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Senior Dog Worries

I’ve already written about caring for senior dogs. But, it’s something I’m doing more and more of. Something on my mind. Often. Frequently. A lot. Ancient dog concerns used to be a small slice of the pie around here. A ‘special circumstance’ incorporated into the pack. This is no longer the case. I’m a little slow coming to that realization. Slow to come to grips with the fact my dogs (my girls) are not going to ‘get better’. They aren’t going to start running around like 3 year olds again. Their hearing and vision won’t be restored to its former glory. Navigating stairs is going to require an escort. Until the time we just cant do it at all.

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2 of 3 senior gals in question. Abbey and Hannah do not hang out together as a general rule, making this picture a rare (and staged) thing. I’m excusing Winnabelle’s absence for that reason.

There is no fixing this. Not even with my wonderful, miraculous Holistic Vet. The achy, limpy, craggy old ladies go in for acupuncture, chiro, herbs, vitamin B shots, and general eastern medicine love at least once a month. It helps. We aren’t on rimadyl (or a similar NSAID). I’ve got no worries about liver damage vs. their comfort. They clearly feel better after the fact. I do too. Even if I fret and worry and do mental gymnastics over it not being enough.

Not when it comes to their joint concerns and mobility. Not to completely stem the tides of age, and an active lifestyle. I can’t help but feel a little jilted. Everything we’ve invested in their health over the years – the food, the surgery, the exercise, the mental stimulation – I think this should be easier on them. And easier on me. It’s all relative. It could be worse. They all have robust constitutions. Strong immune systems. Trusting relationships with their peoples. All this supported by on-going nutrition from real food. That’s what I tell myself, as I watch them slow and start to struggle to do the things they’ve always done.

Then I brainstorm. How we can make this better? If fixing it is beyond my capabilities, I need to redefine ‘better’. What can I do to slow deterioration? What can I do to keep them happy and moving and relatively pain-free? How can we spend quality time together? Here is what I have come up with.

Walking. Free in terms of dinero. Challenging in terms of time. We are generally weekend walkers, reserving our weekday evenings for time spent as one pack unit snuggled on the couch for 40 minutes. Do not underestimate the calming effect of the mellow group dog pile. The dogs get a little antsy if we don’t do this. But, increasingly, I feel like they need to be moving. Not for long. Short distances, at perhaps a little slower than normal. It perks them up mentally and physically, which I’d like them to have right now. We’ve implemented an evening walking schedule. Even if I’d rather be running (so would Rocco). A simple walk as a way to fight this deterioration is the easiest thing I (or you) can do.

Therapy Swimming. Neither cheap nor time conducive, giving you an inkling as to why it has not yet been implemented. However, Abbey has done it in the past, on and off since she was about 5. Winnabelle has taken a trip or two to the pool, just for fun. I have no idea what Hannah will think of such a setting. Likely, not much. At $30-$35 for a half an hour, she better be impressed. The problem is, swimming helps. Warm water, free range of motion. I have personally seen it increase mobility and rebuild muscle. Benefits my girls are both in need of. Now that we finally have our vet visits down to a low once a month roar (I hope), we have more room in the schedule to reinstitute swimming. Right after No-Spend Month is over.

Home Care. I’m keeping a small stash of vitamin B shots on-hand these days. They are pretty easy to administer and help in a not-feeling-good or anticipating-stress pinch. I’ve got a tiny repertoire of acupressure points beginning with words like ‘heater’ and ‘galbladder’. I need to take better notes both as to the names and exact location. These offer neither time nor money overhead as they are doled out on the couch during our episode of Grimm. Food falls under this category too, but that we’ve mostly got under control. As does some training. That may seem a misnomer given their compromised states, but running them through a quick round of the tricks and behaviors they can do, keeps them sharp. Once again, improving their mental state, and keeping what mobility they’ve got. I’m constantly on the lookout for more I can do for them at home, preferably from the comfort of that couch or our backyard.

