I recently attended a gratifying seminar called "How To Be A Better Pet Parent" at a local library. There were many fabulous speakers, including the VP of the volunteers of the Burbank Animal Shelter (VBAS) who addressed the issue of "the joys of adopting a senior pet". One of the speakers that stood out, was Obedience Trainer Cyndy Wood (sitstaygooddawg.com) who got on stage with a beautiful brown spotted girl, her dalmatian Olivia. Olivia had a huge smile on her face and seemed happy to be in the center of everyone's attention. The audience gasped when Cyndy announced that Olivia was fourteen years old. She looked and acted so much younger!
Cyndy proceeded to share her input and advice for senior dog owners. She started out discussing the importance of food quality for an aging canine. I found her method for picking out dog food rather significant because it is so simple and comprehensible. She recommends checking out the first five ingredients in the dog food. Would you, the parent/owner eat it? If yes, it's suitable for your dog.
Whether it is part of the dog food formula or an additional food supplement, aging dogs benefit from chondroitin and glucosamine for dogs in the form of supplements. Supplements can cause a significant and visible inprovement in dog arthritis.
Cyndy Wood also recommends that as soon as your dog is considered a senior to go in for a wellness exam and to do a blood test as a baseline.
Another important point about senior dogs was exercise. I cannot stress this enough. Exercise helps in keeping your senior pet mentally alert, get rid of sluggishness . . . it helps his heart, lugns, circulaton, digestion, joints, and even fights obesity. Of course, the exercise regime has to be adopted to your dog's specific needs. The play sessions need to be shorter, fetching must be done in shorter distances, and above all watch your dog carefuly. At any signs of discomfort just stop. And if your dog coughs or shows any other sign of distress, call your vet. One of the best exercises for a senior dog is swimming, but keep in mind that they have become more sensitive to temperatures, so keep a towel close by.
For less mobile dogs, or for when the weather is bad, Cyndy offered a fun suggestion: Hide and seek. Put your dog in a sit/stay position and hide. Release by using a command like "okay" and let your dog find you. A fun and not demanding activity that helps provide moderate exercise and nurtures bonding.
Senior dogs can present a few potential problems, such as:
1. Separation Anxiety
2. Vocalize more
3. Uncharacteristic Aggression
4. Startle due to hearing loss (stomp feet when approaching, ideally from the front)
5. Change in personality (often due to reaction to drugs)
6. Dog Dementia (as of last year the FDA has officially approved Anipryl tablets to control the clinical signs associated with canine cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome--CDS)
As a dog trainer, Cyndy Wood placed a lot of emphasis on training your senior dog. Since the seminar was partially geared to the ADOPTION OF SENIOR DOGS and pets in general, she focused on that.
Dog training equals bonding and getting on the same page. You can teach an old dog new tricks, better yet, many senior dogs are already trained, therefore their training also doubles as a refresher course.
While owning a senior dog means a close relationship with your vet, truth be told, there are plenty of tools, medications, and supplements readily available to allow you to work around your dog's health issues. And what could be more gratifying than saving a dog's life that most people would pass on?
The rest of the seminar focused on dog allergies (causes and treaments), back to school solutions, snake bites, dog and valuable dog flea medication and treatment information. I will be sharing those in future posts.
Senior pets rule. Please consider the above information when you're ready for your next pet adoption.
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