Friday, September 24, 2010

The Best Old Dog Diet

As we get older we slow down and our bodies require less fuel to keep us going.  The same is true for our aging companions.  A little education about what makes for a good older dog diet can certainly make shopping for the right food much easier and more importantly it will help FiFi age gracefully.
 The right food in an old dog diet is really important.  Without it, FiFi’s coat may become dull and she may develop skin allergies. You may see a loss of vigor in her and worst of all she may develop gastrointestinal problems which will cause diarrhea and vomiting. 
So what, exactly, constitutes a good diet for an old dog?

The right amount of protein.  20 – 30% of the total calories should come from good protein.

The right amount of fat.  Fat contents vary from dry to canned food. In dry food look for 7-12% fat.  In canned food the fat content should be between 5-8%.

A diet high in fiber.  Old dogs are prone to constipation so giving them more fiber will help alleviate this.  If your dog is challenged with constipation consider adding a little wheat bran to her dog food.

The right quantity of food.  As dogs age they slow down and they don’t need the same quantity of food they ate when they were younger.  Check with your vet to determine the right amount of food or experiment with FiFi.  If she leaves food, remove her bowl from the floor.  Even if she is hungry later she likely won’t eat the stale food and you won’t know if it was a quantity or quality issue.

Feed FiFi twice a day – even if you used to feed her once a day.   This will prevent her from getting hungry and “scarfing down” food when you do feed her.  Remember, if your dog eats her food too quickly she also inhales air which may cause bloat.

Add people vegetables to her food or give them to her for treats.  As dogs age, they begin to lose their sense of taste.  People food is very tasty to dogs and fruits and vegetables won’t add to her weight. You’ll want to stay away from the vegetables that cause gas in people; they also cause gas in dogs. Good vegetables for dogs are carrots, cucumbers or zucchini and fresh green beans.  In addition to tasting good they provide a good dose of antioxidants and fiber to FiFi’s diet.  Some experts suggest up to 20% of your dog’s diet should be comprised of vegetables.

There are very few vegetables that you cannot feed your dog but take note – onions and garlic are toxic to dogs. It’s unlikely you’d select these vegetables as you can only imagine how bad a dog’s breath would smell from eating these. But in case you were considering it…don’t do it!

Many aging dogs also find it difficult to chew hard food, like dry food. Soften the dry food by soaking it in warm water for a minute or two before feeding it to FiFi.  If you’re adding vegetables to her food, cook them in order to make them softer for her to chew.

Feed your older dog her food at room temperature. If you keep canned food in the fridge, warm it up just a bit before giving it to her. As above, soaking dry food in warm water will also bring the food to a temperature that is more palatable to an old dog.

Be sure to keep her water bowl filled with fresh water.  As dogs age their kidneys become diminished and often times the dogs naturally drink more water to compensate for the slower kidney functions.

Caring For A Dog With Arthritis

Dogs of all breeds and sizes can be affected by arthritis, which is pain and inflammation in the joints. While arthritis is generally associated with older dogs it may actually inflect dogs of any age.  Because “old age” varies based on the size of a dog, old age may set in at 7 years old for a larger dog or 13 years old for a small dog. 
The best thing you can do is watch for the common symptoms associated with arthritis.   Common symptoms for you to watch for include a reluctance to walk,  jump, or play, limping, a sudden reaction to you touching a sore joint (snaps at you or yelps with pain), favoring one leg over another, difficulty getting up and an increasing stiffness in the morning.
If your companion is showing signs of arthritis there are many things you can do to make her feel more comfortable. 
First of all, is she carrying a few extra pounds?  If so, help her lower her weight through diet and mild exercise.  Those extra pounds are really causing her discomfort.
Where does she sleep?  If she sleeps with you in your bed, place a footstool at the side of the bed so she doesn’t have to jump to get up there.  If she sleeps on the floor, consider buying her an orthopedic dog bed.  They distribute the dog’s weight evenly and reduce the pressure points on the dog’s joints.
Make it easy for her to get water.  Place several bowls of water around your home; particularly if you live in a large home so she doesn’t have to walk too far to get a drink.  If her arthritis is painful enough she’ll fore go the water her body needs to avoid the pain of walking. 
Speaking of water bowls, place her water and food bowls at her height so she doesn’t have to bend her neck to the ground to eat and drink.  This eliminates the stress on her back and neck muscles.
Keep her warm.  Just like people, dogs with arthritis feel the pain more in cold, damp climates.  Put a sweater or a jacket on her when she goes outside to reduce the chill on her joints.
If she’s having a very difficult time standing up, consider getting a lift for her. They are designed specifically for dogs so they are comfortable for her and easy for you to use.

If you have a breed that swims, swimming is an excellent exercise for her.  Just like people, dogs feel less pressure on their joints while exercising in water. However, if you have a breed that cannot swim – like a bulldog – or a dog that does not enjoy the water, do not put them in water…even with a life jacket. It will cause more stress for them than the benefit of the water.

