Caring for Senior Dogs

Afreet

Cathlete
Hello, fellow Catheites:

I have two miniature schnauzers, Greta and Afreet, who are sisters/littermates. I've had them since they were very young puppies - I rescued them at around 7 weeks! Well, now they're ten years old and are starting to have some health issues.

They have both developed heart murmurs in the last year or so (these have been diagnosed as relatively minor by our vet, and we're keeping tabs on them), and they both have a few lipomas (all have been tested by the vet and are benign).

G&A are both still pretty active, although I take it easy on the exercise due to the heart conditions, and their behavior is essentially the same happy demeanor they've always had - but I know the next few years will present new health challenges for them, and I'd like to know if anyone has any tips or suggestions for caring for senior pets?
 

Gayle

Cathlete
I know with my Bostons it was important to keep them from getting pudgy when they were older. Excess weight can exacerbate other age related issues.

Lots of nice cushy places for them to chill, that are easy for old bones and joints to get on/in and out of.

How are their joints? A friend of mine has a senior Lab mix, and she's on glucosamine supplements for her joints. That's the big aging thing I notice in senior dogs...mobility.
 

Afreet

Cathlete
I know with my Bostons it was important to keep them from getting pudgy when they were older. Excess weight can exacerbate other age related issues.

Lots of nice cushy places for them to chill, that are easy for old bones and joints to get on/in and out of.

How are their joints? A friend of mine has a senior Lab mix, and she's on glucosamine supplements for her joints. That's the big aging thing I notice in senior dogs...mobility.
Re: Joints: So far, so good...mostly. They're both at their ideal weight and have never been overweight. One of them has started having a slight aversion to walking down stairs, so we just don't do stairs if we can avoid them.

They sleep with me, and I just got a memory foam mattress topper which they really seem to appreciate! They are also welcome on the sofa, and have their own little beds in case they feel like having some personal time.

I would be happy to provide a glucosamine supplement, but I have heard that many are a waste of money - if anyone knows of a good one, I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks Gayle!
 

lrayburn

Cathlete
I would be happy to provide a glucosamine supplement, but I have heard that many are a waste of money - if anyone knows of a good one, I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks Gayle!
I use Dosaquin which I get at my vet's office. It makes a noticeable difference for my Nell who has a chronic problem in one of her hocks.

Good luck with the girls. I love old dogs!
Lisa
 

Gayle

Cathlete
RE: Glucosamine - My vet recommends the Glycoflex products. Rascal has rather flat feet, making him more prone to wrist issues, so we've used Glycoflex II for him as a precautionary thing. The best pricing I've seen on it has been from Entirely Pets http://www.entirelypets.com/ .

I know some people also use regular human grade glucosamine products as well, but I don't know how the dosing works.

It sounds like Greta and Afreet are being properly spoiled! :D
 

pippa

Cathlete
I'll second a lot of other opinions. We used Cosequin DS for our doggie(lab/springer spaniel mix--he lived to be 15.5, died in 2008). He was also on an anti-inflammatory later as his arthritis progressed. We started accupuncture for him as well. It made a big difference but our doctor said it makes the most difference if you start it early--like as soon as you notice a problem or if you know that dog is genetically predisposed to arthritic conditions.

We gave him lots of big pillows to lie on as he didn't much like being on the sofa(or bed as he got older).

He was diagnosed with a heart murmur when he was ten and he had yearly cardiologist appointments. He ended up going on meds when he was 12 but his condition was always stable and it never ended up being a problem for him.

Mostly we were just as accommodating as possible. Lifting him onto the bed, helping him stand-up when his legs got shaky, etc. He was very much a member of our family so to some people we may have been too accommodating, but I wouldn't change a single thing we did. He was completely worth every minute.
 

fox2star

Cathlete
Hi,

I have a 14 year old Wire Fox Terrier and I have her on Chondro Flex with Omega 3. It has made all the difference with her mobility. You have to get it through a vet.

Deb
 

zellybelly

Cathlete
I just lost both my dogs (13 and 12) this year and it has nearly killed me. I spent so much time taking care of them I neglected myself. One of my dogs didn't sleep through the night for a year and a half. I did everything I could to make them as comfortable as possible at the end and all I can say it that sometimes you have to make sure you are doing what is best for them and not you. Love them every minute that you have them!
 

Afreet

Cathlete
I just lost both my dogs (13 and 12) this year and it has nearly killed me. I spent so much time taking care of them I neglected myself. One of my dogs didn't sleep through the night for a year and a half. I did everything I could to make them as comfortable as possible at the end and all I can say it that sometimes you have to make sure you are doing what is best for them and not you. Love them every minute that you have them!
Oh my gosh. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I know I will be devastated when that happens; these little dogs have really been the light of my life and the joy of my existence for ten years. We've been through a lot together and I do the very best I can for them - they truly are my best friends.

Pippa, I know what you mean - a few years ago Greta was very sick and I had to spend a LOT of time caring for her. But with dogs, I feel like you get out of the relationship what you put into it - it's always worthwhile to offer kindness and comfort to your pet (or anyone, really) to whatever extent you can. Sounds like you lost a wonderful friend, but he surely had a good (long!) life with you.

