Caring for the older dog
I have had to say good bye to many dogs over the years, horses and cats too. I confess when I began this post and found this photo, I had some trouble getting started with my writing. This photo had/has me in tears even though it’s not a photo of one of mine. It does however look very familiar and breaks my heart. Grieving for a dog or any pet for that matter, is a personal thing yet universal too. You know when you give your heart to a dog, he or she will take a piece of your your heart someday and leave you feeling bereft and sad. However, your dog may be a senior for many years, and the longer you can keep your buddy healthy and active, the longer you can both enjoy each other’s company, right? Why focus on the negative while you still both live?
My last two seniors were 17 years old and were still eating well and could still walk when I released them from this life. One of them, Bobo, had a bout with cancer when he was between 4-7 years old, yet went on to live another 10 years after his surgery and special diet which was vital to his healing from cancer. Little Joey, had a congenital problem with a collapsing trachea, making his breathing more difficult as he got older. Yet, overall, they were very healthy for most of their lives. How was this accomplished?
Number one is food!
If you have read my food pages here, you will realize how quality of dog food differs greatly, brand to brand, recipe to recipe. I get asked all the time if I can recommend a particular brand of food but there are hundreds of good foods out there, formulas and brands are changing all the time. It’s impossible for me to keep up. For awhile I did, going to dog food stores and checking out the various foods there. I soon realized it was an impossible task to keep up!
A Big mistake dog owners make is to buy according to price, buying a cheap bag to save money thinking that the statement ‘veterinarian approved’ means the dog food is a good one (not!). Or at the other extreme, buying an expensive dog food thinking the same…. I can tell you that many expensive dogfoods are total garbage! When you see the ingredients like pork fat and cellulose in the ingredients, it’s worse than garbage. Those are two key ingredients in a very expensive dental dog food sold in vet offices and some pet stores.
You do not need a * calorie reduced or senior dog formula
a great dog food fed twice a day in the right amounts, will keep your older dog in great shape for all of his or her years. You might have to change dog foods every now and then, in fact I recommend it. Why? No dog food is perfect and over time, your dog may develop a nutritional deficiency from eating the same formula for too many years in a row. Imagine yourself eating Granola cereal with an egg for protein, twice per day, every day, for years….. makes you gag doesn’t it? Dogs get tired of the same food over and over and over. My dogs get very excited when I switch to another dog food, especially when their appetites have been waning before the dogfood switch. Experiment with a few types or formulas that your dogs do well on, and rotate them every 6 months at least.
Speaking of the same foods over and over, lately I have been seeing some dog food commercials from two different companies , the theme or gist of the commercial is that your dog can be on the same food for his or her whole life! Terrible idea!
*calorie reduced foods, they are full of grain and corn, another reason to avoid them. Many of the senior foods too, protein sources are reduced in favour of grain. Read the ingredients, very important!
For senior dogs, a healthy amount of Omega 3s for their joints and over all health is imperative, this can come from Flax oil as the best source. Krill Oil is also wonderful for aging joints, I use Krill oil capsules myself. Corn oil, Canola oil and other oil blends are high in Omega 6 and should not be used, as they INCREASE inflammation.
Some formulas are formulated for an aging dog and contain Glucosamine and or Chondroitin which are building blocks for the cartilage in joints. These can be very beneficial as well, provided they are from a high quality source. If your dog food does not have these ingredients included, you can buy supplements at your local Pet Supply store or from your Vet, or you can get a human grade source from your health or drug store too. I won’t go into the correct amounts here, I suggest you ask your Vet what the right amounts are for your dog.
#2 is Bedding for an aging dog
I have always given my dogs a comfortable bed, usually an old quilt folded over with another soft folded blanket on top of that. I have also used purchased beds with removable covers for washing. An older dog will sleep a lot more and in order to get quality sleep, he or she should be comfortable, right? Throw out that dog bed that has padded sides but has almost no padding on the bottom, I have seen many of that kind. I wonder why dog owners think their dogs are comfortable in those?
Memory foam is wonderful but hard to wash and dry if it’s thick. My choice for a crate would be the stuffed dog beds that are clearly labeled as washable, not just their covers. As your dog ages, he or she, will have more accidents, peeing in the bed on occasion, or vomiting too. My dogs loved their beds, but they had more than one each. They had to sleep in their crates at night with comfortable soft bedding inside but we also had a couple of dog beds in the living room where they could lounge with us.
I would advise as your dogs age
and might have trouble lifting their legs as high as they used to, is to pick a firmer mat or couch-like dog bed, avoid anything too high and fluffy. My Corgi X, had short legs and loved the low couch dog bed that we bought him. I believe they are called Bolster beds or sofas. For example, the following link shows you what I mean. Ours was a leather look a like type of Bolster sofa, easy to wipe clean
Those are the main creature comforts that I focused on with my old boys, as they aged, they had trouble with stairs too of course. We became worried about our long flight of stairs to our basement causing a broken neck, so we put up a baby gate there.
Our old dogs started having more bathroom accidents in their last 2 years or so, so be prepared to have cleaning supplies on hand. We have carpeting in our main hallways and our dogs just seemed to think that carpeting was the best place to pee or poo when they just couldn’t hold it… sigh. We eventually bought a small rug shampooer that was very handy to clean up those spots.
Give a dog the best food and a comfortable place to sleep, and chances are your dog will live a long and healthy life. Our last two house dogs never had ear infections, hot spots or other allergies, were virtually odour free (or at least I thought so). I used to dog groom professionally, and came across some very smelly dogs with constant skin problems and constant ear problems (fungal, mites or bacterial). The first thing I would suggest to their owners was to change their food!
As your dog ages, he or she might need a probiotic boost too, add a probiotic capsule to their food every now and then. If your dog is having more problems with digesting food, even while on a top quality food, add some digestive enzymes to every meal too. I often used Organika Full Spectrum, from our local health store, but there are others specially with dogs in mind too. Adding enzymes has the added benefit of preventing teeth decay so often associated with dogs being fed a commercial diet. Our Vet was always surprised to see in what good shape our dogs teeth always were.
What it comes down to is this
even though your top quality dog food, going by the guidelines that I have given you, costs more, you will save money in the long run with fewer, if any, vet bills for ear and skin problems. Our last two house dogs, aged 17, had very very few vet visits, Bobo broke a tooth once which abcessed and needed surgery. He had mammary cancer when he was younger and had surgery to remove the huge tumour but other than vaccinations, those were the only times he needed a Vet. Joey, had bronchitis once, caused by dust created through a home renovation project, and needed some meds the rare time to keep his airway open (congenital trachea collapse) and that was it for him.
Another time, I will tell you in more detail about how Bobo was healed of his cancer. He was on a good dog food before his cancer but not an excellant one. We corrected that and he was healed (with some prayer as well).
An older dog will still need regular grooming to keep him or her comfortable, especially their nails, but your groomer will have to take her time and hopefully use a sling to make it easier on your dog. I groomed my dogs myself, and used a full body sling while I trimmed their legs, feet, nails and head. To clip their bodies, I used another partial sling around their ‘waist’ area, moving it as needed.
Well, I hope this helps you on your own journey with your aging dog. Caring for the older dog was written with much love and has brought back so many fond memories of my belated dogs. Much Love to you and your old timer/s ♥ Any questions? Comment below 🙂
For the Page What is the Best Dog for Me, Part One