I’d love to throw money at this problem. If I thought a) it would fix it or b) that particular pit had a bottom. It won’t and it doesn’t. In these situations my, canine consumerism tendencies rear their ugly head. Yes, we’ll sign up for swimming! While we’re at it, let’s buy that fancy new bed from WestPaw I’ve been coveting. Doesn’t Ford need a new sweater for the Fall? And if we are going to be walking in the dark, I think illumination is in order. All this is probably true, “need” being subjective. It does come down to money, if not money and time. Right now, I’m going to focus on the money already spent, only increasing it where it makes sense (splish-splash) and making use of the time we have to the best of my ability.

How do you manage your senior dog worries? Or general canine health worries? What gets the most bang for your buck or is the best use of your time when it comes to caring for your pets?

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Comments

Katherine
Reply

So I’m just going to let my freak flag wave: My girl has been my best friend for over 12 years. She was diagnosed with hip dysplasia before she turned a year old. The vets said she has the worst hips they had ever seen. I try to be as preventative as possible. I feed her high quality kibble. I take her on at least two walks a day – although down from three or four when I had a dog walker-still looking for a good dog walker. She still goes outside several times a day, but for potty breaks only. A few years ago, Costco had some memory foam dog beds for 1/3 the price of Orvis, so I bought a couple of them. She’s on NSAIDs and she gets supplements (fish oil, vitamin D, glucosamine and chondroitin, etc.) I live on a lake but it takes a lot for her to go swimming. She doesn’t seem to like it that much. She had two FHOs when the pain seemed to get worse (she could only walk short distances). When we moved into the fella’s house earlier this year. I told him he could continue to live upstairs, but my girl is elderly and we would live downstairs. So, we all live downstairs now. We have a baby due in February, and only one bedroom downstairs. We’re going to try that for a while. I can’t bear the thought of my girl being away from her pack if we were upstairs, so when the time comes for my kid to have his own room, we’ll be moving to a one story. I try to do those thinking type puzzles on her, to keep her cognitive skills up, but she doesn’t want to play along. All in all, I think the walks have helped the most. They keep her active and stimulated.

dogsordollars
Reply

I see no freak flags! Only conscientious, life-long ownership. Given her early diagnosis, it sounds like you’ve done great with her. Not just as a senior, but her whole life. We bought a house that was very conducive to the dogs, big back yard with easy access, separate 1/2 kitchen for them. I only wish we’d considered the stairs as more of a factor. They werent then, but now…

Jenny
Reply

My dog is only about 5, so I can’t speak emotionally to what you’re going through. My oldest kitty is 12, and while she is certainly showing her age, I just don’t think aging cats quite compare to what you can go through with aging dogs. Unfortunately, with the best care in the world can’t win over basic biology. The only thing you can do is know you’re doing the best you can do to give the girls the best golden years a dog could want.

I’ve always thought therapy swimming was an awesome treatment idea for dogs, but it is pretty expensive. I’m not even sure where I could go for that in my area. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was such a thing as community dog “pools” where you could take your dog for a therapy swim anytime? Maybe with a monthly membership fee?

dogsordollars
Reply

Yes, time will march on – supplements, diet, and acupuncture be damned. Old kitties are a whole different ball of wax (yarn?) but present their own unique challenges. Cats don’t always tell you whats wrong, until its very very wrong which worries me a lot more.

A community pool with membership is a great idea! We do a self-swim, which is me in the pool with the dog (one at a time – small pool), and is currently the cheapest option I’ve been able to come up with.

Trish
Reply

Rex is my biggest concern when it comes to health issues. He’s only about 8, and I picked him up off the side of a country road as a way too skinny puppy. He is about 100 lbs, and either has wobblers syndrome, or he had distemper before I found him. He is not very steady on his feet. I recently began giving him a steroid every other day on the vet’s recommendations. Rex loves being on the second floor of the house, but our stairs are steep, and I joke with my husband that we will have to get a stair lift for him one day.

