There’s no greater feeling in the world and nothing better for my soul, then when I welcome an old dog into my heart and home. It is the old dog that is my heart dog, the being that truly gives my life purpose and meaning.
Am I waxing a little too poetic? What can I say, I believe we all have a reason for being here, a destiny to fulfil, and I know that rescuing seniors is mine.
It’s a big responsibility
Caring for another living being is a great responsibility no matter what type of being that is. Caring for an old dog can often bring with it even more responsibility, particularly if they are dealing with health issues. Vacations are sometimes postponed, bank accounts lighter than we would like, and stress levels elevated. Having said all that, there is great joy to sharing your life with a senior dog, and it goes without saying we will move heaven and earth to give them the absolute best care we can.
I never really thought of them as “promises” per se, rather simply the way I care for my animals. I do my absolute best no matter what, it’s a given, but I thought it would be interesting to write about all the ways I care for my fur babies in terms of promises I make to them…every day.
These are my promises
To do my best, every day, to make up for all the suffering you endured at the hands of another
To give you my undivided attention
To have my lap available anytime you want it
Feed you the best and most appropriate food
I will always comfort you when you’re scared
Your vet will always treat you with respect no matter how old you are
You will always have the best veterinary care
You will always have a comfortable bed to rest on
You will always have a space in my bed no matter who else is there
You will always be an important part of my family…okay THE most important!
I will take you with me as much as possible – day trips, in cars, on trains and planes
I promise to be there on the bad days
I will never let anyone dismiss you as old and therefore unworthy
I will never knowingly hurt you…it wasn’t my fault I stepped on you when you were standing behind me!!
I promise to walk at your pace and not expect you to give me the cardio workout I so desperately need!
I promise to hand feed you when you no longer remember how to eat on your own
When things get tough I will remember to take care of myself so I can take better care of you
I will always show you how much I love you
I will do my best to not get frustrated with you because I know it’s not your fault
I will always keep you warm – that’s why I have a cupboard full of sweaters and coats
I will never dress you up like a doll in cutesy outfits. Okay maybe just for Halloween!
I will have to hug and kiss you regularly
You will never know the concrete floor of a shelter ever again
I promise to never stop advocating for senior dog rescue
I promise to give what’s left of my heart to another old dog after you’re gone
I will never let you suffer, so I will give you your wings when it’s time, even though it will leave me heartbroken
I promise to never forget you
What promises do you make your senior dog?
**I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. It is a wonderful community where you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.**
I currently share my life with two dogs, but the absolute love of my life is a 17ish year old Chihuahua/Min Pin named Red. She found me while I was volunteering at a shelter in Florida, and decided I was going to be her person. I must admit I fell in love with her quite quickly as well. She was blind with bulging eyes, weighed a whopping 18lbs and was so obese her stomach touched the ground.
We have been together almost 9 years, and other than when I’ve been on vacation, every day has been spent together. I see her as a family member, not just a “pet.”
I love her more than I can express, and cannot imagine my life without her…that doesn’t mean I am in denial. She has quite a few issues that are being well managed, but our biggest challenge is her dementia, which has worsened. I would never keep her “around” if she was in any sort of discomfort, my main priority being her quality of life.
With that being said, we can get on to why I decided to write an article about things you should never say to a senior dog parent.
It’s simple really
While caring for a senior dog is good for the soul, at least it is for me, caring for one that has health issues has its challenges. We’re dealing with enough we certainly don’t need anyone, whether they are complete strangers, close family or friends, offering their snarky opinions and unsolicited advice.
Wow your dog is so old!!
Complete strangers have felt compelled to comment on my dog. I don’t know why, I’ve never asked for their opinion, yet they seem to want to give it to me anyway.
The most common thing I hear is “wow your dog is so old.” It’s true it’s not a horrible thing to say, after all she is old, it’s the fact that they choose to say anything that is none of their business annoys me, and of course the extremely obnoxious fashion in which many of them express their feelings pisses me off.
