Senior Dog Blog

Fat Pets Getting Skinny is a Beautiful Sight to Seeby Ann-Marie Fleming

04 March, 2009

Living in Canada and dealing mainly with Canadian and U.S. dog owners I forget about all the great stuff the United Kingdom does for dogs. The PDSA is the UK's leading veterinary charity, caring for more than 350,000 pet patients belonging to people in need. Recently they ran a program helping overweight pets to lose weight and in fact made a contest out of it. Participating in the contest, which consisted of a 100 day diet and fitness program devised by vets, was 5 obese dogs and one cat. Many of which were in their senior years.

The winner of this contest was a Labrador Retriever by the name of Keano (great name by the way) who began the contest at more than 100 pounds, which means that he was approximately 55% overweight. Losing 22 pounds earned him the skinny crown that he deserves. Second place went to a 7-year-old German Shepherd by the name of Alfie who joined the program at over 125 pounds, approximately 55% overweight. Alfie missed the top spot by only a couple of pounds as he lost 20 pounds (19% of his body weight) and 6 inches off his waist by participating. Tinks, the lone cat in the contest, fared exceptionally well, even at he young age of 13-years-old. Tinks was a shocking 96% overweight at 23 pounds, but left the program with a waistline that was 2 inches shorter and a body that was 2 pounds lighter.

It is hopeful that all the participants will continue to see the benefits that exercise and a healthy diet can bring, and if these results are possible within just 100 days, then think about what can happen over the next 6 months. The bottom line is that no matter what age your pet is you can make a significant difference in their happiness and well-being by keeping them active and making sure they have a healthy diet.

The benefits that controlling their weight can bring are absolutely endless, from preventing diabetes and heart problems, to keeping their spirits up and stimulating their minds. Mackenzie (my pug) could be a poster child for weight-loss. By around 8 years-old he started gaining weight. He was getting older and has an enlarged heart. This meant that he would hyperventilate quite became a vicious cycle where I was too worried to walk him for fear that he was straining his heart, but by not walking him he was gaining weight which in and of itself put strain on his heart. Thanks to a wise vet we found the magic solution.

We put him on a special diet food and I took him for walks early in the morning and at night when it was much cooler. The walks started very slowly, shorts walks that gradually grew in distance as Mackenzie became fitter and lighter. Long story short - he went from being 31 pounds to 20 pounds and became a whole new dog. His energy shot up, his health dramatically improved and he has kept the weight off to this day, 5 years later. I am a big believer in keeping your dog active and controlling their weight is one of the major benefits. Do you have a dog with a great weight-loss story? If so we'd love to hear it. Full story


Older dogs still need to stay activeby Ann-Marie Fleming

01 March, 2009

I read a great post by Best Bully Sticks (@bestbullysticks on Twitter) talking about caring for your senior dog. In this post they mention the importance of taking your dog to the vet, not only when your dog is sick but at a time when they are healthy so your vet has a baseline to use to compare results to down the road should your dog become sick.

I have been through this exact same thing and trust me it does help. Before I was able to put my 13 year old Pug on Medicam, he needed blood work to make sure his body could tolerate this prescription. When the blood work came back they compared it to a test he had a couple years back and discovered that he had some issues with his liver that weren't there in his last test. We were able to address the liver problem and Mackenzie is now safely on Medicam and happier than ever.

Another important point mentioned was the need to keep your older dog active. I have spoken about this before and I think it is worth mentioning again. What tends to happen, and I know this because I went through this myself, is that as your dog gets older and starts stiffening up, you stop walking them. In my case I even stopped taking Mackenzie to dog parks. Then I realized that by doing this I am actually accelerating the aging process.

Old dogs still need exercise for physical reasons, but also for mental stimulation. What I often recommend is using some of the wonderful products out there to become creative in how we manage this side of our older dogs life. For me I use a dog jogger and Mackenzie comes on long walks and visits dog parks and all along the way he goes in and out of the jogger. So he gets the right amount of exercise and an abundance of mental stimulation. He is still an adventurer and loves to explore, I just needed to find the right way to let allow him to do this in a healthy way. Our senior dogs still enjoy all the same things they used to love when they were younger and it is up to us as dog owners to find ways to let them continue to enjoy life

"Dog Paddling To Healing"by Ann-Marie Fleming

27 February, 2009

By Stuart Fleming

This is a story that reminded me that when one door closes another one opens. Paddling Paws Pool is an indoor heated swimming facility in the U.S. that is designed to restore a quality of life to dogs that suffer from mobility issues. Here you can take your crippled companion and enjoy the benefits of warm water activities. These can include increased circulation, balance, and the loosening of tight muscles for increased range of motion.

