A Senior Dog and Pain Relief (A New Year’s Resolution)

As we look forward to the New Year, many of us are making resolutions to make changes we hope will make our lives better.

Sometimes resolutions are hard.  One of my resolutions centers around my 17 year old dog, Chloe, and that resolution is to be more open to conventional medicine regarding her care.

Alternative care, specifically chiropractic care, has worked wonders for her for the past few years, but we seem to have come to a point where conventional medicine has to be incorporated into her daily regimen.

Her vet has suggested she go on Rimadyl for joint pain.  I have resisted for as long as possible, and we have had her on a combination of a very minimal dose of Tramadol for pain and Inflamese (a capsule of herbs that helps with pain and orthopedic recovery).  However, her shoulder continues to be painful, so as of two days ago, we are giving the Rimadyl a try.

Her initial response to the drug has been very positive.  No vomiting and no change in her bowels…two key things to watch when you put an animal on Rimadyl.  We had a baseline blood and liver test done before she started taking it which we will repeat in 2 weeks to see if she can tolerate the drug.  Like so many drugs, Rimadyl can be nasty on the liver, so close monitoring is essential.

At this point, I hope she can take it as she seems so much more comfortable in her movements during the day today.  Even her appetite is better.

I hate to give in or give up.  Putting her on this drug is an acknowledgement of her age that I resist on a daily basis.  If you have ever really loved a dog, you will understand…

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Your senior dog and when is he officially a senior?

Chloe is a 17 year old mixed breedMost people assume that one year of a dog’s life is equal to 7 years of a human’s life.  It’s not quite that simple.  There is a scale of years that is attributable to a dog’s aging that few people are aware of.

The question of when your dog should be considered a senior does not have a straight forward answer either as it largely depends on size and breed or mix of breeds.  A small dog typically is expected to have a life span of 15 years, a medium sized dog a life span of 12-14 years, and a large dog a shorter span of 7-10 years. Within those ranges, there are breeds that have their own challenges and may be expected to have shorter life spans. Of course, there are exceptions to every “rule”.  How do you know what size to consider your dog?  The difference between a Yorkie and a Great Dane is clear, but medium sized dogs can morph into one category or the other.  In general, a small dog would be 20 lbs or less; a medium dog would be in the general range of 21-50 pounds, and a large dog would weigh more than 50 pounds.

With much larger dogs, they can be considered seniors after 5 or 6 years. Medium sized dogs closer to 7 years and older, and small and toy breeds would be considered seniors at around 10 years of age.  Dogs, like people, age differently; their health and condition are affected by diet, exercise and stress as well as genetics of the breed or mix of breeds.  Like people, there are dogs who age very differently than expected, either more quickly or much later in life.

For the first two years, a dog year is equal to approximately 10.5 human years. After that, each dog year equals about 4 human years.

Whatever your dog’s actual or “human” age, food, exercise and stress play an important part as they do in our lives!








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Senior Dogs and Cats and Exercise

Exercise is good for you and your petSo…do you sit on the couch and watch TV, or do you put on your sneakers and go for a walk?  Is your pet a couch potato, or does he get excited when your sneakers and his leash show up?

What is appropriate exercise for your senior pets?  As they age should they be allowed to become sedentary?

Whether you have a senior dog or cat (or both!), exercise is important for a variety of reasons.  As with humans, you may have to modify the type and amount of exercise as your dog ages, but stopping should not be something you do.

“They can’t catch you if you keep moving”!  I don’t know where I heard this or who said it, but it’s true for your pets, too.  Regular exercise is essential for your senior dog or cat’s continued good health.  Appropriate walks are great to help your dog’s joints stay more limber.  Modify the walks in time and terrain as your dog ages so it is something he looks forward to and can handle with only moderate challenges.  Include some hills and stairs to strengthen his leg muscles to keep those hind quarters strong.  A good idea is to vary the route you walk as well.  Smelling the same old stuff everyday isn’t as exciting as a different new route to sniff.

One point I really want to make is that almost all dogs are sprinters not long distance runners.  I absolutely cringe when I see a dog hooked up to a bike or running miles along side a real long distance runner.  Please, find out what is a good idea for your breed of dog or mix of breeds before hooking him up and taking off for a few miles.