Why make a big deal out of a stupid comment from an ignorant person
You may think I’m blowing this out of proportion, but you would be wrong. It gnaws at me because it is part of a wider feeling society has towards the elderly…whether they have 4 legs or 2. That attitude can be found in the veterinary profession as well, which to me is appalling having witnessed it myself on several occasions. How many pet owners have put their animals down because it was “suggested,” for no reason other than a number on a calendar?
It’s sad and it’s widespread
When I decided to write this, I became curious about what, if anything, other senior dog parents have experienced. What better source to go to than my Facebook group, Senior Dog Care Club. The members are such an amazing group of people, kind and compassionate, and they shared some of the comments made to them. I was encouraged to read how many of them set the commenters “straight.”
Only by responding can we help people see not only how insensitive they are being, but we can help change perceptions. Why does a senior have less value than a youngster…human or animal?
***I have not included the names, only the comments***
Some nasty and insensitive comments
“You should just have him put down now because he’s becoming such a hindrance”
“Why are you spending money on that dog, she’s going to die soon anyway?”
“That thing is still not dead yet?” (from this member’s brother)
“Since taking in a senior dog with a number of issues, I have started feeling kind of alienated with most people that I knew before. I get looks and snappy side remarks when I share details, e.g. how costly vet treatment can get. For instance, I have gotten comments like “think about what all you could do if you hadn’t made that decision”; or “wasn’t that kind of short-sighted to take in this dog, now look at all the difficulties you have.” I even had a therapist tell me it is my own fault if I feel overwhelmed sometimes, since I made a conscious decision for “this problematic dog.”
“When I had to make the decision to have my wee dog put to sleep 5 weeks ago I was devastated, and the so called spiritual healer was very insensitive by saying these things happen!! As if I had lost the button off my coat needless to say they no longer are a part of my circle I dropped them like a hot stone.”
“You can’t just keep spending money on an old dog it’s a waste”
“When I’ve told people about vet visits and they ask how much, they then have said “Guess how much a needle costs? It’s a lot cheaper than what you just spent.” As in euthanasia would’ve been better… WTF?!?!? People are horrid!”
“I don’t get a lot of comments luckily. I have had one “friend” tell me that my dog needs to go ahead and die already when she saw all the medicine I have for her.”
“Maybe it’s time to let him go”
“A friend of my husband’s said “he’s not worth it… just take him out back and shoot him” I was devastated! That’s was the most horrible thing to ever say to me. My husband lost it on him… and I banned that idiot from ever coming over to my house”
“People ask me if I’ll get another dog! ………I have to reply “I’ve still got this one”!
“When Tootie first went blind I told my Dr. and he said “did you have to put her down?” I laughed and said why, there’s nothing wrong, would you want someone to put you somewhere?”
“My husband went to a new Dentist. He mentioned that our dog was sick and she offered to sell him a puppy. Never went back and a couple years later she went out of business.”
“Dang I thought she would be dead already….my reply is I thought the same about you 😊 guess we both are wrong huh”
“He should have been put down long time ago, he must feel miserable”
“I love my boss, but yesterday I told her I was exploring surgery for my otherwise healthy 12 year old Great Pyrenees for his Laryngeal Paralysis and she said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea at his age’. I let loose and explained to her that age is not a disease. She apologized”
“My baby is 18, and is starting to have hip problems. She also has had teeth removed. Two people keep telling me I need to start thinking about putting her to sleep, and go ahead & get a new puppy. She is old, and she will be with me as long as possible. She loves life! And no, she needs my full attention now, so no new puppies, at present!”
“I’m going to have work done on my house, upper addition for master bedroom. I commented to a friend of many years that I probably won’t use the upstairs bedroom right away because Ginger has trouble on stairs. She said, “that dog won’t be alive by the time it is finished.” Probably she will not but that was a crummy thing to say”
“Just put him to sleep”
What do you think?
