I promised a series on dog aging and care to explain that Izzy’s care started long before we introduced her pram (stroller). Welcome to Part 1
For this series, I’ll be drawing on my experience as a dog parent with an aging dog as well as my 10+ years of professional experience in canine massage and rehabilitation.
Whenever I am asked about how I chose my profession, I explain that I had a muse. Her name was Daisy. An English Pointer who was neglected by her first family, Daisy entered my life at the age of 4 and left it at the age of 14 years and 3 weeks.
Daisy, a sweet-natured and intelligent English Pointer, had many health problems over the course of her life. But we managed to get her to the age of 14+ which for a large-breed dog is a good life.
Izzy is my current canine companion. As I write this column in January 2020, she will be turning 11 in a few weeks. As an ex-racing greyhound, you can expect that Izzy’s body has seen some wear and tear and I will cover that in future posts.
For this introduction, let’s talk about time and age. My mother, who passed away last year, used to say that, “no one I know is getting any younger.” The same is true of our dogs. Aging is a fact of life. It’s not a disease, it’s a life condition.
Most dog parents understand that their dogs don’t live as long as we do. And you’ve probably seen charts like these before – but let’s review how a dog ages. Smaller dogs tend to live longer, giant breed dogs have the shortest life expectancy.
I’ve included two charts because some of my readers go by weight in pounds, and others like my local clientele in New Zealand use kilograms. Both charts have been derived by the work of Dr. Fred L. Metzger of Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, PA.
So I expect most of you have gone to find your dog’s human age on the chart. That’s good; it’s how I start a conversation with one of my clients about their dog’s life status.
A more powerful use of these charts, however, is to consider time. Because we age in our time, we tend to lose track of time in terms of our dog’s health.
|Let’s say that we have a large breed dog who is 11 years old and he’s recently been to the vet for medication for the first time and the family has asked me to work with him because he’s reluctant to walk and doesn’t want to get into the car.
When we chat, the family tells me he has probably been slowing down for ‘about a year.’ Today he is the equivalent of a 72 year-old man. But his symptoms started when he was 10 and the human age of approximately 66. So his family, although they clearly love him, waited 6 years to get professional help.
If your child was limping, would you wait 6 years to take them to the doctor? (I hope most of you say no.)
What I’d like each of you to do now is record your dog’s birthday and human year equivalent on your phone, wall calendar or diary – whatever you use. If your dog was adopted and you don’t know their exact birth date, you can use their Gotcha Day instead. Now, check out the chart and see how many human years will go by before their next birthday.
In the example above, it’s 6 years.
12 months/6 = 2 months
So if you were my client, I may ask you to enter a reminder message every two months in your diary and I’d give you a simple checklist of questions to review. Just one tool that I use with some clients to help them understand their dog’s aging process and need to remain vigilant for signs of change.
Got questions about this post? Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand