Tag Archives: dog health

Picture of an old dog carrying a toy toward a box

Adventures with an old dog

Every day can be an adventure when you have an old dog. Tango, Fran’s 14.5-year-old Brussels Griffon, has us on a bit of a roller coaster lately. 

It’s not that we mind cleaning up when he doesn’t quite make it outside. Or the loads of laundry on the days nothing stays down. The distressing part is that he’s not comfortable, can’t seem to get warm, and on some days, doesn’t want to play his special games

Making choices

Picture of an old dog carrying a toy toward a box

All this came on rather suddenly, so Fran’s working with his veterinarian to figure out how to make him happy and comfortable again. We’ve known the vet for many years, and when she took a look at him, asked Fran if they had to have “the talk.” It’s not the same talk parents have with their pre-teens. It’s the tough choices talk.

And we’re there. At Tango’s age and state of decay (arthritis, vision and hearing loss, etc.) we’re not going to subject him to invasive or painful diagnostic tests. If we did, and discovered something, we also wouldn’t subject him to invasive or painful treatment. So there would be no point.

Comfortable is the goal

So we’re treating the symptoms for now. Hoping our vet’s familiarity with Tango, knowledge, and experience, will keep Tango comfortable most days. As long as the good days outnumber the not-so-good ones, we’ll keep going.

Ironically, with Tango, the one diagnosis we thought was a sure bet, kidney disease/failure, isn’t. His kidney function is just dandy. It’s ironic because he’s been eating prescription kidney diet food most of his life. He had crystals when we was about two, so he’s been on a special diet ever since. He’ll be thrilled now that he can have whatever food he likes. He’s happy beyond belief to get unlimited Chicken Heart Treats. Even the vet says we don’t have to care about crystals any more.

Free to indulge

In a way, it’s going to be a good time with Tango, however long it is. When you don’t have to worry about long-term consequences, you can indulge him. He’ll get the extra squirt of whipped cream or spoon of ice cream. And we’ll turn up the heated throw an extra notch, just for Tango.

We’ve had dogs for lots of years and we’ve had all kinds of end-of-life experiences with them. People, especially first-time dog owners, will ask when you know it’s time. In our experience, your dog will let you know when they’re done. By the same token, they’ll also do their best to stay with you if that’s what you need. Dogs’ love for their people is unconditional throughout their lives.

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Picture of a brindle French Bulldog sleeping on a pillow to illustrate dog snoring

Dog snoring – what it means and when to worry

How come it’s cute when you hear your dog snoring? And not when it’s your significant other? It’s a comforting, relaxing part of the background noise when it’s your dog. If you even notice it, it probably makes you smile a little inside, knowing your dog is comfortable and content.

Dogs make noise. If you wanted a silent household, chances are you shouldn’t have gotten a dog. There are lots of words that are pretty exclusively used to describe dogs’ sounds: barking, yapping, howling, growling, panting. As you read each of those, you probably heard them in your mind. Probably your own dog’s version. 

One of the most poignant laments after losing a beloved dog is how quiet the house is. It’s not the big noises that you miss. It’s the little ones. Like the settling sigh, the click of footsteps, and the snoring of deep sleep.

Why do dogs snore?

Dogs snore for pretty much the same reasons people do. Something’s causing a vibration in the mouth or nose and snoring is the result. Most of the causes aren’t anything to worry about. They include:

  • Structure: short-faced dogs (brachycephalic) may have an elongated soft palate.
  • Overweight: Can cause a narrowing of the trachea.
  • Allergies: Congestion can cause snoring.
  • Tooth Infections: Can result in swelling of the surrounding tissue.
  • Obstruction: Breathing in a foreign object.
  • Upper Respiratory Infection: Colds produce congestion.

You’d think, with four short-nosed dogs in the house, that we always have a symphony of snoring. We don’t. None of our dogs snore regularly – not even Hope’s French Bulldog, Torque. His loud breathing sounds usually happen during training – he’s so excited and happy to be playing training games.

The only time Tango, Fran’s 14-year-old Brussels Griffon, snores is when he has a cold, which is more often than we’d like. Especially since the snoring is accompanied by panting, snot bubbles, and general misery. When Tango has a cold, nobody’s happy.

Our dog with the most nocturnal noises is actually Booker. But it’s usually not snoring. He seems to be the most vivid dreamer, and he’ll sometimes even howl in sleep. It’s a mournful, pitiful sound and we try to wake him gently when it happens. 

When to worry about dog snoring

If your dog always snores some of the time, it’s probably not anything to be concerned about. Sudden changes are more worrisome. If your dog is always snoring, even when awake, it’s worth asking your vet. If you notice some nasal discharge, or sneezing, that’s another question for your vet. 

Picture of a brindle French Bulldog sleeping on a pillow to illustrate dog snoring

It is possible for dogs to suffer from sleep apnea, just like people. That’s a pause in breathing while asleep. Snoring often goes along with apnea, but it’s just one indicator. If you notice your dog open-mouth breathing, holding a toy to stay that way, or sleeping sitting up, tell your vet. Using something as a pillow, to keep the head elevated, can also be an indication of breathing issues. 