If you share your life with a senior dog or have done in the past, particularly if he or she was ill, you know how tough things can get. You want support, encouragement and understanding, particularly from those around you.
It’s incredibly sad to know, most of these comments have been made by family and friends, from people who should be there to offer the most support.
Have you been on the receiving end of similar words? How did you react? Share them in the comments section below.
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.
She was taken off her prescription food and a tailor made home cooked, whole foods diet was created
Three of her medications were replaced with supplements
Prior to going to Spain she would get bouts of diarrhea, eye infections and some breathing problems. Each requiring drugs and more drugs.
Do you know she didn’t have one problem the entire time we were away!
We’re back and the problems are starting
I would say within a couple of weeks of being back I started noticing a bit of puss in her eyes. After three weeks she started with some breathing issues. The first episode happened a few days ago at 4:30 in the morning, enough to scare the living daylights out of me. Thankfully it’s only happened a couple of times, but of course I took her straight to the vet that day.
He recommended a heart scan, and today we had it done. More on that later.
Can the British climate be the culprit?
It’s certainly not something that ever crossed my mind…why would it? What I do believe is the regular acupuncture sessions had a really positive impact on her overall wellbeing, and now without them she’s “falling apart.” Okay a slight exaggeration but you know what I mean.
When I told my vet the other day that Red did not have one problem while away, he was stunned and that’s how the conversation turned to climate.
Being from Canada I noticed immediately it is a damp type of cold here. In Spain we lived in a quiet area, not a lot of traffic, right near the olive groves with much drier air.
My vet told me when he goes home (he’s not from England), he has to use an inhaler, but here he doesn’t and the same can be true for Red, only in reverse.
Such a shock!
I admit that entire day I walked around muttering how I couldn’t believe climate could affect a dog’s health. I was fascinated by the concept.
How sad…and frustrating
The whole point of me seeing a holistic vet was to experience a kinder, gentler approach to Red’s care, and of course to try and get her off at least some of the many drugs she was taking. I managed to accomplish both, and now that we’re back she’s already taking one of the medications she didn’t need in Spain.
What were the results?
I am back from the heart scan and the good news is, there was no real bad news…at least not any “new” bad news.
I was hoping to get some pictures of Red having it done, but since he does it in the dark it wasn’t possible.
Without getting technical, she has a problem with hardening of the tissue in her lungs due to some sort of allergens. There’s something in the environment either generally speaking, or more localised that is causing the problem. The medication she’s back on should help, but back to Spain would be better.
Off to Canada soon
We’re probably going to Canada for a few weeks so I’m happy to know her heart and lung issues won’t affect her ability to fly. It’s not damp there so it will be interesting to see how she gets on. I’m planning on finding a holistic vet and re-starting her acupuncture treatments.
Can climate affect senior dog health – conclusion
Given my recent experience I definitely say yes, and my vet thinks so as well. I wouldn’t say it’s an issue unique to senior dogs though.
Does any of this sound familiar? I’d be interested to hear if this has happened to your dog, what it was and how you resolved it. Leave a comment below or on my senior dog Facebook page.
I cannot overstate the importance of involving your vet in senior dog care.
I rely on my vet so much to help me care for Red, at times I feel like my life revolves on him and his schedule. I’m so worried when he’s not around, I’m terrified of what will happen to Red since there’s not much choice where I live, and I wouldn’t trust her life in his colleagues’ hands.
Okay enough of that, let’s begin.
Your first step
If it’s been awhile since your dog has been to the vet I strongly recommend you make an appointment for a health check. I know you haven’t felt it was necessary because your dog is fine, but the reality is – subtle or even obvious signs are often missed because they are attributed to the natural aging process. Also, dogs are very clever at hiding pain so he could be experiencing a fair amount and you may not realise.
