Understanding Your Older Dog

Tips for the grey muzzle in your life


Social IssuesJuly 19, 2013 By: Keith Sanderson  Subscribe

Jennifer Kachnic president of Grey Muzzle Organization poses with her grey muzzle friend Louie  Credits:   The Grey Muzzle Organization


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It’s a fact of life. Over the passage of the years that cute little puppy turns into a grey muzzle, a senior canine. We should prepare ourselves for when that time comes so our faithful companion spends the last years of his/her life in comfort.  Jennifer Kachnic president of the Grey Muzzle Organization was kind enough to provide Chicago Animal Advocacy some tips in the care of senior dogs. Jennifer, is the author of the book Your Dog’s Golden Years – Manual for Senior Dog Care Including Natural Remedies and Complementary Options. The book can be purchased at Amazon.com for a price of $15.25.Jennifer is a regular contributor to a variety of dog blogs, The Denver Dog Examiner and pet magazines including Bark, Mile High Dog and Animal Wellness.

She will also be an upcoming guest on Max A Pooch’s Awesome Animal Advocates . The following is what spurred her invitation to appear on “Awesome Advocates.”

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Jennifer, you say, “Dogs are not a disposable commodity; rather, they depend on us to care for them through all stages of their lives.” I agree with you and can’t understand why someone would abandon a faithful companion in it’s twilight years. Can you tell us how you define a senior dog?

Kachnic: As a general rule, a dog’s lifespan depends upon their size: the larger the breed, the shorter the lifespan. Your dog is considered a “senior” when in the last 25% of their predicted life span for his or her breed or breeds. Here are some tips to help your dog enjoy the senior years to the fullest.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: What do you believe are the most important thing you can do for your senior dog.

Kachic: Dental care would be first as peridontal disease is the most prevalent in senior dogs. It decreases the dog’s quality of life and can shorten life span as it leads to other health problems throughout the dog’s body. Then, proper nutrition.

Kachnic: Probably the most important decision you can make with regard to daily care for your aging dog is nutrition. Pet food companies are listening to consumers and are providing healthier options for our dogs than ever before.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: There are so many different brands of dog food it can be confusing to select the best one. What should I look for.

Kachnic: It is important to read your dog’s food ingredient labels. The most important ingredients are the top five. Look for chicken, lamb, beef, salmon, buffalo, duck or other primary protein sources, fruit, and vegetables.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: What ingredients should I try to avoid?

Kachnic: Ingredients to avoid include by-products, bone meal, beef tallow, wheat or corn gluten meal, poultry meal, BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, artificial colorants, preservatives, soy, ground corn, and animal fat other than fish oil.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Should I buy senior food for my dog?

Kachnic: According to Dr. Susan Lauten of Pet Nutrition Consulting, it’s not necessary to feed a low fat or low calorie diet to your older dog (“senior food”)-as long as she is not gaining weight. “We don’t recommend switching to senior or low fat food unless the dog has a weight problem.” Dr. Lauten warns that obesity can cause arthritis and is a major problem for dogs that gets worse as they grow older.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: What about check-ups/ Is once a year enough?

Kachnic: As the guardian of an older dog, plan for twice-a-year veterinary visits. Regular veterinary health exams, including complete blood screening and urinalysis, are an essential factor in keeping your senior pet healthy. Dr. Fred Metzger, a leading veterinary authority on the care of senior pets, explains “Most diseases that we find early on in seniors can be diagnosed with blood or urine tests.”

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Are there any changes in routine that I should be aware regarding shots for my senior dog?

Kachnic: Vaccinations are historically part of routine veterinary visits. For older dogs, make a point to discuss this topic with your veterinarian. In recent years, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) have revised their recommendations for vaccinations to consider fewer vaccinations as a dog ages.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: What else should the owner of a senior dog be aware when it comes to dental care?

