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.
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?