During the check up your vet will have a listen to his heart, feel for lumps, bumps and abnormalities, check his teeth, eyes and ears and likely take blood and a urine sample.
I advise you to bring a urine sample with you so they don’t have to try and squeeze it out of him if he doesn’t feel like peeing on demand. It’s true!! The urine sample should reach your vet within two hours of collection, and be caught mid-stream. Don’t refrigerate it!
The next step
At your appointment your vet will discuss his obvious findings, then wait for any test results to come back before he can present you with a treatment plan.
Some of the obvious issues may be your dog’s weight and the state of his teeth. Fat and obese dogs are at greater risk of serious health issues, not to mention increased pressure on joints, leading to pain.
It is often the case that dogs’ teeth are in terrible condition. For some reason we tend to ignore, or are simply unaware of, the importance of good oral hygiene and the impact dental disease can have on their overall health. The problems may be minimal, or will require dental surgery, your vet will give you his recommendations.
Your vet will create a health care plan based on your visit and test findings, and it is critical you follow it, otherwise what was the point?
[bctt tweet=”What’s my secret to keeping Red as well as possible? It starts with amazing vets I trust.” username=”petcrusader”]
At home care
In addition to following your vet’s advice, there are lots of things you can do at home to offer your senior dog the best care possible.
Brush your dog’s teeth daily, or as regularly as possible. If that’s not going to happen, water additives, dental powders sprinkled on food, dental chews and toys are all helpful. It’s a case of doing the best you can and something is better than nothing
Dehydration can be a problem in senior dogs, and dangerous if ignored. Have clean, fresh water available at all times, and if your dog has trouble moving around put a few bowls around the house so he’s never far from a water source. Go to him and offer water if he doesn’t seem to be drinking enough on his own
Follow the weight loss program your vet has provided you with, and do not sneak him treats on the side
Include him in family outings as long as he’s feeling up to it. Mobility aids such as ramps and strollers are wonderful products that will be a big help
How much I rely on my vet to help me care for my senior dog Red
A bit of history
As Red got older and her medical problems increased, so did the amount of drugs she was prescribed. It got to the point where every time I brought her to the vet with a concern, she was put on another medication. Of course if it’s necessary it’s necessary, but surely alternatives can be effective as well! The problem is, I’ve never had a holistic vet or any that offered alternative treatments.
She was put on a prescription heart food many years ago, but when kidney problems developed she was switched to a kidney diet. If you read the ingredients it’s shocking. Where’s the nutritious food?
My wonderful holistic vet Pepe
You may not be aware we spent the past four months in Spain, where I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful holistic vet to help me care for Red and Jack. I had wanted holistic care for Red for a long time, but distance and circumstances prevented me from making that a reality. Before we left I did my research, so we were ready to get started not long after we arrived.
Our first meeting
I immediately liked him – his obvious compassion for the suffering of animals in Spain, dedication to his patients, philosophy about pet care, availability 24/7 and house calls to boot!
During our first meeting he spent over an hour getting to know me, Red, asking about my concerns and discussing how I care for her. I had sent him a list of her medications in advance, as well as the name of the food she was on so he would be prepped.
He was truly horrified by the number of drugs she was taking each day, and sad because of the stress and damage it was causing her little body. He was also less than pleased with the diet she was eating.
In order to get a clear picture of Red’s medical condition he took blood tests. In addition to checking for the “usual” he also runs more specialised tests to gather information vets don’t typically look for. Once he got the results back, he created a recipe for a whole foods home made diet tailored specifically for her needs, not a generic one he recommends to every patient.
The next thing he did was replace three of her medications with supplements. He wanted to take things very slowly which is why he chose only three. He also asked me to stop giving her two he felt were not necessary, and we left the rest as is.
