Tag Archives: senior dogs

In odd circumstances…

Yesterday, I pulled into the service station to fill the tank.  I also asked for help because I was filling a gas canister for the first time and didn’t want the nasty stuff splashing all over me.

I have advertising on my car.  In fact, it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made.  Because of the advertising, I find myself in some odd circumstances explaining what I do.

IMG_0711

The Balanced Dog’s car

This time, it was the station attendant.  “I suppose they do that a lot in America,” he said as an opening statement.

I then replied with something of a stock-standard explanation, “for the same reasons people get massage, dogs benefit, too.  I work on dogs of all ages – those who have arthritis, some are recovering from surgery and injuries and I even help with dogs that are suffering from anxiety and stress.  Some of my clients are only young puppies to help them become calmer and used to handling.”

“Oh, I met a dog at my in-law’s holiday home who is afraid of men.  I only had to say something and the dog ran away.”

Me:  “That’s definitely a stress response.  I use massage combined with behavioral training techniques to work with dogs who have stress problems.  Last week, I started work with a puppy who gets so stressed at the thought of going in the car that she vomits.”

“Wow”

Wow indeed.

I consider every conversation an opportunity to educate people about the wellness impacts and multiple benefits of dog massage.  It isn’t just about ‘rehabbing’ from injuries – it’s a lot more!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Senior Dogs Across America

As a canine massage therapist, I see my fair share of senior dogs. There is something both elegant and heartwarming to see a dog reach its senior years, knowing that they will not be with us for much longer.

Now, a special book of photography pays homage to the senior dog.

Senior Dogs Across America features the photography of Nancy LeVine.  LeVine travelled widely in the United States in her quest for the best senior dog photos; 86 are featured in this book.

Below are a few:

Senior Dogs Across America

murphy-10-years-old-milford-ct

Murphy, 10 years old, from Milford, Connecticut (photo credit to Nancy LeVine)

cecilia-12-years-old-baltimore

Cecilia, 12 years old, from Baltimore, Maryland (photo credit to Nancy LeVine)

I haven’t seen the book in its entirety yet – but it’s on my wish list.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

Eyesight in the older dog

The eyesight in our dogs changes with age.

English Pointer with Puplight

Researchers based at the Nestlé Purina Research Center in Missouri have discovered that our dogs become more near-sighted as they age.  Their results were published in the journal PLoS One.

This investigation used an instrument called an autorefractor to measure the dogs’ eyesight in indirect and direct lighting conditions. The study involved nine Beagles ranging in age from 1 to 14 years.   Before entering the study, the dogs were examined to confirm that none of them had cataracts.

Measurements were taken on three different days of the week for a period of six weeks.

The researchers found a remarkable difference between the younger and older dogs.  The older dogs had a much-reduced ability to see at longer distances (far-sightedness) compared to the younger dogs.  Younger dogs were also able to make larger accommodation changes from indirect light to direct light conditions, indicating a more flexible lens.

Humans are the opposite in terms of length of sight.  As we age it can become more difficult to read and see things at shorter distances whereas our ability to see at distances is often not affected (although some older people do have difficulties adjusting to night and low-light conditions, just as the dogs in this study did).

So if your dog is getting older and you notice that they can’t pick up on your body language and signals, there’s a physical reason for it.

Through my own experience working with older dogs, I recommend using a light that helps your senior dog adjust to low-lighting conditions.  See my post on the PupLight, for example.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

It’s just old age…

It happened again yesterday.

Someone asked me what I do for a living and I described my dog massage practice and how many of my clients are older dogs with varying degrees of arthritis and other orthopedic problems.

And then he said it.  “My friend has an old dog, he’s almost 10, and we’re pretty sure he’s got arthritis.  But then again, it’s just old age.

I tried to explain that there are many things we can do for dogs with arthritis which keeps them pain free and happy.  And because their pain is managed, they live longer.

Old Dog Buster

Buster, an older dog of 10+ is enjoying a new lease of life thanks to a combination of pain medication, massage, laser and weight loss

The message still wasn’t getting through…and then he described his friend’s dog:

  • he’s getting more aggressive; he even bit my friend one night when he went to feed him
  • he doesn’t run around much any more
  • he doesn’t come to greet me when I visit; he used to

I did my best to say that his friend needed to get his dog to a vet for an examination and that I would be too happy to see him for an assessment.  Behavior changes often occur when a dog is in pain.  And, just because the dog is older doesn’t mean the issue is arthritis.  We would need a working diagnosis from a qualified veterinarian.

He took my card; I hope his friend calls.  I can’t stand the thought of another dog who is in pain and doesn’t have to be.

It’s not about old age; it’s about the right care.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Enrichment for the special needs dog

In my massage practice, I see quite a few special needs dogs.  These can be senior dogs who are slowing down for a variety of reasons, dogs who have been injured, and dogs who are terminally ill.  Some also have behavioral difficulties which exacerbate any physical limitations they may have.

One of the things I address with my clients is enrichment.

The dog may be physically limited in its abilities but is not impaired cognitively.  Like older people who have entered rest homes/nursing homes, or who are being cared for at home, these dogs need stimulation and variety.

Visitors, including other dogs, is just one example of an enrichment activity.

Another issue for owners in this situation is introducing variety by getting their dog out of the house.  If a dog enjoys car rides, for example, they may be happy just to take a drive to a new location with the windows down to experience new scenery and smells.

Kenny, a 13+ year old Bull Terrier/Blue Heeler cross, was taken to the beach recently - his smile says it all!

Kenny, a 13+ year old Bull Terrier/Blue Heeler cross, was taken to the beach recently.  He needed to be carried from the car to the beach but his smile says it all!