Kachnic: Dr. Metzger stresses that “older dogs and cats with neglected teeth are time bombs ticking.” Tartar build-up on neglected teeth leads to inflamed and infected gums, or gingivitis. The bacteria from gingivitis affect all body systems, especially the major organs of kidney, liver, and heart.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: My dog Max A Pooch is traumatized by veterinarians and has to undergo anesthesia at each visit. I worry about him being subject to anesthesia twice a year when he gets older.

Kachnic: Although you may have concerns about your senior dog undergoing anesthesia for a dental, newer veterinary anesthetics like propofol and sevoflurane make the procedure safe and recovery fast. A pre-anesthetic blood screening should always be done as a precaution.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Dogs seem pretty macho when it comes to pain. How can I tell if my senior dog may be having pain?

Kachnic: Dogs are domesticated, but have retained their instinct from their wilder days to hide weakness. Showing pain is showing weakness, so by the time your dog shows you any signs, they are probably in more significant pain than you realize.

Dogs communicate through body language. Besides the obvious, less overt signals that something might be wrong are loss of appetite, weight loss or gain, excessive licking, hiding, changes in appetite and/or sleep, shortness of breath, excessive panting unrelated to hot weather, rubbing a body part on furniture, slow to climb stairs, guarding a body part, unwillingness to play with other dogs, and fever. Any sudden change in your dog’s personality, such as uncharacteristic aggression, can mean they are in pain.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: What about exercise? Should I stop exercising my dog when he becomes a senior?

Kachnic:While he may not be able to handle a vigorous hike like he used to, he should still get regular exercise. Making the time for even a gentle walk around the block every day will prevent muscle atrophy, and the sights and especially the smells will keep an old dog’s mind stimulated and engaged in the world around him. As dogs age and lose muscle mass and youthful flexibility, an expanse of slick flooring is akin to an obstacle course. Strategically placed rubber-backed throw rugs or runners can make a big difference for your senior dog.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: What about nails and grooming?

Kachnic: Be sure to include a nail trim in your dog’s regular grooming routine, which should include a weekly brushing or “massage” to check for any lumps or masses.

Neatly trimmed nails, and trimming excess hair on the paws and between the toe pads, will give the foot and toe pads better contact with flooring.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Frequently older dogs have urination problems. What can be done to help them?

Kachnic: Another consideration with older dogs is the need for more frequent bathroom breaks. Aging dogs may sometimes leak urine while they sleep; this is especially common in older females, and can usually be remedied with a trip to the vet to rule out bladder infection, and a prescribed, inexpensive medication that helps with bladder control.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: What is the most important way to keep my senior canine healthy and happy?

Kachnic: The most important way to keep your dog healthy and happy …is also the easiest. It goes without saying: continue to love and care for your old dog, keeping him engaged in life, albeit at a slower pace, interacting with family members and the world around them, and cherish every fleeting moment in their too-short lives. Every senior dog deserves to live out their golden years, months, weeks or even days in a place of love, security and peace.

Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner: Jennifer, do you have any other suggestions or advice?

Kachnic: Visit our website Grey Muzzle Organization if you want to learn more about helping senior dogs, and if you wish to learn more about caring for your senior dog you may want to consider purchasing my book Your-Dogs-Golden-Years at Amazon.com.

Keith Sanderson also writes Celebrity Animal Advocacy Examiner, and created and hosts Max A Pooch’s Awesome Animal Advocates on Pet Life Radio. Awesome Advocates is unique in that each episode is dedicated to animal advocates and created for them, their supporters and animal lovers everywhere.  Max A Pooch is the famous recycled (rescue) dog who recycles and is living proof of the great companions rescue dogs make.

Keith Sanderson, Chicago Animal Advocacy Examiner A companion of Max A. Pooch, the dog named “Canine Superhero to the Environment,” Keith Sanderson writes about animal advocates and their advocacies. His background includes writing, corporate and not-for-profit marketing and advertising experience, including serving as director of communication…

The article was originally posted and shared by the Examiner.com