for them

Daisy never used a crate, preferring to sleep on the sofa, but when she reached the stage where she could no longer jump up, she grew to really love her crate.

We kept the door open and it had a cover so it would be dark at night, with a huge comfy bed, a soft blanket and toys.

We put down rugs, runners and carpet tiles so she didn’t slip as recommended by vet Hannah Capon who runs the Canine Arthritis Management website,  which is full of helpful tips.

Daisy had a pet carrier/bed and a pup-poose for when we were out if she got tired.

What I learned from caring for a senior dog

Expect the unexpected

A week after Daisy was diagnosed we went for a walk along the canal. She was scampering around as normal, and went for a wee at the side of the water, lost her balance and slipped in.

Thank goodness she was OK and I had her out of there in a nano-second.

I very quickly learned that cognitive function is affected by dementia and Daisy’s behaviour wasn’t as logical as it was.

She would lie on the edge of the couch for example, so I’d coax her to her normal spot so she didn’t fall off, and had soft rugs on the floor.

Daisy would sometimes walk along walls or on the edge of paths, or very close to me so you have to watch your dog at all times.

This may sound silly but even things like grids at the side of the road become a hazard. Daisy’s legs were so slim they could get trapped in them and before, she knew to walk around them so I’d ensure she didn’t step on them.

Make sure you’re always scanning your walks for things that could present danger.

Enjoy every moment

It’s natural to be upset when you learn your dog has a degenerative illness.

But life doesn’t stop with an older dog, it simply changes.

Celebrate the good times and help them enjoy life.

If Daisy was having a good day, we’d seize the moment, pack up the car and take her on an adventure.

We didn’t walk for miles and miles like we used to, but she still enjoyed a run out.

Daisy loved new smells so I’d take her to different places and see her spring around like a pup.

She enjoyed home cooked food so I’d sneak her tablets in there and watch happily as she wolfed it down.

When Daisy growled at us at night we knew it was her illness, not her, so we’d give her a cuddle and tell her everything was ok.

We treasured each day we had with her.

Things I have learned about how to care for a senior dog

The hardest part is goodbye but it is the kindest too

I knew when Daisy wanted to go. As well as dementia, she had a brain tumour and it was a ticking time bomb.

Our vet told us that around the corner was a haemorrhage or seizure which would have been terrifying for Daisy.

We took some time to digest the news and in those few days, she declined quickly.

On walks she was frightened, darting around as the tumour was pressing on her optic nerve and she couldn’t see.

We’d return home and I’d cuddle her for hours, playing music to calm her down.

Her frightened episodes became more and more frequent, and even though she was eating, going out to the loo and walking, I knew this wasn’t how she wanted to live.

Daisy had been a tough, independent dog who survived on the streets and had so much spirit. The light in her eyes had gone.

So on April 17th this year, the vet came to our home and put Daisy to sleep.

It was peaceful, with us sitting next to her stroking and cuddling her and telling her how much we loved her.

I still question myself now. Did we do it too soon or too late? I will never know but I feel I did my best for her.

For nine years Daisy gave me so much love. She was my best friend, my rock. I still can’t imagine life without her.

I never wanted to say goodbye and even though it was the worst moment of my life when we did, I think it was the kindest thing.

 

 

 

Rachel Spencer and DaisyRachel Spencer is a freelance journalist and specialises in writing about pets and animals. She lives in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and runs a pet blog, The Paw Post which was inspired by Daisy and will continue as her legacy.

26 money saving hacks for senior dog owners

26 Money Saving Hacks For Senior Dog Owners

26 money saving hacks for senior dog owners

The love of my life is my senior dog Red who is approximately 17, although I really have no idea how old she is. Okay I know I should say it’s my husband but, to be fair, he’d probably say his is our other dog Jack!! We’ve been together almost 9 years (Red, not my husband!!), and I can’t even imagine how much I’ve spent on vet bills. Of course she’s worth every penny, but that doesn’t mean sometimes I wouldn’t like to spend some money on myself!

The biggest money saver for me is buying medications online, but there are a lot more things to do than just that.

Keep in mind how important preventative care is for your senior dog’s health. Preventing issues is cheaper than treating conditions.

These tips are perfect for all pets, all ages!!

