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.

 

Tips for traveling in a caravan with your senior dog

Tips For Traveling in a Caravan With Your Senior Dog

 

Tips for traveling in a caravan with your senior dog

Have you been caravanning for years and just welcomed a new senior dog into your life? Or have you had a dog for years and are about to embark on your first senior caravan experience? Either way you’re setting off on a new adventure and this article will help make it amazing!

I say caravan but of course these tips apply to motor homes as well!

Is it really a good idea to bring an old dog?

Before we even get started, it’s important to determine if bringing your old dog is a good idea. You may not be able to answer that question yet, perhaps you’ll have a better idea by the time you reach the end of this article.

Tips For Traveling in a Caravan With Your Senior DogAre you bringing him purely because you’ll be miserable without him, or is bringing him along the only way you’ll agree to take a break? Do you not trust anyone to look after him because he needs specialist care? Hey, I’m with you on all these reasons!!

You’re not a caravaner

I’m not a caravaner either, but if you want a vacation and want to bring the dog with you it’s not a bad compromise. Perhaps a short test trip with your pup, even just overnight, is a good idea.

There may be some sacrifice involved

Bringing your dog along will be fun, and you’ll be more relaxed having him with you, but it doesn’t mean some sacrifices won’t be made. If you’re not comfortable leaving him in the caravan while you go out, then the dinner in that restaurant you’ve had your eye on probably can’t happen. Bright side? They may do take out!

What kind of activities do you want to take part in at your destination? If your plan is to move little and relax much and your dog feels the same way, you’re in luck. What if you decide to check out those hiking trails but your dog’s arthritis is acting up and he isn’t able to join you?

Keeping your senior dog safe on the road

Keep your dogs safe during car travelWhile in a moving vehicle your dog must be restrained, whether that’s with a harness and seatbelt, in a carrier or crate. I use a Sherpa bag  for my sweet old girl Red, a harness and seatbelt for Jack.

Crate training

If you will be leaving your dog in the caravan while you’re out, putting him in a crate may make him feel safer and you better, knowing he can’t get up to any mischief while you’re gone! If your dog has never been crate trained, you’ll need to do that in advance. Waiting until you arrive at your destination and just opening the crate door expecting him to walk right in, isn’t the best recipe for success.

Having said that, the crate isn’t the right thing for every dog. Since Red’s dementia has progressed, she hates being confined and would literally have a freak out if I put her in a crate. That’s why she can’t fly anymore. Sad!

How’s your dog’s recall…and I’m not referring to memory!

dogs off leash while hubby fills up the water buttWhen your dog is off leash, how good is he about coming back when called? If it’s more of a “he comes when he feels like it” you may want to brush up on that part of his training. Even if you have no plans to let him run free, accidents happen and if he does get away, having good recall means a better chance of him coming back.

Start small before going large

Although traveling with your dog can be a ton of fun, if you’ve never done it before, at least not like this, you might want to consider taking a short trip first. So many new sights, sounds, experiences and smells can be unnerving, and given how much most senior dogs need their routine, it may be a rough adjustment.

What about sleeping in the caravan overnight, even if it’s only parked in your driveway! If that goes well find the closest campsite and try that next.

Before you bed down for the night, take your pup for a walk to burn off some energy, it will help keep him calm.  

Build your list

As soon as you decide you’re going, get yourself a notepad and start jotting down anything and everything your dog could possibly need. Keep it handy, so each time something pops into your head you can add to it.   

Where are you going?

Staying local? Traveling across the state? Across your country? To another country?  

Traveling abroad

If your trip will take you to foreign lands, be sure to check their requirements for bringing dogs into the country pet passport for traveling with petsand do it as soon as possible. There can be extensive paperwork involved, not to mention waiting times, so the sooner you start researching the better. You do not want to arrive at customs and find out your dog is not allowed in because you “missed” something. Trust me, I’ve travelled a lot with my animals and telling an animal control officer or border guard “I didn’t know…” will never work.

