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Senior Dog Blog

Our Favorite Homemade Dog Food Recipes for Senior Dogsby Ann-Marie Fleming

11 September, 2018

Making your own dog food is a more affordable alternative to commercial versions and you’ll be able to control what goes into it. With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite homemade dog food recipes for older dogs that contain safe ingredients.

CBC Feature Article: 'You name it, it's in there': Have we hit peak pet stroller?by Ann-Marie Fleming

28 August, 2018

lena-gershenov-dog-quality

"Old dogs, eccentric owners and 'fur baby' movement combine for pet stroller's moment in the sun. Nancy Jelenic doesn't go anywhere without Mr. Pickles and Georgy Girl. As the name of her Yaletown store — Barking Babies — suggests, Jelinec thinks of the Chihuahua and Yorkie as her "dog children." She takes them everywhere: work, hairdresser, grocery store."

Case Study: How the Dog Quality Dogger Stroller Changed My Senior Dog’s Lifeby Ann-Marie Fleming

20 August, 2018

Dog Quality Stroller

When my senior dogs started experiencing mobility issues, there were pet strollers on the market but I couldn’t find something that was comfortable, durable and handled all types of terrain. For me, it was crucial to have a dog stroller that worked equally as well whether I took one of my older dogs for a jog, on a hiking trail or simply around the block for a stroll. Just because a dog reaches an age where they can’t get around as well as they used to and they need to rest frequently, doesn’t mean they can’t stay active and continue to have adventures. In fact, in their senior years, it’s more important than ever that dogs go for walks and enjoy the outdoors since it gives them the exercise and stimulation they need to improve their health and avoid boredom and depression.

Senior Dog Summer Activities Your Pooch Will Loveby Ann-Marie Fleming

06 July, 2018

Senior Dog Summer Activities

I think our dogs’ senior years give us so many opportunities to bond deeply and I firmly believe in living an active lifestyle with your dog no matter their age. The challenges that come along with dog aging, like arthritis, having accidents or dealing with health conditions, don’t mean the adventures have to stop. You know your pooch best and by tailoring activities to meet their needs and keep them safe, you can both take advantage of the warm weather months and spend quality time together. Here are ideas for senior dog summer activities that will give your furry family member the stimulation, exercise, and excitement they need for their physical and mental health.

The Best Senior Dog Party Ideas for National Dog Party Day and Beyondby Ann-Marie Fleming

19 June, 2018

Dog Party Ideas

Dog Quality is all about helping senior dogs live their best lives and I believe in celebrating pooches of all ages every day, whether it’s with cuddles or by heading out for an adventure. However, with National Dog Party Day 2018 coming up on June 21, it’s an excuse to really get festive. In honor of the occasion, I’m sharing a few dog party ideas, as well as some tips for tailoring them to senior dogs. Here are ways to put together the perfect gathering for the holiday or to celebrate a furry family member’s birthday.

Get to Know the Founder of Dog Quality: 20 Questions for Ann-Marie Flemingby Dog Quality

09 May, 2018

Get to Know the Founder of Dog Quality

With founder Ann-Marie Fleming leading the charge here at Dog Quality, we’ve been hard at work fulfilling our mission of bringing hope and happiness to senior dogs and their humans.  To help our customers get to know Ann-Marie a little better, we’ve decided to play a round of 20 questions.

 

Relish Your Senior Dog Momentsby Ann-Marie Fleming

11 April, 2018

Willow - one very special senior dogToday is my Willow's 13th birthday. I rescued her one year ago today. I know her age, but not her date of birth so I have made the day she joined my family her birthday. Willow did not have an easy life. I first saw her one day on my way into work wandering around a busy road. Even from a distance you could see that she was covered in tumors, one so big it dragged on the ground. I discovered that she had a family, but I could see that she was severely neglected.

Over the next few weeks, each time I would see Willow I would bring her back to her "home" and ask them to let me take her permanently and they would refuse. Eventually persistence paid off and they finally allowed me to bring her into my family so she could have the care she so desperately needed. They told me her name and her age, but that is basically all I knew.