Watch your dog’s weight

overfeeding your dog wastes money and compromises senior dog health

If your senior dog is overweight because you’re feeding him too much, you’re wasting money. If it’s because he’s not getting walked, start walking him. Either way his health is being jeopardized because fat dogs are more prone to things like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease… and with those conditions come expensive vet visits and treatments. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight in no way guarantees he will always be perfectly healthy, but it does certainly help.

Buy in bulk

26 Money Saving Hacks For Senior Dog OwnersWhether you make your own dog food, dog treats or throw in some veggies to make his diet more appetizing, buying ingredients in bulk can save you quite a bit of money.

Don’t skip vet visits

It is recommended that senior dogs see the vet twice yearly, even if you’re sure there’s nothing wrong. Blood and urine tests can pick up issues before your dog even exhibits a symptom. Treating anything in the early stages is not only obviously better for your dog’s health and wellbeing, it makes financial sense as well. 

Find low cost clinics in your area

One of the main reasons for senior dog surrender is a pet parent who cannot afford the vet bills, and that is heartbreaking to me. Low cost does not mean low quality care, it just means there is an option for those who qualify to use this service. Veterinary schools sometimes offer clinics at a lower fee, as do some shelters.

Compare vet service pricing

You may be surprised at the wide range of pricing vets charge for the same tests, so while you’re looking for that “great” vet, discuss costs as well. Be sure to ask about their senior dog wellness checks, what’s involved, and how much they cost.   

Please don’t be fooled into thinking expensive automatically means superior, sometimes it means you’re helping pay off expensive medical equipment. I’ve had horrible experiences in a state of the art hospital, and met the most incredible vet at a husband and wife clinic.

I have to add this even though it’s obvious – please don’t base your entire decision on cost alone.

Regular exercise

 

26 hacks to save you money when caring for a senior dog

Why is all this good you ask? A bored dog with too much energy will get frustrated, which can lead to destructive and even aggressive behaviour. Money is spent on training, not to mention replacing your favourite shoes, and instead of saving money you’re wasting it when all he needed was a walk…or three!!

Make your own Pill Pockets

Most of my dogs are good about taking pills. They know I hide them in their favourite foods but they just don’t care. They’re excited about what they’re getting to eat they’re not bothered by my deception.

Of course they can’t all be like that can they? I have had a couple who knew exactly what I was doing, and would never let me get away with it. That’s when I discovered Pill Pockets. They can get costly if you need to use them every day, so why not save money and make your own!

I came across this super easy recipe – All you do is mix 1 tablespoon of milk, 1 tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter and 2 tablespoons of any type of flour. Use a chopstick to create the hole and refrigerate or freeze.

Make sure the ingredients are safe for your dog.

Buy generic

If you can find the same medication in generic form, why not? It can save you a significant amount of money, but check with your vet to make sure the ingredients are what he needs.

Create an emergency pet fund

At the end of every day take out all the pennies, dimes, nickels or quarters (whatever denomination you like) and put them aside for unexpected vet bills. The balance will grow quickly, and those extra dollars could mean the difference between paying your bill, and incurring interest on a credit card.

Buy online

In many cases, there are massive price differences between a product purchased from your vet and one bought online. Whether that’s a brand of food, medication or supplements.

A lot of online retailers offer a coupon code for first time buyers, be sure to take advantage of those savings.

If your vet recommends something your dog needs now of course buy it, but take the opportunity to shop around for cheaper elsewhere, and take notice of delivery charges. If you’re looking for a prescription medication don’t forget to factor in the cost of your vet writing one for you…unless yours does it for free.

Make sure the company you buy from is reputable, and the drugs dispensed are what they claim to be.

If you’re in the States, check out some online Canadian companies because you can find huge savings. 

Make your own dog treats

Homemade dog treats are a money saving hack for senior dog ownersThere are lots of great reasons for making your own dog treats and they include:

  • The obvious money saving feature
  • No preservatives or additives, just “real” ingredients
  • If your senior dog has restrictions on what he or she can eat, it can be very challenging finding readymade treats. Making your own means they will no longer be left out.

Check out these Pinterest links for some great recipes.