If your travels will take you on a boat or ferry to reach your destination, be sure and find out if animals require a reservation. There is a limited number of pets allowed and spaces book up quickly.

Finding dog friendly campsites

It goes without saying you’ll need to know, in advance, which sites are dog friendly. It’s as easy as doing an internet search for “dog friendly sites CITY/STATE/ COUNTRY.” Pet policies should be listed, but even if they are I recommend contacting the site directly to clarify. Things may have changed and the information not kept current.  

Here are some questions to ask

  • Is there an extra charge to bring a dog? Is it per day or per stay?
  • Is there a limit to the number of dogs?
  • Size/weight/breed restrictions?
  • Are there “no go” areas where dogs are not allowed?
  • Must they be kept leashed?
  • Can they be left in the caravan or motorhome?
  • Is proof of vaccinations required?
  • Is it a particularly crowded and noisy time of year? Lots of activity could frighten your senior, so wait for a quieter period, see if there is a less popular section you can park or go somewhere that isn’t kid friendly (if you’re not bringing kids of course!)

Finding dog friendly things to do

Just as important as finding a dog friendly site, is knowing how dog friendly the surrounding area is –

  • Any fenced in dog parks?
  • Hiking trails?
  • Are there cafes and restaurants that allow dogs?
  • What about beaches?
  • Can dogs join you inside attractions?
  • What about inside stores?

Check your insurance policies

Does your car/caravan/motorhome insurance cover your dog? If not can he or she be added?

What about your pet insurance? Does the policy cover your pup no matter where he is, or just in his hometown? What about accidents caused by someone else?

Does any policy cover a holiday that must be cancelled due to pet illness or injury?

Get your dog used to the caravan before you start your vacation

If your senior dog has a harder time with change then she used to, why not get her used to the caravan before you go. Let her sniff around it, open the door so she can poke her head in, take her inside and give her some favourite treats. Why not sit on the couch for a bit with her, read a book and play some relaxing doggy music?

What to pack for your dog

There’s a pretty standard packing list for dogs of any age, but when it comes to traveling with older dogs, especially if there are some health issues, you may find you have a few more items for the suitcase.

**They are in no particular order**

Collar and id tag

Okay not technically something that is packed, but important to have in case the unthinkable happens and your dog runs off. Check all information is up to date, and have your dog microchipped as well please!

In the event of spotty cell phone reception, an additional tag containing contact details of your destination (and/or next one if you’re on the move) is a safety precaution worth considering.

GPS collar

Being in unfamiliar territory can be unsettling, accidents happen and your dog may wander and lose his way. It’s even more terrifying if your dog has vision and/or hearing problems. A GPS collar will increase the likelihood of your dog returning to you safely and quickly.

Harness

Even if your dog does not typically wear a harness, I recommend putting one on him when traveling. If he gets scared it is way too easy to get out of a collar, and even if you’re sure nothing freaks your dog out I would get one anyway.  

Leash

If your dog spends more time off leash then on, you’re going to want to make sure you add it to your packing list. It’s a safety precaution in strange surroundings, not to mention it’s likely the caravan park you go to will have leash laws you must observe.  

Special needs

If your dog is nervous or needs more space these days, there are vests, harnesses and leashes with “messages” for others to see.

Mobility aids

If your dog typically requires a bit of help, or you’re concerned you’ll be doing a lot more walking than usual and Rover (okay Spot!) won’t be able to keep up, here are a few items you may want to include.

  • my senior dog in her pet strollerRamp to get in and out of the caravan
  • Stroller for walks
  • Sling for extra support
  • Booties for rougher terrain
  • Carpet squares, yoga mats or something similar if your caravan floor is bare and slippery

A current photo

Having a current photo means no time is wasted getting the word out, should your dog go missing.