I know some owners who take their dogs for a take-out meal so they can sit in the car and enjoy it together – with snacks included.

Once owners have tried enrichment activities with their dog, they have universally reported to me an improvement in the dog’s disposition and general engagement.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Fairy dog mother?

I have found that most ‘dog people’ I meet support various charities that show their love of dogs. I am no exception. Today, however, I stumbled across a special charity that would allow me to become a Fairy Dog Mother.

They are Fairy DogParents, a non-profit in the state of Massachusetts.  The founder’s dog, Ladybug, was the inspiration behind the initiative.  Ladybug was already a senior dog when she was adopted from a shelter and her adoptive family considered themselves lucky that they could afford Ladybug’s medications for kidney disease, dementia and other ailments.  When Ladybug had to be put to sleep, her owner asked that the vet’s office re-distribute Ladybug’s un-used medication to someone who could use it.

Ladybug, in whose memory Fairy DogParents was founded

Ladybug, in whose memory Fairy DogParents was founded

And from there, the idea grew.  There are many dogs who are surrendered to shelters because of economics.  Their families simply can’t afford their care, particularly as they age or develop special health conditions.

Fairy DogParents has a simple application process for owners in need.  They serve Massachusetts residents only but hope to expand.  As with most non-profits, they are always in need of donations of goods, money and time.  Want to be a Fairy Dog Mother?  Follow the link below:

Fairy Dog Parent

What is a senior dog?

This graphic, provided by The Senior Dogs Project, shows how a dog’s age is determined in part by its size.  Smaller dogs have a longer lifespan and so are classified as senior (or geriatric) at a higher age.

A Dog’s Age in Human Years
Age Up to 20 lbs 21-50 lbs 51-90 lbs Over 90 lbs
5 36 37 40 42
6 40 42 45 49
7 44 47 50 56
8 48 51 55 64
9 52 56 61 71
10 56 60 66 78
11 60 65 72 86
12 64 69 77 93
13 68 74 82 101
14 72 78 88 108
15 76 83 93 115
16 80 87 99 123
17 84 92 104 Red numbers =
senior

Blue numbers =
geriatric
18 88 96 109
19 92 101 115
20 96 105 120
Chart developed by Dr. Fred L. Metzger, DVM, State College, PA. Courtesy of Pfizer Animal Health.

 

Those ‘Bambi’ falls…

I had a lovely email this evening from a new massage client.  She says ‘Ash was very happy after her treatment and has not had any bad falls (i.e. the ‘Bambi’ ones which are really bad for her hips.)’

You know what she means, right?  If not, here are a few examples:

Copyright Disney Studios

Copyright Disney Studios

Copyright Disney Studios

Copyright Disney Studios

Copyright Disney Studios

Copyright Disney Studios

Does your dog fall like Bambi?  Landing like Bambi when you are an older or mobility-challenged dog can really hurt.  Please take care!

Top 10 reasons to adopt a senior dog

Senior dog

According to the Senior Dogs Project, here are the top 10 reasons to adopt an older dog.

1. Older dogs are house-trained. You won’t have to go through the difficult stage(s) of teaching a puppy house manners and mopping/cleaning up after accidents.

2. Older dogs are not teething puppies, and won’t chew your shoes and furniture while 
growing up.

3. Older dogs can focus well because they’ve mellowed. Therefore, they learn quickly.

4. Older dogs have learned what “no” means. If they hadn’t learned it, they wouldn’t have 
gotten to be “older” dogs.

5. Older dogs settle in easily, because they’ve learned what it takes to get along with others and become part of a pack.

6. Older dogs are good at 
giving love, once they get into their new, loving home. They are grateful for the second chance they’ve been given.

7. What You See Is What 
You Get: Unlike puppies, older dogs have grown into their shape and personality. Puppies can grow up to be quite different from what they seemed at first.

8. Older dogs are instant 
companions – ready for hiking, car trips, and other things you like to do.

9. Older dogs leave you time for yourself because they don’t make the kinds of demands on your time and attention that puppies and young dogs do.

10. Older dogs let you get 
a good night’s sleep because they’re accustomed to human schedules and don’t generally need nighttime feedings, comforting, or bathroom breaks.

The PupLight – helping an older dog see at night

As a dog gets older, it is common that they will experience a loss of eyesight or visual acuity.  I have found that many owners assume that their dog has cataracts but a more common problem is nuclear sclerosis.

Nuclear sclerosis, which is also called lenticular sclerosis, is a condition that causes the pupils of the eyes to look cloudy and often blue-gray in colour.  Nuclear sclerosis isn’t painful and it comes upon the dog gradually.  At some point you will notice that your dog isn’t seeing well at night and their peripheral vision may also be limited.

Such is the case with my Daisy.  We have stairs that go from our house to the outside garden and I noticed that she would stop dead at the top of the stairs because she couldn’t see the steps in the dark. It made sense that, although I could turn a light on in the house, the lighting in the garden wasn’t as easy.

Then I found the PupLight, the lighted dog collar.  Although marketed most strongly for people who walk their dogs at night and need to be visible to traffic, I decided to give it a try…

The PupLight

The PupLight

It’s been great!  Just what we needed.  I can clip the collar on before letting Daisy out at night and she can see the steps, and all the irregularities in the garden.  And she adjusted to its use very well.

Daisy shows off her PupLight dog collar

Daisy shows off her PupLight dog collar

The PupLight's bright light makes it much easier for Daisy to see at night

The PupLight’s bright light makes it much easier for Daisy to see at night

Bottom line:  Highly recommended product, particularly for senior dogs

Note:  This product endorsement is entirely my own and was not paid for by the PupLight company or its retailers.