Or it could just mean your dog likes to use a pillow. Torque even has his own, full-size pillow. And there’s nothing cuter (to Hope) than seeing him use it. Especially with his paw up by his face. 

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Is there biofilm in your dog’s water bowl?

Did you know your dog’s water bowl may be harboring lethal organisms? That slippery, slimy gunk that develops isn’t slobber. It’s a breeding ground for bacteria, algae, and fungus. And it’s not only dangerous to your dog’s health. It’s not good for you, either.

Picture of a dog bowl filled with pond water to illustrate biofilm in your dog's water bowl.

We’ll never forget the first time we went to a friend’s house after she got her first puppy. We went into the kitchen to get something-or-other, and saw the interior of her puppy’s white, ceramic water bowl was orange with slime. We asked when was the last time she washed it. She said she didn’t know she was supposed to.

We’re telling you – wash your dog’s water bowl. Really. If not every day, every other one. Better yet, have two and alternate using them and putting them in the dishwasher for thorough cleaning. You want no part of what grows in a dog’s stale water bowl.

They call it “biofilm”

Biofilm is the almost scientific name for the slimy goo that builds up in the water bowl. It’s a mixture and growth of whatever nasties your dog may have found on outside adventures, as well as whatever’s floating around in the air. It can range in color from clear to black, with pink, green, orange, and red all possible. 

If it’s clear, how do you tell if it’s there? We know you take wonderful care of all your pets. But did you ever pick up the water bowl to change it and notice it was a bit slippery? That’s biofilm. Wash your hands. 

Back in middle school biology class, we did an experiment with water. Each set of lab partners got a jar that we filled with clean tap water. And into that clean water we put sticks, leaves, stones – whatever we came up with after a few minutes outside in the school yard. And after a week, that jar was murky, disgusting, and brimming with all kinds of microscopic (and some larger) life. The inside of the jar was coated with a slimy biofilm. Do you really want your dog drinking pond water?

Friend or enemy

We know that some people will think “there are lots of bacteria that are beneficial for both dogs and people. Look at all the companies selling pre- and pro-biotics these days.” While we agree on the concept, we’d rather get our bacteria from known sources. Share some yogurt with your dog. Clean the water bowl. 

You may find that your dog really likes fresh, clean water better. Simon, Fran’s 4-year-old Boston Terrier, likes nothing better than a refill, fresh from the tap. Just recently we had an incident where he was so eager, he jostled Hope’s arm before the bowl was on the floor. After the spill was cleaned up, we got in a little training game to remind him to mind his manners.

Another water bowl issue

While we’re on the subject, it’s also worth mentioning that it matters what the water bowl’s made of. If you’ve ever seen red spots or pimples on your dog’s chin or muzzle, that could be dog acne. They get it too. And the issue could be using plastic water bowls. To prevent dog acne, your dog’s bowls should be stainless steel, ceramic, or glass. Since we have a bunch of hooligans, we use stainless bowls. If you don’t have to worry about breakage, by all means use a more decorative ceramic or glass bowl. Just be sure, whatever you use, that it’s dishwasher safe. 

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No guarantees on dogs

A friend of ours has a sick dog. Even the veterinary specialists can’t quite figure out what’s wrong with her. The dog has wonky liver values, is reluctant to eat and sometimes lethargic. She’s only five years old. Our friend did everything right when he was looking for a puppy five years ago. But there are no guarantees on dogs.

Mistakes of the past

When he was searching for a responsible puppy and breeder, he did everything right. He’s involved in his breed’s club, and found a responsible breeder. He made sure all the health tests were done on the sire and dam of the litter. He went a step further. His older dog went blind at a young age from a genetic disease. So he made sure the parents were both tested for that, as well. 

Picture of a Cocker Spaniel standing in grass to illustrate dogs don't come with guarantees

And he brought home a lovely puppy girl. They were off to a wonderful start, for the first three years. Our friend’s preferred dog sport is agility and his puppy loved it, too. Then she started feeling ill. She was coming up lame. And not wanting to run. 

Again, our friend did everything right. He’s taken her for every test the vets recommended. He treated her with the medicines they prescribed. Fortunately, he has medical insurance on his dog, and most of the impressive expenses incurred have been covered. Even the cancer drug they tried.

Art and science

Unfortunately, no one’s been able to find an exact cause, or a cure, for what ails the dog. He brings her to our obedience club’s Rally class, just to be able to do something with her. Because she doesn’t want to run the way dogs need to for agility competition.

Is our friend disappointed? Of course he is. But he’s also willing to do what’s best for the dog he got. He’s sticking with his girl, taking her to her physical therapy, getting the  regular blood tests, adjusting meds and diet as needed. Because dogs are family.

Not giving up

He’s still hoping to find an answer that will let his dog return to the bouncy, mischievous girl she used to be. He isn’t giving up on his dog. 

We all live with uncertainty. We open ourselves up to the unconditional love of dogs, even though we know that one day we’ll have to mourn them. It’s never long enough, whether it’s long and fulfilled, or short and sweet. Because dogs don’t come with guarantees.

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