Another aspect of caring for a senior dog Pepe believes very strongly in is acupuncture, as he feels it is critical in helping get the body back into balance. He recommended twice weekly to start, with a view to reducing the frequency. I was concerned how Red would handle it given that she’s blind and wouldn’t know what was going on, but she was okay. He played her favourite calming music, Through a Dog’s Ear, which helped. We went twice a week for about 3 months.
Pepe’s attitude about the role of a veterinarian in our pets’ health
Contrary to the recommendations of yearly checks, twice yearly for seniors, or the “once in a blue moon” visit for a problem, he believes it takes:
Kind and caring pet parents
Better relationships between people and their vets
People following the vet’s advice
A whole foods home cooked diet
Medications when necessary
Involving your vet in senior dog care – conclusion
I hope I managed to convey how important it is for me to have a vet I trust, and how much I rely on them to help me care for all my animals, but especially my 16 year old, the love of my life, Red.
I don’t believe she would still be here if I wasn’t so diligent in her care, and didn’t have the standards I have for her vets.
How much do you involve your vet in your senior dog’s care? Sharing helps others so leave your comments below or on my Facebook page.
Welcome to this guest post about Senior Dog Nutrition.
I’m so pleased to introduce my guest author, Carlotta Cooper. She writes for Dog Food Guide, is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News, the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com Award winner for 2013. In addition, she’s written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.
Like many of you, I’ve lived with a lot of old dogs. Some of them I’ve had from the time they were puppies and others I’ve taken in as rescues. In all cases I’ve seen their nutritional needs change as they get older. The problem is that commercial dog foods, for the most part, don’t provide a good selection of foods for older dogs.
The first time I noticed this problem was with my old dog, Jasper. To this day I think Jasper may have loved me more than any dog I ever had – and the feeling was mutual. Jasper had been dumped by his owners at the pound and his breeder was lucky enough to get him back. He was very underweight and she had to nurse him back to health. He came to me when he was 18 months old but he had separation anxiety issues.
I fell in love with him at first sight. He was never more than a few feet away from me if he could help it. He had a good appetite but he was a nervous dog, as you might expect. As he got older, it became harder to keep weight on him. He was healthy, per the vet, but he wasn’t metabolizing food as efficiently as a younger dog would. I started looking at senior dog foods for him. That’s when I learned that most senior dog foods are no good for older dogs if they aren’t overweight.
If you check with AAFCO or the other powers that determine the proper nutrients for dogs, they say that there is no special guidance for senior dogs . There is growth and reproduction, maintenance, and all life stages for dog foods, but nothing for senior dogs. This is a pity because senior dogs do have some special requirements, per the 2006 pamphlet Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs
Energy needs of older dogs
Because of decreased physical activity and slowed metabolism, older dogs need 20% fewer total calories than do middle-aged adult dogs. As dogs age, they tend to become overweight. It may take obese dogs longer for their blood glucose concentrations to return to normal. This disrupted carbohydrate metabolism can lead to diabetes.
This pamphlet was written by The National Research Council of the National Academies based on a report by the Committee on Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. These are the people that come up with the nutritional requirements for our pets. If you’ve ever had a skinny old dog, you know that he can’t survive based on that recommendation of feeding him 20 percent fewer calories than a middle-aged dog.
Most dog food manufacturers make the assumption that dogs that are past their prime adult years (1-7 years) are slowing down and gaining weight. So, they make “senior” dog food with fewer calories and, very often, with less protein. In fact, if you check their labels, some foods are even marketed as senior AND weight control foods. The idea is that being chubby is unhealthy for these older dogs.
Yes, being overweight is unhealthy for your dog and some of these dogs that are getting older can stand to lose a few pounds. However, there are many elderly dogs that are losing weight. They may be thin and have trouble holding onto their weight. Owners struggle to get them to eat. The older dog’s sense of smell and taste begins to dull as he ages so food is less tempting. There should be some senior dog foods designed for these dogs and it should not be a low calorie or low protein dog food.
