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Friday, September 17, 2010

How To Be A Better Senior Dog Parent

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 ( 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.


Deborah said...

This was awesome! Buffy has separation anxiety bad. She won't even go outside without me. Never mind the next room. This was interesting and I think I should put her on senior food, she is about 12 now and so is Ariel!
Have a good weekend!

♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥ said...

What a great seminar that must have been!!! Mom finds it hard to think of Phantom as a senior dog, but he will be 12 in November. Despite his lumps and poor eating habits, he is in pretty good shape. He can last for a longer walk than his two comrades, but Mom also recognizes that this breed is very stoic and rarely exhibit pain until it is really bad.

Having that baseline set of tests done is a really good thing too.

Thanks for another very interesting and informative post.

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

JacksDad said...

Oh my. I was just in Burbank. I was down on West Magnolia Blvd (and at the airport of course!)

Oskar said...

Excellent post! All pet parents will need this someday.

Nubbin' wiggles,

Lucy-Fur, as typed by Dr. Liz said...

Excellent! In fact, Mom has already said that when Abby mellows out (in, like, 20 years), she's going to adopt a senior miniature poodle - she's done the senior miniature poodle thing a lot, and apparently has a soft spot for them. (Truth be told, so do I - they are very wise!) But we've got to wait until Abby is a little less puppy-ish. But we are all in favor of adopting senior dogs (we are sponsoring the fostering of one right now)! Great post!

*kissey face*
-Fiona and Abby the Hippobottomus

Lorenza said...

That is very good information!
Thanks a lot for sharing it!
Kisses and hugs

Molly the Airedale said...

Mom says that I've always been a talkative girl but it has gotten worse in my senior years! Great info, Twink!
Seniors rule!

Love ya lots
Maggie and Mitch

Dexter said...

Yuh, sometimes senior doggies do start acting funny because they don't hear, see, or smell as well. And stuff hurts that didn't used to. It is important for the humans to understand. Thanks for that helpful post.


P.S. Momma says that I am a senior dog even though I am only five because mastiffs have short lives. Sigh.

Anipryl said...
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