Category Archives: senior pets

Adventures in Aging: Living with a Senior Dog

“Bear”

By Suzanne Alicie

The past year has opened my eyes to the joys (?) of living with an aging/elderly dog. Bear is almost 11, and she is showing her age.

As a fairly large dog, she is experiencing some arthritis and hip dysplasia symptoms. We’ve had to get her a thick comfy therapeutic bed, which she loves. The hard part is convincing her that she is too old and stiff to still go under our bed. It’s always been her favorite place. When she gets under there, I find myself having to pick up the bed enough for her to stand up and limp out.

When her hip locks up on her, I sit in the floor and massage her leg while she whimpers. This is a very emotional thing for me, because I can’t stand when she cries. Fortunately this is not a daily thing, and if I can keep her from going under the bed or jumping around and acting like a much younger dog, then she doesn’t hurt too much. So far we’ve been pretty lucky that Bear hasn’t developed more health problems like the ones Ruthie Bently discussed in Common Health Issues for Older Dogs.

With her old age, Bear has begun to be quite moody. If you’ve read some of my other posts about Bear you know that she is not a very social dog. She loves her family and is tolerant of our guests, but lately she makes it clear that she doesn’t like people visiting. When someone comes to the door she has always barked until we let them in. Once she saw us let them in and she was able to sniff them she’d be quiet and go lay down somewhere. These days when anyone comes over she barks and barks. They go into another room and she quiets down until she hears one of them laugh or talk and she barks some more. It’s almost like she forgets someone is here until she hears their voice, then she has to warn them that it’s her house.

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How to Massage an Arthritic Dog

By Langley Cornwell

My friend Karen recently adopted a senior dog with general arthritis and hip dysplasia. Good for her, right? It started with a conversation we were having about the high number of senior dogs in shelters, and how sad it was for an older dog to live out his or her days behind bars. In our local shelter, senior dogs make up about 10% of the overall population at any given time. When trying to understand why, a shelter worker told us that oftentimes families surrender their senior dogs when they reach an age where they require extra care. What a shame.

Karen’s goal is to provide her new dog, Goldie Girl, with a safe and comfortable home during her twilight years. Their union is heartwarming; it’s amazing how quickly Goldie Girl and Karen have bonded. And the dog seems to have turned back the clock several years. She holds her head a bit higher and her limp is less pronounced. Karen attributes the quick bonding and Goldie Girl’s improved physical state to massage.

The article I wrote titled The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Pets helped convince Karen that her new dog would get a lot out of regular massages, but she didn’t want to cause Goldie Girl any additional pain. Having no experience with massage, Karen went looking for advice on how to massage an older, arthritic dog. She found what she was looking for on The Dog Channel, where there is a helpful tutorial on massaging a senior dog. Here are some simple pointers.

Why massage an arthritic dog?

Arthritis is a degenerative disease that causes pain and soreness in a dog’s joints, specifically the hips, lower spine and knees, and, less severely, to the elbows and shoulders. Massaging your senior dog’s aching muscles a few minutes every day will help slow down the degenerative process of arthritis. Furthermore, massage can help relieve some of your dog’s arthritis pain and reduce some of the muscle tension associated with the disease.

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Caring for a Senior Pet

By Langley Cornwell

Everyone who shares their life with a dog or a cat wishes their pet would live longer. Even so, with advances in veterinary medicine companion animals are living longer than ever before. This increased lifespan is a wonderful thing, but because pets are living longer they can become afflicted with certain ailments that younger pets are not susceptible to. It’s the same thing we humans face; as we age, our bodies and minds change. Advancing into our golden years will mean a different type of medical attention for most of us. Your pet will need a different type of medical attention as well.

For your pets, aging may bring on osteoarthritis, mobility changes, weight gain, heart, kidney, and liver disease, benign or cancerous tumors, hormonal conditions such as thyroid imbalance and diabetes, and other things. Because of these possibilities, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends that you prepare to modify some of the activities you currently enjoy doing with your pets. As your senior  pet starts to slow down, you have to adapt. Also, it will be necessary to work with your veterinarian to stay on top of your pet’s changing conditions and adjust their lifestyle to accommodate the aging process.

When does ‘old age’ start?

For dogs, small breeds usually live longer than large breeds, and cats generally live longer than dogs. Some dogs are considered middle to senior aged when they reach around 7 years of age. And some cats are considered middle to senior aged when they reach about 10 years of age. It really varies with each individual animal.

How will I know my pet is approaching ‘senior’ status, and what should I do about it?

Physical changes: As your pet’s body ages, physical changes will naturally occur. Some of the changes are easy enough to deal with, but a common problem that’s difficult to manage is inappropriate urinating. With both cats and dogs, the kidneys are one of the most common organs to lose function. As well trained as your pet may be, they may not be able to control where or when they eliminate as they get older. Do not scold your pet, but take notice and call your vet immediately. Incontinence or excessive urination can indicate diabetes and/or kidney failure, and both of these conditions are treatable with early detection.

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Training an Older Dog

By Langley Cornwell

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks! You can also teach them new behaviors. While the approach is different than training a puppy, an adult dog is entirely capable of learning.

If you’re wondering why you would need to train an adult dog, consider these scenarios:

• You’ve recently adopted an older dog from an animal shelter or rescue facility and – while sweet – the dog doesn’t know basic commands.

• You want to teach your longtime companion new activities to keep him active; activities like agility, hunting, or obedience trials.

• Your dog has developed a few bad habits or is getting petulant and snippy.

• You recently retired and plan to start traveling with your dog.

There is a solution to all of these situations as long as you stay patient and approach the task knowledgeably.

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Tips to Help a Senior Pet Stay Active

By Linda Cole

I have several dogs that are getting along in years. They move slower and are more content to sleep away the hours, but a lack of exercise and stimulation isn’t a healthy way for them to spend their senior years. Older pets can develop arthritis and other joint related problems that may keep them from enjoying activities, but it’s still important to keep them as active as possible. If you have a senior pet, here are some tips to help them stay active.

By the time a pet turns a year old, they are already a teenager in human years. The senior years for small dogs 20 pounds or less begin at the age of 7 to 9, and larger dogs are considered seniors at 6 to 7 years. Cats are actually living longer because of advances in veterinary medicine. An indoor cat can easily live up to 18 years or longer and are considered senior at around 9 years. Outdoor cats have shorter life spans, around 4 to 5 years.

How to Keep Senior Dogs Active

As dogs age, they may not be able to keep up a rigorous exercise schedule. That doesn’t mean you have to stop running, biking, hiking or any other activity you enjoy doing with your dog, but it does mean you may need to slow things down for your senior dog’s sake. Swimming and slower walks for senior dogs, especially one with arthritis, keep their muscles strong. Exercise helps keep joints limber, keeps their bowels functioning normally, digestive system working and helps your dog maintain a healthy body weight.

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Five Good Reasons to Adopt a Senior Pet

By Julia Williams

I think it’s great that the ASPCA and Petfinder.com celebrate November as Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month. So many older animals languish in shelters because potential adopters are typically more interested in a younger pet. I completely understand the allure of those cute kittens and puppies, but I still feel sad for all those older dogs and cats that would make wonderful family pets if given the chance.

Many people erroneously assume that the adult dogs and cats in shelters are there because of problem behavior or some other fault. The truth is, the majority of adult pets in shelters are not “bad” – they were given up by people who can’t care for them anymore or simply don’t want to, for various reasons. Unfortunately, if they are already “senior” age, their chances of being adopted are slim. What you may not realize, however, is that older pets can be a better choice than puppies and kittens, for many reasons.

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