The fact is that most older dogs need more protein than younger dogs, not less. (Mary Straus at Dogaware.com has excellent information on protein and older dogs. As dogs age, they metabolize protein less efficiently than before so they need more protein, not less, and the protein needs to come from better quality sources so it is easier to absorb. If they don’t get enough protein, they will start to break down their own muscle tissue which leads to their body wasting and other problems. Their immune system will start to fail. For many years people worried about giving old dogs too much protein because of possible kidney issues but unless your dog has a serious kidney health problem, there is no reason to avoid giving him more protein in his diet.
Ironically, cat nutritionists have known this fact for a long time. They recommend that aging cats get more protein and not less.
Their energy needs decrease until 11 years of age, then increase as the cat continues to age. Obesity is one of the main health problems of middle age (6-8 years of age) cats; it occurs less often by the age of ten, and greatly decreases after that.
Some studies have shown that senior cats do not digest, and thus absorb fat and protein, as well as younger cats. This means that older cats may need to consume fat and protein that is more digestible to get the same amount of energy. You’ll need to monitor the weight and body condition of your cat, and adjust his diet accordingly.
It seems pretty obvious that dogs are more like cats than many people have previously realized.
I have also had older dogs who were chubby. It’s true that some senior dogs do need some help staying slim. Being overweight puts more stress on their bones and joints and can worsen any tendency toward arthritis. If your older dog is overweight, you can try cutting back on his regular food rations (slightly) or try feeding a food that has a little less fat. Many of the super-premium dog foods popular today have a high percentage of fat. You can find some very good quality dog foods that have more modest fat levels.
If you choose a low-calorie or low-fat diet, your senior dog is probably going to be very unhappy with you – and feel hungry all the time. Just reducing the fat percentage in the food slightly will make a big difference in the long run.
If your senior dog is underweight, you can try switching to a food that has a slightly higher fat content. Again, you don’t have to make a drastic change but increasing the fat content slightly can make a positive difference to your dog’s weight. Extra fat in the diet can also make the food taste better and be more appealing to your underweight dog.
When choosing a good food for your older dog, be sure to figure the dry matter basis for the food. Experts recommend the protein percentage should be at least 25 percent, with moderate fat (12-18 percent). Remember that most dog foods that are sold as “senior/weight control” dog foods are very high in carbohydrates. They are often low in protein and have fewer nutrients than foods with more protein.
When choosing a senior dog food, it’s better to look for one that has plenty of protein from good quality sources and sufficient fat for your dog. Even if your older dog needs to lose weight, a food with low-moderate fat (12-13 percent) can help him slowly shed a few pounds.
It’s also important to remember that your dog’s weight is often an indicator of his overall health. If he gains or loses weight quickly, it can be a sign of an underlying health problem. Take him to the vet as soon as you notice any unexpected changes in his weight or body condition. As your dog ages, you have to stay alert to what his body tells you about his health.
Managing pain and mobility issues can be one of the most challenging problems facing caretakers of senior dogs.
Don’t settle for having a pet in pain before exhausting every avenue available. Many pet owners are unaware their pets are suffering from pain; most pets don’t moan or whine, even though they are painful.
Signs your dog may be in pain
They may show pain in many ways, including increased sleeping, sitting or lying down while eating, decreased appetite, decreased playfulness or interaction with others, panting, shivering, or inability to get outside quickly enough to eliminate appropriately.
One of the biggest mobility issues facing seniors is the ability to walk on slippery surfaces like tile, laminate, or wood flooring. When the dogs walk on these surfaces they will automatically try to grip with their toes, resulting in grabbing with the nails, losing pad contact with the floor. Since the nails cannot penetrate the hard surface, the dogs slip. There is a great product called “Toe Grips”, which are a small hard rubber band, that can be slipped onto the nails. When the dogs grip the floor, the rubber comes into contact with the hard surface, reducing slippage. The grips are easy to apply and remain in place for 6 to 8 weeks. Alternatively, boots can be applied, but boots must be taken off and cannot be left on permanently.
