Tag Archives: senior dogs

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.

Enjoyed this post? Click here to sign up for the weekly newsletter and never miss another!

Keep old dogs feeling young

Fran’s Brussels Griffon Tango recently celebrated his 11th birthday. For some reason, in our minds, passing a decade moved him from the “middle-aged” category to “old dog.”

Picture of a Brussels Griffon, Tango, now an old dog.

We know that small dogs (Tango weighs a smidge over 14 pounds) generally have a longer lifespan than big ones, but our history with dogs, unfortunately, hasn’t reflected that. Our longest-lived dog was our Boston Terrier Daemon, who lived to be 16. Golly and Roc made it to 13, but we’ve lost dogs as young as eight. It’s never long enough, but we admit to feeling cheated more than once.

Nowadays we’re more conscious of what it takes to keep our old dog feeling young. Even though he’s retired from all competition, Tango still gets play-training sessions every day. Fran is careful that he “warms up” before doing any of the tricks he knows. 

Creaky old dog

Over the winter we noticed that Tango was having some trouble moving – getting going was an issue for him and he wasn’t holding himself up. Although he’s never been good at holding himself together. You know how some dogs, when they’re held, hold themselves up so their people just have to give some support? Tango flops. It’s like he pretends he has no bones when you’re holding him. So Tango gets to do some simple, fun exercises to help him stay in shape.

We use an inflatable balance disc for the exercises- but anyone can easily use a couch cushion to try it out. It “works” his legs and core, the most important bits to make sure this fuzzy creature can keep moving. 

The first sit and stand. That’s it. We tell him to sit, he does it, he gets a treat. Stand. Treat. Sit-treat. Stand-treat. About five to 10 times. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but just doing it on an unstable surface like the inflatable disc or couch cushion makes it a workout for the dog’s core muscles. We were surprised that he seemed sore the day after we started. But we’ve seen a noticeable improvement in how fast he can get moving after a nap.  Just the smallest thing can make a difference.

We’ve added some other little exercises on the disc; circling it with all four feet on, front feet, back feet. That’s a good warm-up for Tango. And he loves it so much that, when it’s another dog’s turn, he complains about it from his crate. He thinks all the turns should belong to him!

New attitude

We’ve heard two schools of thought on introducing a puppy into a household with an old dog. One side says to leave the oldster to enjoy the peace and quiet. The other, which we dove into, says that puppies/young dogs keep them young.In all honesty, since Tango had let Fran know he was no longer interested in participating in dog sports, and really wanted no part of training classes, either, we thought he was setting himself up for a comfy retirement rocking on the porch. She even wrote a book about him: Tango: Transforming My Hellhound

Then Fran brought Boston Terrier puppy Simon home. And Tango loves him. Simon torments Tango endlessly, batting at his face, bouncing at him, nipping at his beard, even, at times, barrelling into him and knocking him over. We thought Tango would hate the little hooligan, who weighs four pounds more. 

Not so! Tango adores Simon. He seeks him out to sleep by him. He initiates the bouncing! We didn’t know Tango as a young puppy, since he was 11 months old when Fran got him. He’s never played with any of the other dogs. He never even seemed interested in the other dogs. Simon, he loves! Go figure.

Live long and prosper

All of the mental and physical exertion is, of course, in addition to seeing to his medical well-being. Fortunately, aside from occasional fold dermatitis and tendency to form crystals, Tango’s healthy as well as happy. At-home grooming regimen includes:

  • Brushing, which also lets us check for bumps and sensitivities
  • Tooth-brushing, which lets us check his teeth and gums
  • Fuzzy dog maintenance, trimming his “fuzzy slippers” until he can see a groomer again

Keeping our old dog young at heart is a privilege and a joy. His joie de vivre makes us happy every day. We hope your life is enriched with an old dog. And that all your dogs live to be creaky old complainers.

Don’t shoot that dog! Think before you vaccinate

A very nice woman came into the shop the other day and we had a lovely time talking dogs. She has two – a young, little energetic fellow and a 15-year-old Dachshund named Sammy. Her objective that day was to find a harness for her young dog, so we were having a good time discussing his personality, habits, training, etc.
Boston Terrier Frankie in his ComfortFlex Sport HarnessIt turned out that Linda was the “aunt” of a Boston Terrier we’d known since the day his family brought him home – Frankie was a wonderful model for us. So, as dog people do, we started talking about all the things that go along with having dogs.
The world is a very small place – Linda’s veterinarian was the same one we’d been referred to when Golly was a puppy and had a congenital heart defect. Dr. Johnson recently retired and sold his practice. Linda hasn’t been very happy with the new veterinarians.
She told me that she and Dr. Johnson had reached consensus with her little old Sammy – they would treat whatever symptoms he had with medications. Sammy is okay for a 15-year-old Dachshund – he eats, he sleeps, he cuddles and he’s happy. He has some senior dog health issues, and they think he may have a liver problem, but they’re not going to harass him with tests and biopsies. As long as he’s happy.
The new vets apparently want to take blood tests every quarter. They want to see Sammy for regular exams. And Linda’s really not interested in that. She says Sammy doesn’t need the stress of going to the vet, or being stuck with needles.
And then Linda said, “I’ll just take him for his rabies shot.”
I asked “Why?”
At this point, why would you vaccinate Sammy? What chance is there that Sammy will be bitten by a wild animal? Or that he’ll bite someone else? And after 15 years of religiously getting the vaccination, odds are strongly in favor of Sammy having long-lasting protection from rabies.
We’re not anti-vaccine. Our dogs are up-to-date on vaccines to participate in our dog classes and sports. But we don’t vaccinate automatically – we try to put some thought into it!
When we get a new puppy, we separate out the “regular” vaccines as much as possible. If a dog does have a reaction, we know what caused it. It’s a bit inconvenient to go to the vet every couple of weeks, but we think it’s worth it.
As our dogs grow up, we still separate vaccines. We have small dogs. We don’t want to overwhelm their bodies. And we want to keep them safe.
Many of our friends subscribe to the minimal vaccination protocol developed by veterinarian Dr. Jean Dodds. Here’s a link if you want to take a look at it: https://goo.gl/24NffT
We want you to think and decide what’s best for your dog. As consumers, we’re entitled to ask questions and explore options. If any pet professional doesn’t listen to your concerns – it may be time to take your concerns elsewhere.