I think the biggest benefit though is the happiness that the dog (and dog owner) enjoys from discovering another opportunity to be active and have fun. Companies like Canada's and U.S. based Paddling Paws are the hidden doors that are sure to add years to your loved one's life. Full Story

Instead of Human Grade the Standard should be Dog Qualityby Ann-Marie Fleming

24 January, 2009

Any dog owner has heard the phrase human grade to represent a higher standard for dog food. In other words, if it good enough for a human to eat then it must be safe for our dogs. I am not arguing this point...there should be a standard by which we equate our dogs health and safety to our own, but it has me thinking lately. Maybe instead of saying human grade we should be changing the perspective and describing top-tier dog products as being of dog quality. Yes I realize that dog quality is also the name of my business, but I picked it for the same reason I am writing about it.

A higher standard for dogs is not restricted to dog food and should be across all dog products. The coats they wear, the toys they chew, the dog strollers they ride in etc should all be held to a high standard to make sure it is... well ...of dog quality.

I guess part of my reasoning for not wanting to describe higher standards for dog products using 'human' is that I think dogs can stand on their own. What I mean is that dogs have unconditional love, they are loyal, they see the glass half full and live life to the fullest. Are we selling them short by not using the term dog as the standard by which all is compared?

I just thought I'd share my abstract thoughts...dogs are great, people at times disappoint so why do we use humans as a standard for higher quality? I for one may start using dog quality for anything I think raises the bar. :) 

Losing your Dog is to Lose a Piece of Yourselfby Ann-Marie Fleming

20 January, 2009

I was at my vet's last night picking up some refills for the various medications Mackenzie my 12 year old pug is currently taking. While I was there an emergency case came in. It was an 8 year old Golden Retriever. I don't know exactly what was wrong with him, but one look at the faces of his family told the whole story. There were three family members, a father, mother and daughter all with tears in their eyes. In speaking with the Practice Manager I learned that they were forced to put the dog down and while I was waiting (for good reason) I witnessed the whole ordeal, from the father explaining this to the rest of his family, to seeing them standing beside the dog at the back of the clinic, to observing them sitting with their dog after he had passed away.

I have to tell you I almost broke down crying. My heart went out to them and I wished I could take away the pain I know they were feeling. I was so close to tears and I immediately starting having flashbacks to losing my precious Churchie, my French Bulldog, my protector and a huge part of my life for over 12 years until this past summer when I lost him due to complications from a heart tumor. I still cry all the time and wonder if I will ever not feel like a piece of my heart has been lost forever. When I saw this happening to another family it hit me hard as I relived the shock, trauma and ache of losing someone I loved.

Our dogs really are a major part of our family and bring us so much love and happiness how can we not be broken after they leave us? The reason I wanted to write this post today was not to depress you or to relive a very sad part of my life, but instead to commend the efforts of my vet. Dr. Maks at Huff's Animal Hospital in Tsawwassen, British Columbia and the girls that keep the clinic running, pour their own hearts into each and every pet they treat. I have never had such a positive relationship before with any other caretakers, human or dog, like I have had with Dr. Maks and her team.

When I was going through the roller coaster ride of care for Churchill and as I continue to have Mackenzie and our newest addition Paige (a brindle Frenchie) looked after, they have had our best interests at the top of their list. Seeing them last night trying to save this dog and take care of the family showed just how much they care as they were so emotionally impacted by what was happening, it was as if they were treating their own dog.

Witnessing this type of care and while extremely sad, seeing the family's love for their dog just shows again the powerful impact our dogs have on our lives. While losing one of our loved ones is like losing a piece of ourselves, I wouldn't trade the time I spent with any of my pets for anything in the entire world. Each one has left me with the most amazing memories and they will be forever in my heart. I miss you Churchie. If anyone has the strength to share stories of their amazing pets that have touched their lives either past or present, please leave a comment. Thanks for listening. 

Keeping your older dog active, alert and healthyby Ann-Marie Fleming

10 January, 2009

A recent article by Pete Keesling about older pet care reminded me about a very important point when taking care of your senior dog. He describes the need for keeping your dog active to help keep both mind and body healthy. As dogs get older they typically become less active because of arthritis or other health issues that slow them down. However, this is something that with the help of your vet, you can help to alleviate in most cases.

The bottom line is that you need to do what you can to keep your dog walking, exploring, and playing to keep his or her mind active as much as his or her body. This point is something I had almost forgotten. I have a 12 year old Pug named Mackenzie who suffers from arthritis. I have just put him on Metacam to help him since he has been in pain due to one leg in particular, and as a result we have not been able to do much walking. My focus has been on alleviating his pain which of course is the most important thing, but at the same time I was ignoring the benefits that having him mobile can bring.