Senior pets may have more difficulty getting on and off furniture and beds. They should not be allowed to jump down from furnishings, as they are more prone to injury and falls. Use puppy stairs, ramps, or steps to help your pets reach higher surfaces.
Dogs that have difficulty getting up from a down position may be helped with the use of lift harnesses. Some harnesses are placed around the dog each time they need to be lifted, while others are meant to be worn at all times. For large dogs, the wearable harnesses make life easier for owners. There are many brands on the market and you should choose one that is comfortable for both you and the pet.
Two and four-wheeled carts are available for dogs with paralysis or paresis. Most pets enjoy the new-found freedom of the carts, but others will not enjoy the carts and prefer to drag themselves around. Each pet should be allowed to choose their own level of mobility.
Importance of exercise
Exercise is an extremely important, and sometimes overlooked, addition to the daily routine for senior pets. Strong muscles support joints; without muscle support, arthritic joints become more painful. Walking on softer surfaces, like grass, will cause less stress on the joints. Walking on tactile surfaces, rather than smooth surfaces, stimulates nerve function and sensation in the feet and legs. These pets should not be exercised heavily once or twice a week; rather they should be exercised moderately every day.
How to manage pain, naturally
Pain can be managed in many ways for these pets. Cold laser therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, massage, and energy work are all beneficial. Because these therapies are becoming more commonplace, it has become easier to find veterinarians and practitioners offering these services. Any, or all, of these therapies can be used in combination. Sometimes severely painful animals will require multiple modes of treatment.
Herbal supplements including boswellia, yucca, licorice, and nettleleaf can provide relief. Turmeric is especially popular, but needs to be made into Golden Paste to provide maximum absorption.
Golden Paste is easy to make using:
1 cup water
½ cup organic turmeric
¼ cup coconut oil or bone broth
½ Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp Ceylon cinnamon
Simmer turmeric and water over low heat, stirring for 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add oil, pepper, and cinnamon. Feed 1 tsp/20# twice daily. I like to make a batch and put it into small silicon ice cube trays. I can pop out one cube per day to add to my dog’s meal.
Joint supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and omega 3 fatty acids, are beneficial. Be aware that not all supplements are created equally and some may be no better than placebos. Look for products that have scientific research backing them.
One of my favorite new products is New Zealand Deer Antler Velvet combined with green lipped mussel. This product provides omega 3’s, glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin, collagen, and proteoglycans in one tablet.
Injections of PSGAG’s (polysulfatedglycosaminoglycans) provide the building blocks for joint cartilage and joint fluid, preserving and healing arthritic joints. The injections are available through veterinarians.
Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is helping many senior pets with arthritis pain. The oil is available in the form of treats, capsules, pills, or drops. Again, not all products are created equally. While CBD oil is safe for dogs, cannabis is NOT safe and can cause severe side effects in relatively small doses.
Other methods of pain relief
While I prefer to use natural remedies to treat pain, I will not withhold drugs from senior pets in pain. NSAIDs can have dire side effects and should be used with caution, but if owners are aware of the possible side effects, they can be used safely. Any decrease in appetite, nausea, increased thirst, diarrhea, or bloody stools should signal a problem and the drugs should be discontinued. Never use over the counter human pain remedies, as many of these are toxic for dogs and cats.
Other drugs that can be used include tramadol, gabapentin, amantadine, and opiate derivatives.
Arthritis pain that is worse in winter will be helped with warming; apply warm compresses or provide warming beds for sleeping. Arthritis pain that is worse in summer will improve with cool compresses or cool water hosing.
Keep your seniors happy and pain free so they can enjoy their life!
This post was kindly written by Dr. Judy Morgan. Dr. Morgan is a nationally renowned author and veterinarian certified in acupuncture, food therapy, and chiropractic care for dogs, cats, and horses. As a sought after speaker, Dr. Morgan shares her insight with weekly blogs, podcasts, and videos! Visit her website at drjudymorgan.com.