Thanks everyone! I'll ask the vet about some of these joint supplements. :)
 

fit44

Cathlete
I just lost both my dogs (13 and 12) this year and it has nearly killed me. I spent so much time taking care of them I neglected myself. One of my dogs didn't sleep through the night for a year and a half. I did everything I could to make them as comfortable as possible at the end and all I can say it that sometimes you have to make sure you are doing what is best for them and not you. Love them every minute that you have them!

(((hugs))) I'm so sorry for your loss. I agree with you about the decisions you have to make.
I have two boxers 8 & 9 and I think about how much time I have left with them. I worry the loss of one will speed up the loss of the other.
They are so close.

My nine year old boxer was just diagnosed with Cushing's disease and further testing revealed it pituitary dependent. There are two types of pituitary tumors. One is slow growing benign, the other is cancer fast growing.
We are taking our girl to an internal medicine specialist and he wanted to know if we were willing to treat Mercedes with radiation.
My husband and I decided together the answer is no. We made this decision early on but I sort of second guessed my decision. When we were waiting at the vet hospital, I saw a 12 year old lab with radiation treatment aftermath. It was a scary and sad sight. I feel our meeting was no accident. I am confident in my decision for no radiation. It's just too much for an older dog. We decided to utilize medication that basically mask the disease, relieves symptoms, and hopefully slow it down.

Three months down the road we have to address a mass on her spleen, but for now we are not letting that get into the way of enjoying today. She's with us, she's not in pain, and we have the privilege of holding her close.:)

It's so sad, God only lets us borrow these wonderful little angels and then we have to give them back.
 

Afreet

Cathlete
(((hugs))) I'm so sorry for your loss. I agree with you about the decisions you have to make.
I have two boxers 8 & 9 and I think about how much time I have left with them. I worry the loss of one will speed up the loss of the other.
They are so close.
This is my fear as well. Greta and Afreet have, as far as I know, never been apart for more than a few minutes! Too depressing to contemplate - I don't want to be pre-sad - I'm sure I'll be sad enough when the time comes. Sniff.

Fit44 - sorry to hear about your poor doggie, I know you didn't make that decision lightly. I have thought about this often since the lipomas appeared - any one of these could turn out to be cancerous, and schnauzers are prone to a variety of other cancers. I feel the same way - I don't want to put them through the ordeal of radiation unless it would significantly increase their healthy (happy) lifespan - and after dogs reach a "certain age", that outcome becomes more and more unlikely.

Caring for older dogs really requires you to be an amazing companion and caregiver and make a lot of tough choices. I always knew this was true but the doggies were puppies like, 5 minutes ago.
 

welch

Cathlete
my 2 cents...

Hi - I just wanted to give you my 2 cents worth of advice on caring for senior pets. It's a subject that hits home for me.
First of all, keep in mind that "old age is not a disease". Sometimes people think their pet is slowing down/changing because of "old age". While it's true that older pets are more predisposed to health changes, there may be things that can be addressed early on and managed. Also, I think it's about quality of life too. You're pets have been good to you all this time, and in their senior years, it's nice for owners to be just as good to their pets and make sure they're comfortable and loved (clearly, your pets are quite loved).
I think prevention and early detection are important. While there are conditions that cannot be "cured" (thyroid disease, Cushings, diabetes, heart disease, etc), they may be "managable" with medication. But the earlier problems are detected, the more managable things may be. So I advocate yearly bloodwork screening, and if heart murmurs are present, routine x-rays are good too. There may be other tests to do depending on the results, but it never hurts to get a baseline. I am empathetic to the economy lately though, and realize that testing may not always be possible. So watching for symptoms is important too. If you notice any changes - drinking more, urinating more, weight gain/loss, or changes in appetite/behavior, then it may be time to talk to your vet about it. In pets with heart murmurs, watch for any labored breathing or chronic coughing.
If pets are showing joint pain (stiffness, slow to stand up or lay down, trouble with stairs, reluctance to jump, etc), and problems seem mild, I love using glucosamine supplements. I'm most familiar with Glycoflex and Cosequin and like them both (use one or the other, not both together though). If arthritic problems are more severe, it may be that your pet will benefit from a vet visit and prescription pain medication (of which there are many types and opinions about).
Mostly, it's like everyone already said: love them and appreciate them. My 3 cats are wonderful, and I try to be thankful every day for them. It sounds like Greta and Afreet are doing well though, so hopefully you won't have anything to worry about any time soon :)

-Carrie
 

Afreet

Cathlete
Thanks! I'll definitely keep up the vet checkups and keep an eye out for any physical or behavioral changes. I've been saving up for the appointment with the cardiologist - since their murmurs have been the same for a while, and they seem to have been caught pretty early, I'm hoping they'll be manageable. Dang it, they'd better be. How much does is suck for sweet little dogs to be hurt by their own wonderful, true hearts? A lot. That's how much.

I'm sure if G&A knew how much sound advice (and how many good wishes) they've gotten, they'd wag their little nubby tails at all of you.

Thanks again!

Lisa
 

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