Once I had Willow and following a much needed bath, it was off to the vet where we learned that along with roughly 10 mammary tumors due to not being spayed, she also had a severe heart murmur and needed to see a specialist to perform the surgery for the tumor removal given the risks. With the cardiology consult and the surgical fees exceeding $5,000 I needed help and turned to social media to raise the funds. We raised the money within 5 days!! Thank you #TeamWillow #WillowNation!

Willow had her tumor removal surgery and they were able to give her a totally new body! Unfortunately she needed three additional surgeries over the past year due to further complications resulting from not being spayed for 12 years, but she faced each procedure like a champ. I can truly say that Willow is so happy now, is loved and has a family she grows closer to every day.

There is something so special about senior dogs that I am always trying to communicate. Willow is a great example of why I love seniors. She knows who she is, what she likes and definitely what she doesn't like. And she has a spark, something I feel most seniors have. Unlike a puppy that is always in high gear, a senior dog gives you glimpses. These glimpses are so incredibly rewarding and show me that there is always an inner puppy inside seniors even if just appearing for a moment. 

With Willow I see it when we go to and from work. She gallops into the office to say hi to everyone and has the same excitement when we are heading out to the car to go home. I believe that in her mind she is running as fast as the wind! At meal times she spins in anticipation for her meals and if I rub her ears just right, I get licks as if she is telling me how much she appreciates what I am doing. Seniors give you these special moments and it creates a bond on a deeper level than I ever thought possible.

Sometimes I look at Willow and can see how happy she has become and while I know she appreciates her new life, I am blown away by the impact she has had on mine. She was an unexpected addition, but I just can't imagine my life without her. I encourage everyone to open their hearts and homes to a senior dog. Embrace a senior and relish your moments!

Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Dog Diaper for Your Senior Dogby Ann-Marie Fleming

09 April, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Dog Diaper for Your Senior Dog

As dogs get older, incontinence can become an issue. Sadly, it’s a common reason people put their pets down, which is heartbreaking because it’s actually easily managed with the right assistance products like washable dog diapers and dog belly bands.

Exercising Your Senior Dog's Brainby Ann-Marie Fleming

27 September, 2017

As dogs age they face many of the same challenges that we as humans face including cognitive decline. Like in humans, a dog's brain literally shrinks the older the dog becomes. The good news is that through research we have learned that there are ways that we can slow the aging process.Exercising your Senior Dog's Brain

With the recent ability to take MRI scans of a dog's brain we have come to realize how similar they are to our own brains and therefore dogs face many of the same changes as they age. Cortical atrophy (brain shrinkage) and ventricular widening occur, but it is also believed that the brain is particularly susceptible to damage caused by free radicals produced by the body's own metabolism. 

According to a 1997 study, "Aging and the production of free radicals can lead to oxidative damage to proteins, lipids and nucleotides that, in turn, may cause neuronal dysfunction and ultimately neuronal death. Normally, several mechanisms are in place that balances the production of free radicals. However with age, it is possible that these protective mechanisms begin to fail."  

Increasing the intake of antioxidants such as Vitamin E and C can play a big part in protecting the brain and nervous system from free-radicals, but there are also ways that exercise can help slow the impacts of aging.

Exercise that can benefit our senior dog's brains comes in 2 forms 1) physical and 2) mental.

Exercising your senior dogPhysical exercise has been proven to not only help keep a dog's body healthy, but it can actually help to grow brain cells. Research across a variety of species have shown that skeletal muscle cells secrete proteins and other factors into the blood during exercise that have a regenerative effect on the brain. 

Keeping your dog active also has the benefit of stimulating the mind and science has proven that exposing your dog to new experiences, scents, sights and sounds can alter the physiology of their brains. 

According to Stanley Coren, PhD., DSc., FRSC, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia,. "The brains of animals that have lived in changing and complex environments actually become larger. New connections develop between existing neurons in the cortex as a result of experience. Recent evidence demonstrates that it is even possible to grow new neural cells in important areas of the brain that are associated with learning, memory and the organization of behavior."