Plain and simple, senior dogs are amazing. We, often, have dogs in the “Project Golden Years” program that are, simply, some of the most wonderful dogs in the rescue. Oddly enough, these dogs also seem to spend the most time in the rescue before they find their forever home. My suspicion is
folks have a misguided perception that these old dogs are just waiting to pass. That couldn’t be further from the truth! With a healthy diet and, the right, exercise, an old dog will be set up to bring joy to their adopters for years to come. Covering both facets of health, diet, and exercise, is too much for a single blog post, so we are going to be focusing solely on the exercise aspect!
The first thing that we need to figure out is what the ideal weight is for our senior dog. Unfortunately, mainstream body condition score has been shown to be way too subjective for us to recommend using it. Fortunately, because of that fact, we hit the books, found a study that tested an objective, measurement-based, accurate method, and converted it into an easy-to-use calculator for establishing the “perfect” weight for our dog. The calculator can be found *here.
What exercises are “right” for seniors?
The short answer is low-impact, low-impact, and low-impact. To illustrate what we mean, I’ve compiled a list of my top five exercises for old dogs below. Every dog is different, so before trying any of our suggestions, make sure you speak with a veterinary professional about your dog’s limitations and any exercises you should avoid or focus on.
An oldie, but a goody. Good old-fashioned walking is one of the best activities for getting and keeping a dog at a healthy weight. A leisurely 30 minute to an hour walk, every afternoon or morning, is enough for most breeds to maintain a healthy weight. In addition to keeping your dog healthy, scientists have repeatedly shown that the benefits of that walk for you are though the roof as well!
In a perfect world, I would suggest multiple short walks throughout the day, but if, for whatever reason, that isn’t possible, the suggestion above will be a great starting point. One point of caution, pay attention to your dog. If she starts to struggle or show signs of discomfort, cut your walk short and dial back the distance on the next one.
Sit, Stay, Up, Down
As counter-intuitive as it may be, teaching these commands, then having your dog perform each a set number of times is a phenomenal way to keep the range of motion in her joints, work muscles that walking doesn’t, and build a trust-filled, loving relationship at the speed of light! Teaching these commands also has the side-effect of being able to control your pup’s behavior when needed, which is a wonderful thing.
For an old dog, we recommend indoor fetch with his favorite toy. A toss across the room, every now and again, keeps the blood flowing and our sweet pup’s metabolism guessing. Both lead to a fit, healthy body composition.
Hide and Seek
This is just as entertaining as it is good for your senior dog. The idea is simple. You hide a few treats around the house when your dog is in a stay(in another room, where he can’t see you). When you’re finished, tell him to come in and find the treats! This is also really good for our pup’s mental health. Keeping him from getting bored or lethargic in his golden years.
Keeping with the theme of exercising our senior’s brain, as well as her body, invest in an interactive toy for feeding time. There are so many good ones on the market, pick your favorite and switch from her old bowl to the toy for feedings. Having to figure out the toy and work for her food will provide a fun, low-impact exercise for both her body and brain
Old dogs have so much life left and so much more to give their adoptive humans. Sometimes we have a notion of older dogs being frail or “on death’s door”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A senior dog can provide so much love and affection that most puppies would be jealous! Combined with some, or all, of the suggestions above, your senior dog will bring joy into your life for many, many seasons to come!
We’d love to hear from you. Do you do any, or all, of these 5 exercises to keep your old dog feeling young?
*Whenever you start a new exercise program for your dog, it is important to first discuss it with your veterinarian.
This post was kindly written by Paul Kirhagis, owner/operator at 4dogsandalittlelady.com, a website dedicated to educating and entertaining readers on life with foster dogs. They focus on their own crew of four dogs, as well as, the constant stream of fosters that come through their doors. You can connect with Paul on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.