Learn more about helping your arthritic dog.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to select the best dog bed for your aging companion

If you’re looking for ways to provide comfort for your aging dog then you’ll want to consider creating a new place for him to sleep. Hard floors are difficult on old dogs; particularly those with hip dysplasia. And as dogs age, they have a more difficult time jumping up to lie on a comfy couch or bed. Finding just the right bed for your old friend will bring him comfort and you peace of mind.

There are three key elements to consider when shopping for the best dog bed for an aging dog; warmth, pressure reduction and size.

According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, warmth is very important for dogs with dysplasia; a common ailment in older dogs. Just like people with arthritis, a dog’s pain worsens in damp and cold weather. Be sure to keep an older dog indoors and look for a bed with a heating element. Experts caution not to use a heating pad. Though it will reduce the pain, there is a great risk of burning your dog. A better way to provide warmth for Fido is to place a fleece blanket on the dog bed. It’s easier to pick up the fleece blanket and throw it in the wash than it is to take the cover off the dog bed, wash it and then put it back on.

Pressure Reduction

If you’ve ever had aching shoulders after sitting at a computer for hours you know how good it feels when someone massage the sore spots. Believe it or not, you can offer the same relief to your pet by gently rubbing the joints in a circular motion. If your pooch has to climb stairs to get in and out of the house, you may consider installing a ramp to ease the pain. And if you have throw rugs on a slick kitchen floor, be sure to use carpet tape to tape them down so the dog doesn’t surf across your kitchen. But the easiest thing you can do to reduce pressure in his joints is to provide your best buddy with the best dog bed. Just like in the Goldilocks story it shouldn’t be too soft (it’ll be too difficult for him to get up from it) and it shouldn’t be too hard (that negates the reason for getting the bed). It should be just right. The number one pressure reduction challenge when shopping for a pet bed is that you can’t tell the difference when the beds are new. They all look great. You push down on them and they pop up. But what you’re looking for is the bed that will “pop up” after your 70 pound Golden Retriever or 100 pound Boxer has slept on it many nights. This is one of those instances where other people’s experience and product ratings will go a long way toward making the right purchase.

Most people’s first thought when buying a dog bed is where they are going to put it and how much space there is in that spot for the bed. This is like buying a twin bed for a 6’3”, 200 pound man because the bedroom is fairly small. The bed might fit in the room but the man (or the dog) isn’t going to lie on it. To “fit” your dog for a bed, measure him when he’s laying down. Take his length, add five inches and the ideal bed will be that wide/long at its smallest point. If you invest in a dog bed that isn’t big enough for Fido to lay on and turn around on, you may find him sleeping next to the dog bed and using the dog bed as a pillow! That doesn’t do anything for his aching joints and you just got him a very expensive pillow.

It is so difficult to watch our pets suffer the pain of aging but there are so many great pet products today that enable us to improve their quality of life. Among the most important of these is providing your best friend with the absolute best dog bed you can afford for him. Remember to look for the right combination of warmth, pressure reduction and size.

Walking An Old Dog – 5 Considerations

If you haven’t been exercising your dog since he was a puppy you really must consult with a vet before beginning a new routine.  Explain to your vet that you want to integrate exercise into your and Fido’s life and ask the vet to recommend the best types of exercise based on your dogs overall health.  Just because he’s old doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some spring left in his step.
Your vet will consider your dog’s age, breed and size in addition to his muscle tone, flexibility and heart strength when suggesting the right exercise program.  Most likely daily walks will be included in your routine.
Considerations when walking an old dog
Pace is a significant factor.  Don’t expect Fido to walk at the pace he used to.  Think of it as more of a stroll the two of you enjoy together.
Water along the way.  Just like joggers enjoy the benefit of a bottle of water part way through their run, carry a bottle of water for your dog.  Pour it slowly and he’ll be able to lap it in, as if it were a drinking fountain.  Many pet stores carry a product that is a bottle and bowl all in one.  Or carry a small, folding bowl with you and take a water break halfway through your walk.
Timing.  Walk your dog before a meal, not after. This will minimize the risk of bloat.  Bloat is caused when a dog’s stomach fills with air and it can cause the stomach to twist which traps the air and can cause a dog to die.
Surface.  When puppies are younger it’s suggested you walk them on a hard surface like a road to help wear down their nails. However, the opposite is true for walking an old dog.  You want to walk your old buddy on soft grass or dirt to avoid damage to his footpads.  And if the surface is slippery for any reason, an older dog will be nervous and may even slip.

Use a leash.  Even if your dog is well behaved off leash, you still want to use a leash when walking an old dog.  If something catches your old friend’s eye he may forget his age and go chasing after it.  The older your dog is the greater the risk of this resulting in pulled muscles or joint damage which, of course, means longer recovery time due to age. Don’t take the chance. Use the leash.

How To Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

It's been a long time since Jake was a puppy but not so long since he was an "old man" as I called him. While I was training my new bulldog puppy I thought about how I had taught Jake some tricks during his geriatric years.

