Mary Ann, Ken, and Elmo
When Mary Ann Minick quips, “my life has gone to the dogs”, she’s only half joking. Mary Ann is the proud “mom” of eight four-legged, furry kids, most of whom are over the age of seven. As caregivers for these senior canines, MaryAnn and her husband Jim have learned a great deal about animal health and welfare. Their love of these animals led to the establishment of the All Pets Wellness Foundation, an organization designed to subsidize life-saving treatments for animals who would otherwise be put down or surrendered due to their owner’s lack of financial resources.
Surfpet is pleased to welcome Mary Ann as a guest blogger and we are looking forward to her contributions to keep us informed on issues and news related to senior pets.
November has been designated as National Senior Pet Month, but in my home we celebrate every day. As guardian to 13 senior dogs over the past nine years, I have come to understand what living with senior dogs is all about.
I’ve heard the misnomers and found they are, generally, not true. You’ve probably heard many but here are just a few things to consider when thinking about bringing a senior pet into your home. Though my direct experience has been with dogs, my friends say the same holds true for cats.
Feed a high quality diet. Good food is easier to digest and allows for optimal absorption of nutrients. This is especially important for older dogs who generally need fewer calories and, therefore, less volume. The higher quality of the food allows you to feed less while still maintaining the necessary nutrients.
Be careful not to over feed your senior dog. Older dogs will not be as active as they once were and will need fewer calories. As with younger animals, extra weight can cause all kinds of health issues. Age can exacerbate those issues.
Stay active. Older dogs may not be as active as they once were, but they still need their exercise. They will take shorter walks than their younger counterparts, but it is important to keep them moving as much as possible. Movement maintains muscle mass and muscle helps to stabilize joints. Combined with a good diet, exercise can help to reduce the effects of the onset of arthritis.
Consider aqua therapy. Many veterinarians are now including this mode of rehabilitation therapy as part of their practices. Swimming your older dog or having them walk on a hydrotreadmill keeps him/her active while reducing the stress and impact on their joints.
Keep your dog’s mind alert. As important as keeping his/her body active, all dogs, including seniors need to be mentally active. There are many new puzzle-type toys designed to challenge our dogs mentally. This can be as tiring to them as running after a ball. Nina Ottosson produces a line of these thinking games which can keep your pet busy for hours at a time.
Give your older dog high quality Omega-3 Pharmaceutical Grade (aka Ultra refined) Fish Oil. Studies have shown that Omega 3s help to reduce inflammation present in arthritis and have myriad other benefits for other systems in the body including the heart and brain. It has also been found to be beneficial for dogs with cancer.
Supplement with a good quality glucosamine, chondroitin & MSM product. In addition to Omega 3s, this helps to cushion the joints affected by arthritis.
Older dogs can live good quality lives into their golden years. Be sure to have a senior bloodpanel and checkup done at least once each year. Some of the so-called “signs of aging” can often be easily treatable issues. So if your older dog or cat begins to urinate inappropriately, it could be the sign of a urinary tract infection and not kidney diseases, as is often assumed.
Most of all, senior pets are wonderful companions, especially for someone who is older or less mobile. The love and understanding you feel from these amazing creatures is immeasurable.
Until next time,