Notice he says 'changing and complex environments' which means we need to get them outside of our own backyards so they can be exposed to different sights, smells and sounds making our walks, in new places, a necessary component of their exercise routines. And if you need a little help getting out of your immediate area you can take advantage of travel products such as the Dogger stroller. I use my Dogger with my own seniors so we can go on long walks because it allows my dogs to get the exercise and stimulation they need, but it also gives them a chance to take a break so they don't overdo it. Without the Dogger I would only be able to go on short walks and we would not be able to be as active as we like to be.

Exercise has been shown to affect human brains in the same way. "Studies of senior citizens who walk regularly showed significant improvement in memory skills compared to sedentary elderly people. Walking also improved their learning ability, concentration, and abstract reasoning in people who walked as little as 20 minutes a day. Furthermore, research from the Salk Institute demonstrates that physical exercise has a protective effect on the brain and its mental processes, and may even help prevent Alzheimer's disease." describes Coren. 

Given that the brains of humans and dogs are so similar and that researchers are looking to dogs in hopes of better understanding how to treat or prevent dementia in people, the parallels are undeniable.

Exercising your dog's brainAnother interesting activity that can have a direct and positive impact on our dog's brain health comes in the form of problem solving activities. These 'puzzles' are another way to actively exercise your dog's brain keeping it sharp and protecting it against further decline. The same has been said for people.  

Fun and effective brain games can include: hide and seek either of their favorite treat, toy or even you; the classic shell game where you hide a treat under a cup then once your dog figures out how to knock over the cup to get the treat you can introduce additional cups as decoys to increase the difficulty level; and there are a long list of puzzle games sold on the market today that use similar concepts of hiding treats and creating different obstacles your dog must overcome to get the reward. If your dog is ball crazy then you can do a lot of these puzzle games with the ball as the reward. Food or toys both work well so just pick the reward your senior loves most and find creative ways to make them problem solve their way to enjoyment. Again changing things up is important to ensure the brain is getting the exercise it needs.

I find it empowering to know that there are ways that we as parents can help our senior dogs stay young and in the process it will help us as well. We need the exercise and the changing environments just as much as our dogs, so by pursuing an active lifestyle that exercises our dog's bodies and brains, we are reaping the same rewards. 

Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.

Facing the End with Your Senior Dogby Ann-Marie Fleming

21 September, 2017

This is by far the most difficult post I have ever written because I had to say goodbye to my Milo two days ago after a two month struggle and my heart is breaking. Sometimes we lose our four-legged family suddenly, but other times we are there with them as they slowly and progressively get worse to the point when you realize that you have days not even months left with them. Unfortunately I have been in this position with several of my previous dogs and it never gets any easier. 

 Facing the End with Your Senior DogMilo had been doing so well. I remember on his 14th birthday back in March commenting on how well he was aging. He did everything at his own pace speeding up only when food was involved and I felt that maybe his laid back approach to life would take him well into his senior years. But then a few months ago everything changed. 

The only senior challenge Milo had over the past couple of years was a sore front left leg. It seemed to every vet that looked at him that it was most likely arthritis. A joint supplement was suggested and that seemed to do the trick. Then in June of this year, even while still taking the supplements, his limp returned. He very quickly started getting weaker and since he was so front heavy this weakness started to cause him to fall. I have never had a dog with a front leg issue before, but when he would fall he would literally go head first. As the instability became worse and his limp looked painful we tried Cartrophen shots without success and then we tried him on Rheumocam, again no improvement. Then things started to accelerate. He was having issues not only with that leg, but he started to weaken in all his legs, he was rapidly losing muscle and was needing to be supported when he walked and stood. 

Dog wheelchairI ordered him a full support dog wheelchair hoping that if we could give him some support we could help him recover. Unfortunately after only one day of being able to use his cart he lost movement in what used to be his strong front leg. Then over the next couple of weeks he lost the use of all four legs. We tried Prednisone, new supplements but nothing helped. If Milo was stronger I would have considered taking him to a neurologist, but after talking with his vet it was clear that he would not be strong enough for surgery, if that was even an option, let alone being under anesthesia for the required diagnostics. At 14 1/2 years old in the condition he was in, this was simply not an option. 

