by Hindy Pearson
She is the love of my life and I wouild like to share with you how I care for my old dog Red.
I am in love with old dogs, and I would fill my house with them if I had the means. I’ve never had a puppy, and until two years ago never even had a dog younger than 8.
What can I say, rescuing dogs in their golden years makes my soul happy.
Okay, so what do I do to ensure Red is happy, healthy and comfortable? I adopted her when she was 8 (in shelter years so who knows) and she’s 15 and still going strong. That’s a good sign right?
Having a fantastic vet
I was going to say I’m very fussy about the vet I choose, but why is wanting the best for your pet “fussy?”
Many people I know see “whoever” and don’t think about continuity of care, bedside manner etc… I do. I want a vet who I can have a conversation with, doesn’t get snippy when I ask questions (I ask a lot!), is brilliant at what he does, makes me feel confident in his/her abilities, and doesn’t try and rip me off every chance he gets. Yes I have had many vets who would opt for the most elaborate and expensive treatments first.
Regular vet checks
I know Red very well, what’s normal for her, and what’s completely out of character. For example, she loves her food and if she turns her nose up at it, even one meal, she’s at the vet’s office. Other dogs you can usually afford to wait and see if he eats the next one, but I don’t. It happened recently, and yes she had a bit of an issue that has now passed.
Typically every 6 months is recommended for senior dogs, but Red goes more often. It’s a lot easier to treat a problem that has been caught early.
Red loves her walks but because shorter wanderings are better for her, I take her for 4 walks a day. That doesn’t include the pee breaks in between.
It keeps her active, she gets fresh air and sunshine. If we go for longer outings, I put her in the stroller so she can join us, let her walk for a bit, then back in the stroller. We don’t have to leave her at home, and she gets to experience new environments.
Mental stimulation is very important, as it is for all pets, so I put some food in a Kong for her, which she loves. I also use an interactive toy for a change. When I adopted her she had no idea how to play, and has never interested in toys, so this is the closest she comes.
Red has been on a kidney diet for quite some time, and it has been so effective, her kidneys are now fine. My vet has recommended she remains on that food, because it has been such a help.
I know there’s the debate about high protein and low protein, when it comes to kidney disease. My vet is in the low protein camp, and because of that what I can feed her is so limited.
Honestly, I would love to try and follow the high protein camp’s recommendations, but at this stage of the game I’m not prepared to take the chance. Why mess with what’s working?
I give Red fish oil, a product called Nutri Calm, because she has some dementia and a liver support.
I am interested in holistic treatments and natural supplements, but there is no holistic vet anywhere near me. My vet is great about discussing options, and we have been able to eliminate/reduce/replace.
I wish I could say she’s only on natural products but, like I mentioned above, I don’t have that option. I’m not complaining, because the medications she’s on are helping her tremendously. Basically they’re for her heart and dementia. She’s also currently on a 30 day course of antibiotics, because she has an infection that was determined to be a bit of a resistant devil.
Sleeping arrangements and beds
Red takes her comforts seriously, and is particular about her bed. She’s had various styles over the years, but now her favourite is a no longer used comforter of mine. It’s super cushiony, and flexible enough for her to fold as she likes it.
I keep one in the living room and one in the bedroom – the two places she likes to sleep.
I always keep a flannel or plush blanket of some kind on every bed, for added softness and warmth. If she’s ever feeling chilly, she’ll burrow under the blanket and wrap herself in it like a cocoon.
A pet peeve of mine is a dog in a dress, a pair of shorts, or any item of clothing that isn’t functional. Sorry that’s the truth. A dog is a dog, not a doll, and is not for carrying around in a purse like an accessory, or dressed up like a baby. Okay, rant over.
For a good part of the year, Red wears a sweater indoors and out. She’s from Florida, but we live in England and she feels the cold here (as I do!). The sweater makes a huge difference, and in the winter I’ll put a coat on top of that when we go outside.
Hey, I bundle up why shouldn’t she?
Even though the central heating is on in the cold months, I will leave an electric heater on low, wherever Red is sleeping.
Bathroom breaks and accidents
With age or I should say “issues” and even medications, comes the need for more frequent pee breaks. If I had bought stock in a pee pad manufacturer, I’d be a rich lady right now. Seriously, after the pet stroller the next greatest invention is the pee pad. I leave them on the floor, and it saves my carpet. A good enzymatic cleaner is always on hand…just in case!
I’m thinking this sounds bad
I know there’s been talk of health issues, medications and pee pads, but don’t think that life with a senior dog is only, or even has to be, that.
I do my best to encourage adoption of senior pets, and I’ll use this platform to encourage you to open your home.
Are they more likely to have issues than a younger dog? Yes, but it doesn’t mean they will. We have a 4ish year old dog that became paralysed, suddenly, 2 months ago. He had spinal surgery and is recovering (I can’t say the same for our bank balance), so the young have problems too!
Red does have medical conditions, but that isn’t what she is. She is a dog that was mistreated, allowed to become obese, and suffer the pain of glaucoma. She was then dumped in an animal control facility to be killed. Who can possibly deserve that?
I met her when I lived in Florida, at a shelter I used to volunteer at. She brought me joy whenever I went, and although she was blind, she would jump around and get so excited when she heard my voice. Because I had just moved and was staying with family who had a houseful of pets, I wasn’t able to adopt her right away. I visited her all the time, and made sure she was not allowed to be adopted by anyone else.
She has brought me more joy than I can possibly convey. She is my constant companion, and I love her more than words can adequately express. Yes I’m crying as I write this.
If you’re wondering… I did bring home several more “oldies” from there. What can I say – they’re impossible for me to resist.
I leave you with this thought
When you’re looking for your next companion remember…anyone can buy a puppy, but it takes a special soul to rescue an old dog.
Please share your thoughts on caring for a senior dog in the comments below.
This post was written by author Hindy Pearson. She is a long time shelter volunteer, dog trainer, and runs the Saffy Pearson Resource Centre. A mobile centre offering free advice for people who share their lives with cats and dogs. She has a website called Caring For a Senior Dog and thinks the pet stroller is the greatest invention.