Friday, December 3, 2010

Caring For Your Senior Dog


By Nadine M. Rosin For The Dog Files

My greatest wish, is that every pet parent is lucky enough to someday have to face the issue of senior canine care. When my own dog, Buttons, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 8, the vet referred to her as a senior dog. Not only was I unwilling to lose my beloved canine to an insidious disease, but I remembered as a child, dogs commonly living into their late teens. So, 8-years old… middle-aged? Maybe. But senior citizen? Definitely not!

How I implemented an intense holistic cleansing and nutritional regimen to successfully heal the cancer without the vet’s prescribed treatment of chemotherapy, radiation and amputation, is a whole other story. This article is about senior canine care. Since Buttons not only survived the cancer, but thrived for an additional 11 years, until passing peacefully of old age at 19, I am blessed to have some life experience with a canine elder.

Of course, regardless of age, a pure, clean diet and chemical-free environment are essential for a strong immune system. Dogs metabolize everything so much faster than we do-whereas our bodies can endure a certain amount of toxic abuse for 40 or 50 years before retaliating, a dog’s body will start showing disease in 5-7 years. In my experience, it’s wise to take note of what chemical exposure there is in your own home via often overlooked things as cleaning products, laundry products, and air fresheners.

Past a certain age, supplements start taking on an even greater role and I encourage every pet parent to do their own online research of the many available choices. Personally, I had a lot of success with Yucca Extract to ease any joint stiffness or swelling Buttons had. Yucca is a natural steroid with no negative side effects and is easy to mix in food. Also, after much reading on its use in Germany and Italy on human stroke victims, I began using Alpha Lipoic Acid to help with any symptoms of CDS (doggy Alzheimer’s).

The last 3 years of Buttons’ life, I was very careful to keep a steady routine, not move any furniture, and basically keep everything in her world as predictable as possible. When the time came, we experimented with different brands of diapers. For her 18th birthday I bought a cushy, fold-up baby stroller to take with us on hikes for when she got tired. At one point, due to her aging eyesight and cognitive function, I covered the sharp edges of our furniture with foam.

Ok. Now here’s the hard part- the one that isn’t so comfortable to read, but the part that is, in my opinion, essential. Take lots and lots of photos and video- they will help comfort you through the grieving process when the inevitable happens. When Butts was 17, I bought a bunch of disposable cameras. Every time I filled one up with pictures of her, I’d put it in a box in the back of my closet. It wasn’t until months after her passing that I began having them developed, one by one. What a comfort it was to have new photos of her even after she’d gone.

Take a day here and there away from your busy life to shut out the rest of the world and really connect deeply with your animal’s spirit- to consciously and uninterruptedly just BE with this unconditionally loving soul who’s been such a deep and delightful part of your life. Believe me, there will come a time when you will be so glad you did.

Do any research about what your choices are and how you will handle the details of your dog’s body after their passing. It’s so much easier to think clearly and gather facts well before the day you are thrown into that gut-wrenching grief.

Most importantly, as much as you can, treasure each moment for what it is- find the joy in it, rather than missing what was or fearing what’s to come. I mean, our dogs never stop teaching us how to do just that, right? Having a senior canine can be so precious and such a profound learning experience. Your canine may not be bounding along the beach or scampering up the trail any longer, but your relationship will be as priceless as a rare, old cognac, and by then, you’ll undoubtedly be finishing each others sentences, too.


4 comments:

BoSoxAmy said...

I love the disposable camera idea. I will put it to use!

Deb Lauman said...

I've been taking lots of photos and video of my beloved Sassafrass Tea, who's now almost 13. She's still going strong--knock on wood--and often acts like a puppy, and being a small mixed-breed, I think she could be around for quite some time yet. But I do think about her mortality a LOT. She's like my child--she IS my child--and I can hardly imagine life without her.

Nadine M. Rosin said...

Good going, Deb! If you haven't already, please check out my book- I share a lot of things that helped Buttons and I through the senior years, including how I dealt with thoughts of her mortality. I also including things I'm so grateful I did (like the extra photos and video) AND things I WISH I'd done in hindsight.

Kolchak Puggle said...

Someone dared call my Felix "senior" the other day and man, did they get an earful. I have noticed some stiffness in his hind end though He loves yucca chips, maybe we'll have to start supplementing with it too. Thanks for the tip!