Food and water bowls

If your dog has gotten fussy about the bowls he’ll use, bring yours from home. If he’s not bothered, than the ones you choose are of course up to you. You may want to buy some to keep in the caravan/motorhome or use disposable (sorry I know that’s not very environmentally friendly!).

If your dog is having trouble reaching his bowls, perhaps now would be a good time to try a raised bowl.

I always bring a foldable/collapsible bowl with me because they’re perfect for day trips. They take up no room in a knapsack, purse or even a pocket and you’re never caught without. I also always carry a bottle of water because Red is so much thirstier these days.

Non spill bowls for water are handy while you’re on the move.

Rubber mats for under the bowls

Rubber mats are perfect for protecting your flooring from spilled food and drink.  

Bring bottled water

Although campsites have drinking water on site, I only use it for filling water butts. For everything else, including the dogs, I bring a supply of bottled.  

Flea and tick treatment

Find out in advance the flea and tick situation where you’re going, and if your dog’s current products offer the right level of protection. If it is a concern, there are plenty of indoor/outdoor sprays available, some with natural ingredients.  

Dog food and treats

Obvious I know, but in the excitement of packing sometimes the thing we need the most and don’t write on the list is the thing we forget to bring!

Have a supply that will last you the length of the trip…and longer just in case you’re having such a great time you can’t bear to leave. It’s particularly important if your senior dog is on a special diet. Food extras – If you’re like me, I add some home cooked food to my senior dog’s diet so I make sure I bring enough to last. Yes you can buy chicken anywhere for example, but I’m very particular about the type I buy so I bring a supply.  

Medication, supplements and extras

Don’t forget all medications, supplements, anti anxiety medications, pheromone diffusers and plug ins, the Thundershirt

Bring more than you need, and don’t assume you can replenish at a local vet and health food shop. Assume you can’t!

Bed and blankets

traveling with your senior dog in a tourerDon’t expect to have your dog sleep “wherever.” Bring his bed so he has a comfortable spot and a couple of blankets in case it gets chilly.

A favourite toy

Traveling can be stressful on some animals, and many senior dogs can have a tough time in strange surroundings. If they have dementia they may be even more confused. Bringing some of his favourite comforts from home, including some much loved toys will offer comfort.

Brush

Brushing your dog is such a great bonding experience, there’s no reason you shouldn’t continue it while on your travels. If it’s not something you typically do, now is the perfect time to start. If for no other reason you’ll cut down on the amount of dog hair you find inside!

Sweater/coat/raincoat

Bring a raincoat when caravanning with your senior dogDrops in evening temperature, an unexpected rainstorm or caravanning in the winter means a sweater, coat and raincoat are must haves as far as I’m concerned. My senior dog Red has become a lot less tolerant of the cold as she’s gotten older, and wears a sweater most of the year, indoors and out. I never leave home without them!

Sunscreen

If your dog is prone to burning in the sun, don’t forget to bring some protection.

Medical records

If your dog has health issues or been treated for an illness recently, bring his medical records. I always have a copy stored on my email as well as a hard copy.    

Vaccination records

Some parks may want proof your dog is up to date on vaccinations, and if travelling further afield, proof of rabies is always required.   

First aid kit

A very handy item to have in your home, car, cycle bags, boat, motorhome and caravan. Ready made kits contain the basics and usually include a booklet outlining what to do in case of various emergencies, or assemble one yourself.

List of local vets and emergency hospitals

A first aid kit means you can attend to your dog immediately, but it won’t help in every situation. Red can take a turn rather quickly, so you can be sure I know where the local vets and emergency hospitals are, with numbers on paper and programmed into my phone. Precious time can be wasted while you search.  

Poop bags

As responsible dog parents, we never leave the house without a good supply of poop bags. Bring more then you think you’ll need, because re-stocking may not be as easy as you’re used to.

Pee pads

If you use them at home you’ll use them while away. I always say I should have bought stock in a pee pad company I use so many of them!! I cover the caravan floor in them at night just in case.  