I am going to take him to a vet who is more informed than my country vet, to see if there is anything else I can do for him. I have also recently learned that there is an animal chiropractor nearby, and am thinking of taking Rex to him. Rex is really difficult to transport, as he really hates it and does what I call his noodle dog routine. He just goes limp. It is literally like trying to manipulate 100 lbs of spaghetti. he just slithers away from any attempts to lift him.

He has also taken to chewing his forearm within the last year. Sort of for entertainment. My vet said maybe it’s anxiety, but the only thing Rex has to be anxious about is which couch he should lie on.

Any suggestions you might have for how to treat Rex would be great.

dogsordollars
Reply

Giant dogs in old age… woof! I don’t envy that. Is he still chewing his leg while he’s on the steroids? Usually one negates the other, unless it is truly a psychological issue.

Going to another vet or chiro, even just for a consult, is the right move. If its truly anxiety, you could look into prozac. Sounds funny I know, but people have had really great results. Also… for the big guys, I’d recommend a Help ‘em Up Harness. Sorta like this, but really a lot better (and a little more expensive).

Karawynn @ Pocketmint
Reply

How old are your ‘senior’ dogs? When does ‘senior’ generally start?

dogsordollars
Reply

Totally depends on who you ask. Food manufacturers (crappy ones) are trying to sell seven as the magical age of senior. 7!!! Ridiculous, and totally marketing for senior food, meds, supplements, a bunch of crap that most dogs with a decent diet don’t need (especially not at 7). Dogs age differently… Giant breeds, 7 might be a reasonable number, although I still assert it depends on the quality of life. Teeny tiny dogs that live to 16 or 18 might not show age until well after 10. Double digits is my magic number for my own dogs. 10 and I count you as a senior, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Laura
Reply

I’m all ears on recommendations for senior dogs.

I inherited my mother-in-law’s poodle when my father-in-law passed away two years ago. Nobody wanted him, including my husband’s niece who swore she would take him. Anyway, he’s now 14. He’s loosing his sight and his hearing and he sleeps a lot. He walks slowly, but (and I think this is funny) when I took him to the groomers I asked her, “Do you think he will live much longer?”

She told me my dog was in great shape and then said it was geriatric poodle day at her place. She took me in the back of the shop where she showd me four other very old toy poodles she was grooming.

She said, “This here’s Maggie. Maggie’s lost all of her teeth and can’t hear. This is Rocko, he can’t stand up for long. He has arthritis. This is Champ, he is 16 years old and is blind and deaf. This is Princess, she’s also blind and deaf. Your dog is in terrific shape. He’s going to live a long, long time!”

dogsordollars
Reply

The little old dogs, sorta like energizer bunnies. They just keep stumbling and stumbling and stumbling. :) That’s how I feel about Ford. Kudos to you for taking on a dog no one else would. That situation is all too common. Usually without such a happy ending..

Lee
Reply

My dog is 6 years old, I asked the vet when did she think she would calm down and she asked me how old she was. After I replied, she said she was about 4 years too late to calm down now, so we will just have to hope she calms down in her old age. We were at the vets because she had ripped a claw out (again!) throwing herself about in the ponds near home.But I still love her the way she is.
Our cat is very old now at about 17 (we got him as a rescue cat -so not sure of his age) he has fits and has to be encouraged to eat. He starts eating, then looks up and forgets what he is doing then wanders off. He then starts yowing ”feed me” and we have to pick him up and put him back in front of his food This can be repeated up to 5 or 6 times til he is finally full and he sleeps for about 5 hours when this is repeated all over again. Whilst all this is going on we are trying to get ready for work etc and trying to stop the dog from eating the cat food first – a very merry, merry-go-round in the morning.
Pick up cat, fend dog away from food with foot and yell at dog, plonk cat down with face in food, still fend off dog with foot, grab dog by collar and push towards bed whilst now being followed by cat who is yowing. Pick up cat and as they say rinse and repeat

dogsordollars
Reply

That is remarkably similar to the dance we with our 19 year old Ford each and every morning and evening. Except we are fight off one over exuberant pug. LOL. :)

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