Age it just a number. Of all the lessons dogs have taught me throughout my life, the greatest is that living in the moment is what life is all about. If you are one of the fortunate folks to share life with a senior dog: and there is no number assigned to senior because to a dog, age is just a number.
Seniors carry a special love with them and having dedicated themselves to us, their humble human pack members, here are a few special things to keep in mind about seniors and a shining star senior whose family keeps him fit, active, and he just celebrated his 16th birthday!
Say cheese! Your canine’s canines need not lose their sparkle. It only takes a few minutes a few times a week, yet proper canine dental hygiene is pivotal. Many kidney, cardiac and liver diseases are directly related to gum and tooth disease. Be certain to use a pet-friendly toothpaste along with a dog-comfy toothbrush (i.e. toddler-size). Long-term results mean no more doggone bad breath as well as disease prevention: it’s a win-win.
In all of the years I’ve been a pet parent, my dogs have never needed a professional cleaning. I brush a minimum of once a day and I also get regular dental checks at the veterinarian for Dexter.
SCARY FACT: According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), although daily tooth brushing is advised for dogs and cats, only 2 percent of dog owners follow through.
I’ve heard pet parents say, “I can’t play with my dog any longer, he has arthritis” or “I want to play with my dog, but he’s old and can’t last long.” My advice? Make do with what you have! Ease a dog into swimming, do slow walks around the neighborhood, join a dog lovers group where fellow seniors can mingle. Whatever the case, growing old is a mindset. Yes, we should always take precautions when a dog is older but never should we simply “give up” or “stop playing.” Modify the methods but keep the dog moving in some way, shape, or do-able form. A bored dog will get used to a boring lifestyle, after all.
Do you hear what I hear? As with his human counterparts, a dog’s sense of hearing is one that threatens to diminish with aging. Solution? Turn back the hands of time–by using hand signals, that is. Teaching your dog to “come” in association with a hand signal, reinforcing “sit” with a finger point and asking him if he needs to “go potty” with another hand signal will be invaluable should a hearing deficit develop. Hand signals can be taught and reinforced in conjunction with verbal commands while a dog’s hearing is intact and throughout his life.
I did this with my senior Cocker Spaniel, Brandy. Ironically, though her hearing diminished as time marched on, she was at my feet the moment I opened the refrigerator door. It’s amazing how astute a dog’s senses are and which ones take over when another diminishes.
The old adage that senior diets should include a reduced level of protein has proven to be inaccurate. In fact, senior diets should maintain a steady, if not increased, level of protein so dogs can maintain good muscle mass. The extra protein a senior dog’s system does not need will be excreted via urine, burned off in exercise, or stored as fat. Feeding quality protein in canines with kidney issues ensures the dog’s kidneys will not work as hard. Generally, follow the same protein levels as an adult dog.
The best dog food to feed is the one that works for your dog. Ensure it has vitamins and minerals and is suitable for the dog’s lifestyle, and then go for it. Always check with your dog’s veterinarian with any dietary changes.
LITTLE KNOWN SECRET TIP
Dip the Urine: Seriously, check your dog’s urine from home. I purchase the Siemens Multistix that test for 10 different levels of things in my dog’s urine. If your dog battles urinary tract infections (UTI’s), these strips can be a lifesaver for detecting levels such as pH and blood in the urine in between vet visits. Collect the dog’s urine with a free catch in the morning when it is most concentrated, dip the stick in, wait the time recommendations (2 minutes for most) and then compare against the colors on the bottle. (strips expire and are about $35 for 100 but so worth it – about the same cost as one urinalysis at the vet, so very cost effective).
In healthy pets, the urine pH is typically in the 6.5 to 7.0 range. Medicines, age, co-existing health conditions, and even stress can change the level of pH. In addition, the most concentrated form of urine is the “free catch” first thing in the morning. Vets can also do a cystocentesis on a dog in order to pass a needle through the bladder and to obtain a more sterile sample (this is not a painful test, by the way).
DEDICATED SENIOR DOG MOM
June Myers of Oklahoma is a Cocker mom on a mission: She helps rescue and transport Cockers in need and she is a role model in the dog world in general.
Her dog, Buster, is blind and has some health issues, but that isn’t slowing him down. He just celebrated his 16th birthday, and June says, “As a special treat he got a real meatball, thicker piece of jerky and his new jacket.”
Buster is a well-traveled dog, too, as he and his family travel our nation’s highways and by-ways in an RV.
HAVE SENIOR DOGS, WILL TRAVEL
As a dog mom who has taken numerous cross country trips with her dogs, I traveled with my almost 15-year-old Cocker and we had a blast. Check with your veterinarian to assess your golden oldie’s travel feasibility and then pack a pet stroller/buggy. These products offer an ingenuous mode of transportation for pups of all ages who simply get “dog tired.” As with car rides, acclimate your dog prior to using it on vacation.
A dog stroller/buggy also works well for dogs who are smaller and can’t last long on long walks or day trips, for dogs who have arthritis or mobility issues, or for dogs recovering from surgery. I know because I used a stroller for my dog twice now during the postop period.
Dog lovers, unite. We can’t stop the hands of time from ticking forward, but we can play some magic tricks on the motion they take. Abracadabra—these techniques do work. It’s up to us to tap the magic wand and set the stage for a lifetime of canine happiness.
What are some of your favorite “stay healthy” tips for senior dogs?
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