Saturday, 26 March 2011

Getting Older

I have been thinking about the subject of ageing dogs recently. There are so many similarities in the physical and psychological lives of dogs and humans and ageing is no exception. So in the following sentences, when I refer to dogs then you could replace it with the word 'human' and I think it would still apply!
Older dogs really appreciate routine and predictability. Older dogs find change in lifestyle and habits quite difficult to cope with. Older dogs can suffer a gradual hearing loss and poor eyesight, and they really appreciate a comfy bed or chair that is easy to get on and off.
What I have been thinking about recently is that because you see your dog every single day, then perhaps you don't notice the subtle changes which happen very, very slowly. I remember listening to an excellent piece of wisdom from a Vet who said that slowing down and having stiff joints is not necessarily a normal and predictable part of growing old for dogs. Dogs, by their nature as predators put on an act so as not to be seen as vulnerable to other dogs and people. If they are in pain, they hide it for as long as possible. If they have painful joints they don't want other dogs or people to know about it and they really don't moan about their aches and pains. If you have an older dog and you think it is just slowing down and getting less active, then the chances are that they are in pain and they don't want anyone to know.
I have just started Leo the Lab on a course of dietary supplements (mainly glucosamine/chondroitin) to assist with osteo arthritis. There has been a massive leap forward in the scientific understanding of these type of supplements. Please go and ask the advice of your vet. Don't just slip a few extra shop bought supplements into his food and hope for the best, dogs have a very different digestive system from humans and they require very specific doses.
Getting slower is not just a normal part of ageing for a dog, he might be in pain and you don't know it. Go see your vet and get it checked out. You might be amazed at the difference these supplements can make, and your dog will thank you for it.


  1. We adopted an old dog from the Toronto Humane Society. Her name was Lucky and we had her for 13 months before she passed away. She was 19 when we adopted her, so she actually reached her 20th birthday with us!

    It's sad yet rewarding to give older rescue or shelter dogs a home for their retirement. You don't have them for very long, but at least they have a decent end-of-life.

  2. Last year my dog Harry suffered a really bad reaction in his elbow joint so much so that the whole leg swelled up, luckily with the right medication and tlc he slowly recovered and was able to enjoy walks albeit short ones again. The vet said at the time that he only sees cases as bad as Harry one or two twice a year. Sadly this has just reoccurred again two weeks ago in his other front leg. We didn't panick at first because we had been through it before and knew what to expect. However this time the skin seperated and a hole appeared as the skin was weakened. All the fluid that was in his leg stared coming out. If that wasn't bad enough Harry started limping on his hind leg, not wanting to put it down at all. As you can imagine having one bad leg was difficult enough for him. Another trip to the vet, he thought it was probably his hip joint but without an xray he couldn't say how bad it was. Now Harry is sat at home with me resting, he is quite relaxed and not in any visible discomfort. He still rolls on his back with legs in the air;-) if things don't improve we will have to take him back for the xray to see how bad things are. Ironicly his front leg is healing well like it did before. He is my best friend and only eleven it is really hard seeing him like this, I cry often not knowing if he will recover this time. Reading the blogs about Buddy and Leo have been both funny and sad, Buddy reminded me alot of Harry.