Many people said the old adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is based in reality. I have to disagree. You can teach an old dog new tricks using the very same training techniques used to teach a puppy. But you should select the tricks you plan to teach your old dog very carefully. If your pet is suffering from hip dysplasia, don’t teach him to lay down. Getting up and down is very painful for him. So is “beg” and “roll over.” Also forget about “play dead.” This, too, requires him to get up and down too much.

Tricks that are good for an older dog include:

Kisses. Ask your pet for a kiss. Some people do not care for a dog licking them on their face. That’s fine. Teach your old dog to “kiss” your hand, as a gentleman did a lady in the “old days.” The simplest way to do this is to put a little peanut butter wherever you want your dog to kiss you and say “kisses” as you lean toward your dog.

Speak. Speak is another great trick for an older dog. Or you might consider “sing” instead of or in addition to “speak.” The easiest way to teach this trick is to catch your dog when he barks. When he barks you say “speak” and give him a treat so he begins to associate the word speak with his bark. Pay attention to things that make him bark so you can begin to create barking instances. For example, does he bark when someone rings the doorbell? If so, have a family member ring the door bell. When your dog barks, say “speak” and give him a treat. In time you’ll be able to simply say “speak” and he will bark.

Pick Which Hand. If you have kids, you likely played this with your younger children. Place a dog treat in one hand. With palms up, show the dog. Put your hands behind your back, close them into fists and show the fists to your dog and ask, “Which hand?” Of course he’ll use his snout to try to get the treat. Don’t open your hand until he paws at your hand. Once he paws at the correct hand, he gets the treat.

Peek-a-boo. When children are little and play peek-a-boo they think when they put their hands over their own eyes that people cannot see them. This is the same idea. With your dog in a lying down position, say “peek-a-boo” and place his paw over his muzzle. When he lays still and does this, give him a treat. If he lifts his head off the floor start over.

Shake or High Five. With your dog in a sit position, say “shake” or “high five” and pick up one paw. Praise him and give him a treat. Soon you’ll say “shake” or “high five” and only give him a treat when he picks up his paw on his own.

Your dog wants to do these tricks for you. If you aren’t getting the reaction you want, keep working with him. He’ll get there. He just isn’t sure what you want from him yet.

Dog trainers suggest you spend no more than 15 minutes working on any single trick at any one time and you always end with a successful activity. If you’ve taught your dog “kisses” and you’re now working on Peek-a-boo and she just isn’t getting it, then do one “kisses” at the end so the training session ended with success for your dog.

See, you can teach an old dog new tricks – if you pick the right tricks.

My Son Moved To L.A. I Got A Bulldog

When my Golden Retriever, Jake, died after 14 wonderful years together I never thought I'd get another dog. But then my son graduated from High School, moved to California and the house was incredibly quiet.  Too quiet.

So the Tuesday before Thanksgiving two years ago, I opened CraigsList and started looking at dogs.  I saw an ad for Olde English Bulldogs.  I thought those were the short, barrel-shaped dogs.  A quick "research" on google about Bulldogs told me that they are "couch potatoes."  A little exercise goes a long way with them. 

That's the PERFECT dog for me! 

I called the breeder.  He said he had one pup left so I went over that night to see it.

I was going to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving to visit my son so I knew I couldn't get the dog that night.  I was going to look at the dog.  If I liked it I was going to ask them to keep it until I got back from L.A.

I walk up to their front door and their are two dogs looking through the fence.  They weren't the short, barrel-shaped dogs.  They were taller.  But they did have the barrel-chests.  "They must have more than one breed," I thought.  I rang the door bell and was invited in.  The woman brought out this little ball. 

Since my last dog was a Golden I was used to long hair dogs. I don't think I'd even ever pet a short haired dog.  I thought it was going to be course.  But her fur was sooo soft.  I was falling in love.

Then a boy, about 7 years old, came in and picked up the pup.  The puppies short, stubby legs were barely long enough but he had her hanging from his bent arm as he turned in circles; faster and faster and laughing.  The woman said nothing while I expected the puppy to go flying.  "I'll take her!" I cried.  I had to save her from that horrible child. 

No crate. No dog food. No toys. 7:00pm and I'm leaving for California in 24 hours!

I had a cardboard box in my car. I placed the puppy in the cardboard box, put the box next to me and I drove to the nearest PetSmart.  $300 later I was on my way home with the coolest puppy and lots of dog stuff. 

Once home I called the airline to inquire as to the extra cost to travel with a dog. $100 each way to place her under the seat in front of me.  "Done.  Here's my Visa number."

I fed the puppy, took her out before it was time to turn in and took her to bed with me.  I expected not to sleep that night but that wasn't the case. We both slept through the night, with her cuddled up in my armpit.

First thing the next morning I called the vet and begged to be squeezed into the schedule that day before we headed to the airport.  They accomodated us. That taken care of, we headed for the airport.