Senior dogs in their DoggerMilo needed 24/7 care which is something I would have done for him forever if it meant I could keep him with me. Milo was always challenging because he was a very vocal and dramatic dog which escalated as he aged, especially when he lost his hearing. It was also one of the funniest sides to him because the way he expressed himself showed so much character. Long before he started struggling he would literally scream at me for things like needing to be lifted down from the couch, or if I was late with his meal or if I was brave enough to have his nails clipped at the vet. You would swear he was being tortured. His communication method however made knowing what was really going on with him difficult to ascertain - was he crying out due to pain and discomfort or was he simply communicating as he has done so often before? Throughout all of his struggles he continued to be a food monster and when he looked at me I still saw light in his eyes so I hung on. 

When your dog goes through what Milo went through in losing his mobility it is common for people to not understand why we refuse to give up. Many times this is because they also do not understand the deep bond that we form with our four-legged family. I know there were people around me that felt that I should have let go sooner, but despite the complete betrayal by his body it was still Milo in there. No one knew Milo like I did and I had to trust that I could read him better than anyone. I felt that if I could have asked him what to do, he would have told me that he wanted to be here even given his challenges. 

In the past couple of weeks he progressively became worse and I questioned myself every single day, multiple times a day, if what I was doing was best and every time I'd be close to saying good-bye Milo would do something that made me hang on a little longer. This internal battle was the most difficult I have had to go through and it weighed on me heavily. 

Senior dog sleepingThis is the time with our seniors that I fear the most. I'd wake up every morning, open my eyes and for a moment I'd forget what was happening. When I would look at Milo sleeping he seemed like his old self and I'd smile, but then reality would kick in and I'd be overcome with a feeling of dread as I'd remember that everything is not ok. I'd try to never cry in front of him since I believe that dogs are incredibly intuitive and pick up on the vibes we give off, so I'd pull myself together and smother Milo with kisses as we'd start our day.

This is a time when we are desperately seeking a miracle and look for even the slightest signs of improvement to give us hope to carry on. Did he sleep a little easier today? How quickly did he eat his dinner? Do his eyes look a little brighter today? Anything to help us see reason to carry on.

I would talk to Milo often letting him know that he needs to tell me when he's ready to let go, when his battle becomes more than he can handle. He let me know two days ago. Everything that day seemed wrong. I had a feeling we were approaching the end when our nights were more and more difficult in that he would only sleep for a couple hours at a time needing more water and a new position to be comfortable. And then that horrible day came. Milo had a seizure and then after going into a deep sleep woke in distress. Normally if I held him he would settle down, but that day not even my touch could reach him. It was time.  

SoulmatesI had my sister come with me for support but also because I knew how much she loved Milo. I also made sure that Lily, the love of Milo's life, was with us so she could say good-bye. They had such a special connection to each other, they were soulmates and my heart breaks just thinking of them being apart. I have come to realize that in the end death is simply terrible. No matter how much you try and find the right time, the right place, with the right people (2-legged and 4-legged) it is incredibly sad, leaving a mark on your heart that will never disappear because a piece of you is now missing. 

Milo was one-of-a-kind. I know I will never meet another soul like his and my goal as I grieve losing him is to remember him when he was not struggling, when he would run so fast to get his meals that he would knock over his water bowls. I think of his 9 pm bedtime that he'd never miss, putting himself to bed and looking so adorable doing it. And I will cherish how in the middle of the night he would work his way under the covers to spoon with me. The house and my car are now too quiet without his voice. Our family is not whole, but I know he will always be with us in our hearts and in time we will smile instead of cry when we think of the amazing times we all had together.

Senior dogsI am eternally grateful to have had you in my life Milo. You changed me and everyone you ever met, forever. Thank you for the time we had, I am so sorry I could not prevent what happened, I tried my best and I know you did to. You were so strong and I am very proud of you for fighting so hard to stay here with your family. We never took our time together for granted. Every single moment was cherished and we had fun in everything we did. I hope that you will hang on to everything good and happy through our memories of our time together because that is how I plan on keeping you close to me always. I love you.

Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.

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