5 Ways to Care for an Aging Dog

When I carried Jake out of an Amish puppy mill when he was 8 weeks old, I never dreamed there would come a day when I would be faced with having to care for an aging dog.  Sadly, this day comes for all of our babies.

When the Foo turned 7, I started noticing small things.  At the time, we were living in NYC, which he HATED, and we had gone for our nightly (short!) walk. On our return, we were about 10-15 feet away from the apartment building’s main door when Jake decided to take a sharp right turn smack into the brick facade.  He had a small cut on his forehead and was bleeding a bit.

This was the very first time I realized my boy was slowly creeping into his senior years.  His eyes were getting a little fuzzy.  Off to the vet we went and, intermittently, he was on eye drops for the remainder of his life.  Luckily, his vision never got worse and he had few instances like this over the next 5 years.

But where I did notice the most change in his overall health was his strength, especially after he had gotten sick with Pemphigus Foliaceous.  He had lost 25 pounds and his back legs had virtually zero muscle mass.  So in true Foo fashion, he was carried when he needed to be or pushed around in his rolling man cave (a.k.a. stroller).  But he hated losing his independence.  He could still walk and go out and do his patrols.  He just needed some assistance getting onto the bed, couch, in and out of the car, and couldn’t walk longer than a few minutes.

I had taken him to his vet where they confirmed that his muscle mass had deteriorated in his hind legs and arthritis was starting to form in his hind leg joints. And it all took were a simple modifications to his daily routine to help him and to try and prevent further damage to already weak legs.

Diet Change

Diet is key. They aren’t kidding when they say you are what you eat!

I started cooking for Jake, making him salmon, cod or lamb cooked in coconut oil, mixed with brown or cauliflower rice, and added mixed vegetables and fruits, depending on what was in season.  This way I knew exactly what he was being fed and I could add supplements that were necessary for his situation, rather than just use what was mass produced by the dog food makers.

I added all natural glucosamine and chondroitin to help support his bones and joints.  I added other things, but they were specific to his autoimmune disease, so I won’t discuss those here.Glucosamine and chondroitin are essential nutrients that promote healthy bones and joints. If your dog is missing these from his diet, he may experience greater than average joint pain.

Jake ate this way for the remainder of his life, even when we dined out, because of course the Foo accompanied me to dinner at times when I knew I was going to a dog friendly restaurant.  This photo was taken when his Auntie Cherie was visiting from Washington and we had an early Thanksgiving dinner with her.

Don’t have time to cook or it’s not your thing?  Then look for companies who make human grade food and deliver it right to your door.  Two companies who we really like are Wet Nose Pantry, based here in South Florida and will deliver locally or ship if you’re not local.  The cost is $18 for 2 pounds of super nutritious food.  Another popular dog food delivery service is Ollie; they average about $4.25 per meal.  When you do the math, if you’re feeding a high quality pet food already, the cost is about the same or a bit more when using these types of services.

But if it’s too expensive, then switch your aging dog’s diet to a kibble or canned formula that includes these two ingredients, you will help relieve your dog’s pain and strengthen his joints.  Large breed dogs, and dogs prone to hip and elbow dysplasia should eat kibble with glucosamine and chondroitin, regardless of their age or medical history.

 

Natural Supplements

Cooking for your dog may not be your thing.  Or may not be very practical given your work situation.  Or maybe you just don’t want to change your dog’s diet because they have allergies or sensitive stomachs.  No worries.  Keep them on what you are currently feeding and simply add all natural supplements to their diet.

 

You can purchase natural glucosamine and chondroitin supplements almost anywhere today.  You can add drops, tablets, powder, or get Fido some good old chewable supplements.  Just be sure to consult your vet first for dosage instructions.