Recipe One

Recipe Two

Recipe Three

Pet insurance

Although I think finding the right pet insurance is a minefield, and the cost of insuring an old dog can be costly, it’s still worth looking into. Be sure to ask a lot of questions about pre-existing conditions, waiting periods etc…

One thing I always recommend asking after a neighbour of mine told me this story is if, for example your dog has an ear infection in one ear, will they cover it if it happens in the other? Sounds crazy but her insurance company wouldn’t!!

Buy store brands

Just like many of us buy supermarket and drug store own brands to save money, you may be able to do the same with pet supplies. Ingredient lists are often similar and you’re not paying for fancy packaging or huge marketing budgets.

Make your own jerky

Does your dog love jerky but it’s costing you a fortune keeping him supplied? Make your own and here are a few recipes to get you started.

Recipe One

Recipe Two

Recipe Three

Groom your own dog

bathing your own dog is a great money saving hack

Whether that means wash, cut and blow dry or just a nail trim, doing some or all of your dog’s grooming can keep more money in YOUR wallet.  

Do you have a pure breed?

It seems Labs, Retrievers and Shepherds are more prone to arthritis. While that in no way guarantees they will be affected, knowing they have an increased likelihood means you can take preventative measures now…even though your dog is older. Giving him glucosamine or New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels for example, could make a big difference down the road and huge savings as well.

Join rewards programs

If you have favourite stores you like to shop at, ask if they have a loyalty or rewards scheme. Whether that means having a card stamped or receiving coupons in the mail, it’s another way to save money.

I’ve mentioned to my vet he should have a loyalty program – having a card they stamp with every 10th visit free, 5th for me!! Needless to say he didn’t go for that idea!

Don’t buy cheap toys

You know the expression “you get what you pay for?” While I know not every bargain will break when you get it home, it’s important to be careful with toys. If it falls apart quickly you’ll end up spending more because you’ll have to buy the better quality one anyway. If it can be chewed and swallowed you’ll have expensive vet bills, not to mention a potentially deadly situation on your hands.

Make your own dog toys

For the “DIYers” and “crafters” out there, why not make your own? Here are some ideas your dog will love.

Dog Toys One

Dog Toys Two

Where do you buy your bones?

If your dog loves his bones, how much is that “love” costing to satisfy? Ask for bones at your local butchers or supermarket meat counter. They’ll be cheaper, healthier and possibly even free!

Preventative care

Compare the cost of flea and tick medication, versus what’s involved in ridding your home, and dog, of fleas. What about the financial and physical toll a positive heartworm test can have on an old dog, who may already have health issues?

Hire a house sitter for free!

The next time you’re thinking of going away and aren’t able to take your senior dog, how about looking into Trusted Housesitters. This company connects you with people who are traveling who will look after your pets at no charge, in exchange for free lodging. I don’t have any experience with this company, that’s something you will have to investigate, but it is an option to explore.  

Barter for pet sitting services

What service can you offer in exchange for free pet sitting?   

Dilute your dog shampoo

Dog shampoos are so concentrated you can often dilute them, saving you a ton of money. Some brands are so helpful they even list the dilution ratio on the label!!

Make your own dog bed

If your senior dog is anything like mine, what she found comfortable a few months ago, is no longer to her liking today. She also prefers having 2 or 3 different types to choose from, depending on her mood.

Quality dog beds can be costly, especially if one isn’t enough, so how about making your own? There are tons of DIY projects on Pinterest to suit every ability level, even mine which actually is not even measurable it’s so bad!

Here are a few to have a look at –

Dog Bed One

Dog Bed Two

Dog Bed Three

Free senior dog care advice

I spend an awful lot of time at the vet’s office, and rely on him to help me care for my senior dog Red. I also know that sometimes going to the vet and paying for a conversation isn’t necessary. I am certainly not recommending you replace professional advice, what I am saying is there are many instances where watching a Youtube video created by a professional, or joining a Facebook group like mine (Senior Dog Care Club) can provide you with the answers you seek…or at least give you a starting point.

For example, if your dog is experiencing anxiety there is a lot of helpful advice out there, and you’ve saved a consultation fee. I do recommend you check with your vet once you’ve found some products you’d like to try, but that can usually be done by leaving a message with the staff or sending an email, both at no cost.

 

What money saving hacks do you have? Sharing helps others so please leave them in the comments section below or my Facebook page Caring For a Senior Dog.  

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.