Doggie wipes

So handy to have, especially if it’s damp or muddy outside. A lot less fuss, a lot more convenient to use than a towel and water, and a great substitute if you don’t have access to either.

Stake in the ground

A stake in the ground with a rope attached to your dog’s collar or harness will give him the chance to lounge in the fresh air in safety.

Extras

Towels…and lots of them!

Muddy paws are an issue when caravanning, it’s the nature of the beast. For me the nightmare is when it’s been raining, I’m wearing a raincoat and wellies, carrying Red who is squirming like crazy because she doesn’t like to be held for too long because of her dementia, trying to fit through a narrow door, while grabbing the towel and drying her off without me stepping off the doormat.

Conversely if you have dogs that love to swim you know they’re going to roll around on your couches to dry off…right!!

Yep you need lots of towels! Microfiber are a good option as well because they take up less space.   

Hose

An easy way to wash the mud off your dog, or just hold him under one of the faucets on the site like I do.

Carpet squares or mats

Where would I be without mats by the door!  

Blankets or sheets

Perfect for covering seating areas…even if it’s dry outside.

Cleaning supplies

In addition to your standard cleaning supplies, carpet and air fresheners make a good addition.  

Life jacket

If boating is on the agenda, or even just a possibility, bring a life jacket. Your dog may be a first class swimmer, but can get into trouble in unfamiliar or rough waters.

Making your caravan dog friendly

Counter surfing

At home I never have a problem with counter surfing because my dogs are too small to reach! In the caravan it’s a different story. Once Jack is on the couch it’s a very short hop onto the counter. Be careful what you leave out – food, sharp objects or anything else they can get their paws on that may cause harm.

If you have a dog that’s suffering from chronic pancreatitis like Red does for example, you’ll have to be extra careful because counters in caravans are a lot easier to access than at home.

Water bowl

In such a confined space it can be a challenge finding the best place to put the water bowl. After finding the “ideal” spot, I stepped in the water so many times I had to move it to another ideal spot.  

If your dog drinks a lot more these days and you have room for a second bowl that’s great, if not get a bigger bowl.  

Where to put the dog bed

caravan holidays with dogsI have 2 dogs and 1 bed. Our dog Jack sleeps with us at night, and Red sleeps in her bed on the floor. During the day both prefer the couch.

When choosing the perfect spot think –

Vents – you don’t want them blocked with a bed or blowing hot or cold air on your pup all night.

Middle of the night pee breaks – yours not theirs! Be sure the bed is not in the path between your side of the bed and the bathroom.

Removable, washable seat covers

Blankets and throws can move and be pulled down, but removable and washable seat covers will save the upholstery from dirt, mud and sharp claws!

Don’t feed the morning of departure

Unless you know your dog travels well and has no problem with car sickness, it’s best to lay off the food before you go. Wait until you get to a rest stop for a decent break then feed him.

You will still need to have fresh water available at all times.

Stop frequently

The sooner you arrive at your destination the sooner you can plug in, fill up and chill out…and who can blame you. You want that relaxation time to start asap. For the sake of the four legged travellers it’s best to stop regularly, every couple of hours or so to let them pee, poop and stretch their legs. Don’t forget a snack if they haven’t eaten, and to keep them well hydrated. 

take a break while traveling with your dogI have to be very careful and keep an eye on the clock because Red eats 5 meals a day. If she’s sleeping I don’t wake her, but if she isn’t I make sure she sticks to her feeding schedule as much as I can. She also drinks a lot more nowadays so I give her water during the drive, even though it may mean a few extra pee stops. They only take a second so very little time is lost.    

During those breaks keep your dog on a leash and harness, and open the door slowly. While there are quiet rest stops, those with gas stations and restaurants tend to be noisy, and can be unnerving.

Getting your pup settled in

Once you arrive at the site, get your dog settled in as quickly as you can. Set up his bed, take out his favourite toy and give him a treat. You want to make him as comfortable as you can in his home away from home, so pay him lots of attention.