 

Consider a Stroller (a.k.a. Rolling Man Cave)

 

I purchased a stroller for Jake when we were living in NYC, long before he had any health or joint issues.  I thought it would be an easy way to get him around.  If you’re familiar with English Bulldogs, you will surely know a few who despise walking.  And you guessed it.  The Foo was that dog.  He would walk until he decided he didn’t want to.  There was no coaxing him.  No special cookie or treat that would get him to move.  He would literally lay down in the middle of the street if that’s where he decided to stop.  And so I would bend down, scoop up all 72 pounds of him, and carry him home!

This was just a few months before Jake was diagnosed with Pemphigus.  He had come with me to the local UPS store where he decided, smack in the middle of the store, that he was done walking.


The Foo was NOT a fan of the stroller when I first got it.  He’d escape if you kept the sunroof or the front part opened, so he had to be zipped in.  But as he got older, and was no longer able to walk very well for longer periods, he came to appreciate the stroller and loved being pushed around in it like the king he was.So you can imagine this was no small feat! 

Cue the stroller.

I get asked all the time about his stroller.  The Foo Mobile is by Pet Gear, and it is the Roadster model, which can hold up to 100 pounds.  I purchased this one on Amazon for about $170.  My only regret is that I didn’t get the one with 4 wheels.  The balance on this one made it extremely difficult to push if Jake wasn’t smack dab in the center and, on a few occasions, it tipped over!  So from an ease of use and balance perspective, I’d recommend going with the 4-wheel version. Now the 4-wheel version is for a larger breed dog, the Expedition can hold up to 150 pounds, which is why I didn’t choose it; Jake was half of that. But due to the poor weight distribution in the Roadster model, I would definitely recommend paying the extra money and getting the Expedition.

 

Cold Laser Therapy

 

Prior to Jake getting lame in his hind legs, I was unaware of Cold Laser Therapy and it’s benefits.  But let me say it is AWESOMESAUCE times a billion!

Cold laser therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses light to stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation. Cold laser therapy treats the surface of the skin.  Dogs will benefit from reduced inflammation and pain and show an increased range of motion and show increased mobility earlier in the recovery process.

What is Cold Laser Therapy typically used for?

    • Ligament or tendon injuries
    • Joint injuries
    • Fractures
    • Muscle sprains or strains
    • Skin lesions or abrasions
    • Post-trauma wounds
    • Post-surgical incisions
    • Arthritis
    • Musculoskeletal diseases
    • Nerve injury

    Jake started going for treatments 3 times a week to start (for about a month).  Then we went 2 times a week for another month, and then just on an as needed basis to help ease his muscles and joints. He could barely stand up prior to the treatments, and he did regain some strength and mobility in his hind legs.  In full disclosure, Jake also did water therapy where he was in a tank with water up to his belly and placed on a treadmill.  I’ll leave this story another post, because if you knew the Foo, he hated water.  Suffice it say, he threw HUGE stink eye my way when he was in that tank!

    For more information on Cold Laser, check out this article.

    Massage Therapy

    And it feels SO good!  Just like we benefit from having massages, so can dogs.  It helps to relax joints, ease tension in the muscles and ligaments, and can help relieve stiffness, soreness, and chronic pain.   Massage therapy for dogs not only exists, but an incredible healing tool that is gaining popularity.  Canine massage therapy is growing more popular, and for good reason. Much like humans, massage therapy helps relax joints and muscles, relieving stiffness, soreness, tension, and even chronic pain.

    Finding a canine massage therapist for your dog could make a huge difference in his or her life. After massage therapy, your pup will feel like an entirely different dog!

    For more information or to find a board certified therapist for Fido, check out National Board of Certification for Animal Accupressure & Massage (NBCAAM).

    And some additional ways to care for an aging dog including using foam bedding, not letting them jump, getting them stairs to get on and off furniture, and making sure they get the proper amount of exercise if they are able.  These things all helped the Foo and I am certain it made a huge difference in his life.

    Let us know if you have tried any of these methods or tell us about something you’ve been doing for your aging dog.

    Woof!

     

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