How to care for my older dog is a question I find myself asking more and more these days.
As I watch my eldest dog sleeping I think about all the adventures we have had together over the years…from when I collected him as a small puppy in Rathfarnham and brought him so excitedly to his new home…those first few days when I was terrified I was doing everything wrong and wondered how I could possibly protect and nurture such a tiny little thing…
Then all the fun of seeing him try to figure out the world as he grew from the cutest puppy ever (I am slightly biased!!!) to the fluffiest sheepdog anyone has ever seen…He was timid and shy when he started out exploring but each year has seen him grow a bit braver and now at 12 years of age he is taking everything more in his stride (a much calmer more “Yoda” like version of his younger self)…most of the time!
So, us humans watch our beautiful dogs grow from puppies to adults and then they start to grow old…way too fast!
The cruelty of it all…why these amazing animals that we have bonded with so well and become our best friends have a much shorter cycle of life than us makes absolutely no sense at all!!!
An average 10 years versus an average 70 years…Why?
I’m beginning to think; it is to help us live more in the moment (the way they do).
Appreciate today and now!
They don’t worry about what they are going to do tomorrow – they inhale now and if its smells like chicken its dinner time and if it sounds like our car engine that means my family is home – and if I’m out walking in the fresh air life is perfect!
Oh! to be a (well looked after) dog ?
How Old Is My Dog In Human Years?
The rule of thumb of 7 human years for every 1 dog year is a guideline only…it tends to average out at that over the lifespan of a dog, so your 10 year old dog may be like the equivalent of a 70 year old woman.
However, your puppy moves into adulthood much quicker than a human baby.
Your canine pal will cover the equivalent of 15 human years in his first year of life (hence the wide variance in behaviour over the puppy period as they move quickly into adolescence) and the challenges this brings with your attempts at training at the early stages.
Larger breeds age more rapidly as they get older.
And so smaller breeds tend to live longer!
How Do I Make My Old Dog More Comfortable?
So how do we repay all that they have given us?
Well of course they still love the basics:
We just need to share these essential items out in different portion sizes as they get older!
Exercise For Your Older Dog.
Vets recommend a 20-minute walk as ideal to help circulation without putting unnecessary strain on your older dogs’ joints.
We recently discovered that my guy has Arthritis!
My fluffy 12 year olds latest trips to the vet were inspired by a 3.30am wake up call that sounded like he was tap dancing on the kitchen floor. When I got up to investigate he was furiously nibbling at his back paw, he was so focused and determined to sort it out that he kept swirling around and then dropping to the floor to grab it and nibble again (hence what had sounded like a tap dancing routine).
Arthritis is something we knew he had to a degree and he was already on a liquid supplement for it, so I suspected it might be related, however the intensity made me wonder if it was a localised allergic reaction.
Anyway, off to the vet we went the next day for an examination.
She said it was most likely one of these and we would try steroids to relieve his discomfort.
The steroids worked immediately, and we were delighted…until on day 4 he started getting sick…he has a sensitive stomach so this was a possible outcome however the issue now was how could we help relieve his pain ongoing?
An X-ray confirmed that it was Arthritis in his back paw and my vet suggested laser treatment.
Laser Therapy As A Solution For Your Pet.
The painless application of laser energy promotes increased circulation and helps create a healing environment that reduces inflammation, stiffness and pain.
Your furry pal gets to wear “Doggles” – Yes! Goggles specially made for dogs ? … he looks SOOO cute in them!
You start with a couple of short sessions per week and gradually work towards a maintenance visit of once every 6 weeks.
The change is incredible and he is enjoying his walks so much more now that he is able to keep up with our younger dog and we are back to walking in Marlay Park and going for weekend adventures up Stocking Lane to Massy Wood or the Hellfire Club or out past Stepaside towards Kilternan…there are so many scenic places to explore and sniff that he is not missing out on anymore!
Nutrition As Your Dogs Grows Older.
So on to his other favourite … FOOD!
I have been researching this subject on his behalf since he was a puppy as he was born with a very sensitive stomach, so we have been to all of the Pet Stores in the area, from Dundrum to Stillorgan and back towards Nutgrove and Knocklyon and finally ended up using Veterinary food which he loves called “Specific”.
It had such a profound affect on his health and general wellbeing I would recommend it to anyone for their pet.
His energy levels increased, no more sickness, beautiful shiny coat and the amazing ingredients help support joints and he is satisfied now when he eats his dinner, instead of constantly looking for more.
He is much happier and so am I!
Your vet really is the one to talk to about your pets’ diet and my furry pal can even have veterinary chew sticks and treats without having an upset tummy now.
“Yogies” are another healthy treat that are Irish made and available in Pet World in Nutgrove – they are a frozen probiotic yogurt for dogs that work wonders especially in the Summer when your older pal may be finding it difficult to cope with the heat.
Carrots are another tasty healthy treat that will help with your dogs’ teeth as he gets older cleaning and strengthening as he crunches.
Of course, Teeth are something you will need to keep an eye on with your vet as he ages.
It started with my furry pal when he was 8 years old and gums and teeth became an issue (he has had nearly half of his canine quota of 42 teeth removed at this stage).
My first worry was he would have to be sedated (what if he reacted badly to the anaesthetic? I asked…could she not try removing his teeth without sedation? Yes! Really, I asked that…Of course it wasn’t an option both for her safety and my pets’ sanity!!!
He sailed through teeth extraction on 3 separate occasions since and bounces back from each event with a new lease of life.
You see dogs are very poor at letting us know when they are in pain (or should I say we are very poor at reading their subtle ways of exhibiting it).
So, when they get relief from that pain, they bounce around like puppies again.
Cuddles…Be Gentle… I Have Arthitis!
If your dog moves away when you go to pick him up, respect his boundaries.
He may have aches and pains that can only tolerate light pressure.
Do a gentle examination on your ageing dog when you are grooming him (watch for areas that he doesn’t like touched or any new lumps or bumps).
If you are worried about anything, bring him to your vet who will be able to carry out a thorough examination and advise you on how best to handle him.
Remember he still wants love and cuddles…. we just need to learn how without causing him any discomfort…and your vet will advise on products that can help alleviate pain such as liquid or food supplements.
In summary, your dog still loves the same things as he grows older that he loved as a puppy…we just need to remember to change our ways a little:
EXERCISE a little bit less
FEED a little bit less
CUDDLES are limitless ? but be more gentle
And Enjoy every day you have together with your Furry Best Friend!