Sticking to a schedule

One of the most important things you can do when traveling with your senior dog is to try and stick to their schedule as much as possible. The familiarity of a routine will give comfort in the unfamiliar. I know it isn’t always possible, especially if you’re driving, so try and schedule your stops around their usual meal times and bathroom breaks.

Keeping them entertained when the weather is crap

Sorry to be so blunt but it’s true. During our last trip there were days when all the rains in the heavens were beating down on us. If you and your pup are happy to put on the wet weather gear and hit the road, fantastic, but if you aren’t…Some of the same activities you do with your senior dog at home can be done while away, with modifications when needed. If mental stimulation is not something you’ve been doing, now’s the perfect time to start.

Here are some suggestions –

Bring an interactive puzzle toy with you and challenge him to figure it out. Mental stimulation is as important as physical exercise, and did you know it can help expend energy?

Treat dispensing toys will keep him busy, even for a short time. Want it to last longer? Stuff a Kong with some peanut butter, chicken, doggy ice cream anything your dog loves and put it in the freezer.  

Teach him a new trick and brush up on old ones.

How about some homemade games? Turn 3 cups upside down, put a treat under one when your dog isn’t looking then say “find it” or words to that effect. As he’s searching use your chosen words so he will associate the cue with the action. Or take a muffin tin, put treats in a few of the spaces, then place a tennis ball on top of each section and let your dog find it.

These are just a few ideas, but I’m sure you can come up with lots of other great boredom busters.

Leaving your pup alone

Some pet parents are okay going out and leaving their pup in the caravan or motor home, while others wouldn’t dream of it. I’ve done it but my old caravan had an extra security option with a handlebar that could be moved across the door and locked. Our current one does not, so I am not comfortable leaving them.

In addition to safety considerations there’s weather as well. We know how quickly the inside of cars and vans heat up, and how even a couple of minutes can be deadly for our pets. Parking in shade and leaving the windows cracked open on the safety latch are unlikely to be much help, so it’s safer to take them with you. In the winter leaving the heat on should be enough…unless it breaks down for some reason.

My husband says I’m negative, I say I’m cautious!  

Vehicle breakdown cover

Did you know some roadside assistance companies may have restrictions on towing vehicles with pets on board? You might want to check if your policy does and if yes what, if anything, can be done in the event of an emergency.

The end of the road

Well we’ve come to the end of this post and I did my best to cover everything I could possibly think of. If I’ve missed something I would be happy for you to leave a comment below and I will add it.

Tips for traveling in a caravan with your senior dog – conclusion

If like Red your dog can no longer fly, or you don’t like the idea of flying with a senior dog or any pet for that matter, caravanning is certainly an option. A road trip is a lovely way to explore…and you don’t have to leave your best friend behind.

 

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.

 

 

Involving your vet in senior dog care

Involving Your Vet in Senior Dog Care

Involving your vet in senior dog care

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

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

Okay enough of that, let’s begin.  

Your first step

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

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

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

The next step

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

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

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

The “plan”

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

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

At home care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bit of history

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

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

My wonderful holistic vet Pepe

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

Our first meeting 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Involving your vet in senior dog care – conclusion

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

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

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

the natural path toward a springier step

The Natural Path Toward a Springier Step

the natural path toward a springier step

As anyone fortunate enough to have a senior canine knows, these animals are in a class all their own, and, as such, warrant specialized care.  Much like their two-legged counterparts, senior dogs tend to develop age-related health challenges that may involve any or every body part, from mouth to gut to joint to bone to brain, and beyond.

For example, dogs with conditions like arthritis, degenerative disc disease, or orthopedic problems may not fare so well using solely the typical allopathic approach that employs pharmaceutical-induced symptom suppression and physical therapy or rehabilitation.  Based on my opinion, plus years of experience with both my own dogs and those of my clients, a more fitting protocol might include diet changes, veterinary acupuncture and chiropractic, cold laser therapy, and massage.