Even with his pain under control I realize that Mackenzie will not be able to go on long walks, but that is ok. He has his dog jogger, which is our favourite thing in the world because it allows him to walk for a bit and then ride for a long period of time. This accomplishes two key things. He gets his much needed exercise to help keep his body healthy and he gets to enjoy the fun of riding in his jogger, which keeps his mind stimulated as he sees new things, new people and gets out of the house.

Often we are so worried about our older dogs that we treat them like fine china. Senior dogs still need to get out, move around, play and experience life to the fullest. The health benefits of keeping them stimulated are numerous so find the right balance and start enjoying life with your older dog. 

Review of a Fabulous Front Dog Carrierby Ann-Marie Fleming

02 January, 2009

If you have a small dog and need to take them with you then try this terrific front carrier. This legs-out carrier is perfect for senior dogs that may not be able to walk very far, but would love to come along for the ride. This video shows 13 year old Sheba, a wonderful Yorkie-Poo in her favourite way to travel.

This padded front carrier is very comfortable and secure and she just loves being able to come with her owner instead of being left behind. This carrier lets dogs have their legs hang out rather than being squished, which for older dogs many times is a necessary feature to ensure comfort. 

Petzip dog strollers, a new adventure for older Ann-Marie Fleming

11 November, 2008

Watch as I review the Petzip dog stroller, a lightweight and extremely versatile dog stroller perfect for older dogs. You will see this stylish dog stroller in action and how easy it is to fold and transport. This stroller is lightweight so it makes for a convenient way to travel with your dog.

Is there a Dog Heaven?by Ann-Marie Fleming

02 November, 2008

Anyone of us who have lost their dog has probably asked the question "what happened to my dog after death?" Even those people who are not religious have posed the question of afterlife. I know because I have done the same.

I read a great article the other day entitled Do pets go to heaven? It depends on your religion and what I liked about this article is that is showed the various perspectives across a variety of religions such as Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhism, Judaism, American Indian, Hindu and others. Each religion sees the question of a pet's afterlife differently.

If I was to pull the most consistent point made across the different belief systems I'd say that if a pet makes your life better then once they pass they will be reunited with you once again in the afterlife. So what if you don't believe in the afterlife? Many people don't believe in Heaven for humans let alone pets. I believe that religion and spirituality is a very personal experience and how much or how little is up to each person. Religion offers comfort for many but questions for others.

One thing I do know is that the idea that there is a perfect place where we will all be reunited with our pets is a dream come I believe it exists? Well that's a loaded question. As I have mentioned in previous posts I have recently lost the love of my life, my French Bulldog named Churchill who was 12 years old. When he left I wanted nothing more than to know we would meet again or to somehow get a sign from him. I can't say that I believe in a dog heaven, but I have been thinking about another theory which says that energy cannot disappear and that it needs to go somewhere. What form that takes or where it goes I have no idea, but if this theory is true it means that Churchill is still around and that is comforting.

Am I 100% sure? No, not at all, but maybe that is the point. Maybe it is good for us to not know everything. Maybe the quest for answers is more important than getting to the absolute truth. So what does that mean exactly? Well it means that if you believe in dog heaven then great because it means you always have your dog in your heart and on your mind. If you believe that energy transforms but never leaves, then the same holds true. The bottom line is never stop thinking about the pets you have lost because one thing I do know for sure is that if you keep remembering them and how much love they brought to your life, then they can never be truly gone. 

Halloween is not a good night for Older Dogsby Ann-Marie Fleming

27 October, 2008

Halloween is a great time for children and their parents, dressing up and collecting all those sweets, but it can be a terrifying night for your senior dog. As dogs get older they may become a little less sure of themselves, a little more anxious and a lot less tolerant of the excitement that comes with Halloween. Here are some tips to ensure safety and reduce stress.

  • Place your dog in a quiet and safe part of the house, preferably out of sound of the doorbell. People ringing the door or knocking on the will cause your dog to get agitated and could induce different behaviour which may cause you concern, specially with small children.
  • Another suggestion I heard is play soft music to drown out the noise. Another no-no is keep chocolate out of reach of your dog as this could prove fatal. If you suspect your pet has consumed chocolate call your Vet giving his/her weight and approximate amount consumed.
  • Decorations are another concern; dogs could chew on streamers, and synthetic spider web which could cause stomach blockages.
  • Don't dress up your dog for the night as these can restrict movement, sight hearing or impede breathing.
  • Finally make sure your pet has proper identification, accidents will happen and if your dog escapes and gets lost check with your animal control and your local Humane society.
A rule of thumb I go by is to know your dog. Some dogs love the attention that Halloween brings but others would prefer to find a quiet and safe place to wait out the night. Do what is best for your dog and you will have an enjoyable night.

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