In some circumstances, this may not be enough, or, conversely, may prove to be “too much” for a more sensitive canine.  To this point, as our dogs develop some twinges in their hinges, veterinarians often write prescriptions for hydrotherapy.

However, after having patronized some highly reputable facilities, I remain concerned about several things:  the amount of chlorine in the water; the high temperature of the water; the number of ailing dogs confined to a small space (picture a liquid dog park filled with fatigued, nervous canine curmudgeons and their harried guardians, a natural path toward a springier stepcoming and going all the time); and, most importantly, the oft-reported negligible benefits gained by dogs who suffer from auto-immune forms of musculoskeletal conditions.

This information motivated me to pursue less taxing, more natural modalities that could not only improve a dog’s physical state, but his mental and emotional states as well.

To this end, why not spend our money on a doggie life vest, harness, and maybe even booties, and head for a nearby lake or river?  We wouldn’t be exposing our dogs to noxious chemicals or hordes of hounds, and the water would be cool and inviting, with plenty of fresh air and sunshine. The pups would get a good workout, without stress or strain, doing what comes naturally.  If that doesn’t lift one’s spirits, what does?

If we want to stress less, let’s take a look at Reiki

The word Reiki itself is an amalgamation of two Japanese words, rei (universal life) and ki (energy).  During a Reiki session, a trained practitioner acts as a conduit for this energy, which is directed to the recipient using either a hands-on technique, or a hands-off method where hands hover over the body.  This method is ideal for touch-averse, itchy, or painful dogs. Reiki is quite popular now, because word has spread that it promotes profound levels of relaxation and well being, and awakens innate healing mechanisms in order to achieve a more balanced level of mind-body interaction.

I have found Reiki to be as valuable as Tellington Touch, massage, acupressure and flower essences for rescued, reactive, nervous dogs, including those who have been diagnosed with the canine form of PTSD and impaired cognitive function.

And finally, a magic circle?

According to manufacturer Assisi Animal Health, the Assisi Loop is a hand-held, portable device that delivers targeted Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEFT) as a non-invasive, drug-free form of pain management for assisi loopmany inflammatory conditions.  The Assisi Loop is available through veterinarians, or by prescription, and may reduce the amount of, or even the need for, NSAIDs, steroids and pain medications.

Even better, the Assisi Loop can be used by a guardian, in the comfort and privacy of a dog’s own home (or, better yet, back yard), at any time of the day or night.  This can be ideal for those of us with crazy schedules, or with big dogs who have a hard time getting comfortable in the standard exam room environment.  We can even take it on long car rides, in order to make travel more enjoyable.  And nothing reinforces the human-canine bond or says I Love You better than a cozy pre-bedtime session to promote sound sleep and sweet dreams.  Good night!

 

This post was kindly written by Dr, Reema Sayegh. She holds doctoral degrees in Holistic Nutrition and Naturopathy, and has over 20 years experience in the field of integrative medicine and holistic health.  After she rescued a nine-year-old Great Dane mix named Zeus in 2004, Dr. Reema was inspired to “shift gears” and has since become a Reiki master teacher, certified holistic pet consultant, published author, public speaker, and animal welfare advocate.  She works in tandem with veterinarians and their clients to provide companion animals adjunct natural wellness modalities, and, when indicated, specialty geriatric and hospice care.  Dr. Reema resides in California with her husband and the love of their lives: a spirited canine teacher, healer, and gigantic, fun-loving goofball named Dakota.  She can be reached at drreema4pets@yahoo.com.

 

dog dental care

Anesthesia and Senior Dogs: Is it Worth the Risk?

anesthesia and senior dogs

There is a widespread belief that anesthesia and senior dogs are a deadly combination, and therefore not worth the risk.

It is an issue I have been confronted with on a few occasions, most recently a couple of month ago, so I thought it was an important one to discuss.

While it’s true anesthesia in an old dog is riskier than in a younger one (that applies to other animals and people too!), I don’t believe a blanket “it’s too risky” is the right attitude. It’s best to have a conversation with your trusted vet, and weigh the pros and cons.

Things to discuss with your vet

Why is surgery being recommended? Are there other options? Is your dog in pain? Can the pain be managed? What is the anticipated outcome? What can be done to reduce the risk (a gentler type of anesthesia for example).

My experiences

When we adopted Red 7 ½ years ago we were told she was about 8. She was quite neglected in her previous home, and among other issues her teeth and gums were in a terrible state. Not long after we brought her home she had dental surgery. Even though she was already 8, I wasn’t terribly worried about her age at the time. It had to be done, the vet was recommended to us, I liked him when we met so I trusted him and she was fine.

Unfortunately she needed dental surgery two more times and as she was even older, I became more concerned. Each time it was a pros and cons decision – her age versus the status quo. Red is blind and although she is extremely good natured and easy going, the one thing she can’t handle is having her teeth brushed. It freaks her out and she fights like crazy. Even with the bones and the water additives, and some brushing, it was never enough.  

I have a fabulous vet who I trust completely, no hesitation. I knew if something were to happen during surgery it would not be his fault, and I told him as much. Even though she’s just over 15 (we believe), this most recent surgery was necessary to prevent other issues from developing. There was also my very real concern she might be in pain, and that was not acceptable under any circumstances.  

I realise it doesn’t look good that I talk so much about the importance of good oral hygiene, yet my own dog has had dental surgery more than once. In an ideal world every dog would be cooperative, but that’s not the way things are. Even my vet can’t get near Red’s mouth without help.

I’ve had much success lately with some toothpaste on a gauze, wrapped around my finger. It’s still a huge struggle but it’s a lot easier to get my finger in her mouth than a toothbrush. Finger toothbrushes never worked for me either. 

What I’m trying to say

I’m trying to say that of course anesthesia is risky in the best of times, and riskier in old dogs. I’m also saying that each case needs to be evaluated on an individual basis. I assume you have a vet you have complete faith in, and if you don’t I hope you find one. I have an in-depth conversation (I’m a big asker of questions) about why the surgery is needed, are there alternatives, what are the benefits, types of anesthesia and how can I help the recovery process.

I’ve had two dogs die at the hands of vets I had to go to in a pinch. I have no doubt the outcome would have been very different had I been able to see my trusted vets.

An interesting article for you to read on this subject

I came across an article written by Dr. Julie Buzby called “Is My Dog Too Old For Anesthesia?” and thought you might find it an interesting read. I appreciate her “take home message” and it’s a sentiment I share as well.

Anesthesia and senior dogs – conclusion

So what do you think? Do anesthesia and senior dogs go together? Is it worth the risk?

 

Has your senior dog undergone surgery, or been put under anesthesia for some other reason? How did things go? Were you happy with your decision or would you have done things differently in hindsight? Share your story in the comment section below or on my Facebook page.

every dog needs grooming

Senior Dogs Also Need Grooming

 

senior dogs also need grooming

Not everyone has gotten the message – senior dogs also need grooming!!

Unfortunately, there are many dog guardians out there who seem to think that just because their dog is older and spending more time in bed than out of it, grooming can take a back seat. senior dogs also need to be groomedThey wait until the dog smells so bad they can’t stand it, or is unable to walk properly. Some arrive at the groomer so matted there’s no choice but to shave them, or with nails so long they end up needing veterinary care.

Yes there can be some stress involved

  • Your dog may have always been quite happy going to the groomer, but lately seems reluctant. Perfectly understandable!
  • Arthritis, back, or hip problems make it uncomfortable to stand.
  • Vision problems make them fearful – not knowing where they are, or what’s happening to them.

The importance of grooming

Every dog, no matter what age or size, needs a bath and a nail trim, and if they have hair that grows, then a cut as well. It’s one of the basics of proper dog care, no less important than good nutrition, exercise and mental stimulation. You may be surprised how many groomers have noticed something “suspicious” on a dog they’ve been grooming, that you may not have caught. .

My experience finding a groomer for my deaf and blind dog

 

A few years ago my husband and I adopted a deaf and mostly blind dog named Josephine. I lost count of how many groomers I called, asking if they would groom her. Every single one of them said no.

Am I ragging on groomers? No I’m not, so if you’re a groomer please don’t get offended. I’m talking strictly about my experience. It got to the point where we bought a dog shaver, and did it senior dogs need to be groomedourselves. Because her hair grew, we desperately needed to have the fur around her eyes done.

Our only option, and yes, it was our only option at the time, was to take her to the animal hospital, and have her very lightly sedated with a mask, while someone trimmed the hair around her eyes.

A very scary and traumatic experience for Josephine, and us, and one we did not plan on repeating. With some practice, and lots and lots of treats from my husband, I managed to trim around her eyes on my own.

Making the experience as stress free as possible

Finding a groomer

I assume you’ve been having your dog groomed on a regular basis, and again, I assume your groomer will continue to do so throughout your dog’s life. If, however, you’re looking for another one for whatever reason, here are things to consider in your search.

What I do

I always start by asking people I know with dogs – especially if they share their lives with seniors.

When I find a groomer that seems promising, I go and have a chat before the appointment, or at least a lengthy one on the phone. I’m extremely protective of my older dogs, and anyone can tell me anything on the phone. I want to get a sense of the person I’ll be dealing with.

Questions to ask, things you want to know

  • How much experience does she have with older dogs who may have vision or hearing problems, skin growths, trouble standing, snippy when handled…
  • Does she use a high powered nozzle to wash the dogs – which could scare some of them
  • How does she dry them? Towel or noisy powerful dryer?
  • Does she have a nonslip mat on the table? In the bathtub?
  • What about blind dogs – does she keep talking to reassure them?
  • How does she handle an overly stressed dog? Does she stop for a few minutes and try again? Break up an appointment into two sessions if necessary?
  • How about pee breaks?

If, for whatever reason, you’re dubious – say thank you and look for someone else.

Should I stay or should I go?

Some dogs are more anxious when their guardians hang around, others need that comfort. If you’re concerned because it’s someone new, tell the groomer you’re going to hang around the every dog needs groomingarea for a few minutes in case she calls. This way, you can get there quickly.

When we first brought our puppy mill rescue Saffy to the groomer, my husband and I stayed the entire time. Although we’ve always had confidence in our groomer, Saffy was such a wreck from being confined for 8 years breeding, we were the only comfort she ever knew, and I didn’t want to leave her. In her case, it was the right decision.

Appointment time

Getting the first appointment of the day means no chance of previous clients running late, delaying your dog’s appointment and adding to his stress levels.

Arriving early to pick up your dog means he doesn’t have to hang around waiting, possibly adding to his stress levels. 

Hairstyle

Perhaps when your dog was younger you were interested in fancy hairstyles, no matter how long it took. Now it’s less about winning beauty pageants (although I’m sure that would be the case no matter what!), and more about the safety and comfort of your dog. You want your groomer to do a great job, be careful, and be quick.

Mobile groomer

There are lots of groomers riding around in their “beauty parlour on wheels.” They pull up in your driveway, groom the dog in their van, and you’re done. It couldn’t get any handier than that! This might be the best option for your dog.

Senior dogs also need grooming – conclusion

I know you are diligent about keeping your dog well groomed, no matter what. If you know someone that isn’t, perhaps you can somehow have a casual chat about it. They might not realise how important it is for their dog, and may be grateful you’re trying to help.

I’d love to hear your experiences, just leave them in the comment section below.