For your senior cat, have a play time.  I have a good friend whose cat’s favorite thing is to chase a rolled up ball of aluminum foil that she tosses across the room…then he bats it around on his own and chases it.  Cheap toy, and he loves it!

Exercise keeps your pets mentally stimulated, keeps that pet/human bond strong  and gives them something to look forward to.  It’s a great activity you can share that’s good for both of you!  Don’t forget your pet is as active or sedentary as you are.  So do both of you a favor and get moving!




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“Diabesity” in Senior Dogs and Cats? An overweight epidemic for pets.

Dogs can have weight challenges, too...“Diabesity”, or diabetes and obesity, is a challenge to us all.

Last week, I was watching a terrific show on PBS that featured a lecture on “Diabesity” by Dr. Mark Hyman.  It was about us humans, but I couldn’t help but make the animal connection.

We are a very overweight nation, and our pets are following us right over the same cliff to the health epidemic that is diabetes.  Did you know more pets are over weight than ever, and did you know that diabetes in pets, especially dogs, is on the rise?

I thought it would be helpful to highlight a few of the connecting points for the dogs and cats with whom we share our lives.

First of all, food is your medicine and food is your dog’s medicine.  If you are feeding him poison, he will not be well.

My personal doctor is a traditional one, but has added preventative medicine to her practice.  She has a great sign on her wall that you face as you sit and wait for her to come into the room…accident?  I think not.

The sign says:

  1. Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food
  2. Don’t eat anything that has more than 3 ingredients
  3. Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot

Words to live and eat by for you and for your pet.

First of all, if you feed your dog something that stays “moist” all the time, you can bet it’s full of sugar.  That’s how it stays moist.  Sugar is poison in the quantities we’ve come to consume.

Just as you need to read the labels on the foods you eat, so you should become a label reader of pet food.  Take a look at the label of the food you currently feed your dog. Can you pronounce the ingredients?  Do you have any idea what they are?  Is the first ingredient corn?  The answers to these questions can be the solution to your dog or cat’s weight gain issue, allergy issues, move toward diabetes and more.

Do you know how to tell if your dog or cat is becoming overweight?  If he is obese, it’s a no brainer, but if he’s getting a little pudgy and you want to check, feel his rib area.  If you can’t feel his ribs at all, you’re on the wrong track with type and quantity of food.  You should be able to feel all his ribs, but with a little padding (not a lot) over the ribs.

Staying on the thin side is healthy for all of us, and your dog and cat are no exception!

To your dog and cat’s good health!


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Great Example Why You Shouldn’t Give a Dog or Cat for Christmas!

cats and dogs with bows are cute but not for Christmas presentsThis subject bears repeating.  I always manage to include it in my blog, communications and TV appearances at holiday time! 

I thought it might be a good idea to share an email exchange I had this week with a former business colleague who emailed me about giving a dog to her daughter’s mother-in-law for Christmas.  I hope it gets to you before you put that dog or cat with the big red bow under the tree!

­­­­­­­From: Debbie Miller

Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2012 12:37 PM

To: Cheryl Major

Subject: dogs

Cheryl – First of all, Merry Christmas.  Hope all is going well for you.

Now, I wonder if you can give me some advice.  My daughter, Rachel, is trying to find a dog for Christmas for her mother-in-law who needs something to get her out of the house.  She is in her 70’s, and would need a dog that is small, gentle, and affectionate, but not a puppy.

Rachel has been looking online, but so far no one has even replied to her inquiries.  So – any thoughts as to how she should proceed?

Appreciate any hints you can give her.  Debbie


From: Cheryl Major

Sent: Dec 14, 2012 12:05 PM

To: Debbie Miller

Subject: RE: dogs

Hi Debbie,

You ended up in my spam folder!  But not for long…   Merry Christmas to you, too!

I do have some thoughts to share.  When have I ever been short on opinions?  😉

Most reputable shelters and adoption groups do not adopt out for Christmas.  I know at Buddy Dog we stop adoptions two weeks before Christmas.  This is because so many people give pets as gifts to people who don’t really want the responsibility, and the dogs and cats end up back where they started (or worse).

Although the no response thing is rude, that may explain the silence.  Instead, we encourage people to give gifts about the pet or a gift  certificate for a pet. A leash, dog toy, etc. with the dog being chosen and adopted after the holidays. That way the person has some input into which dog or cat they adopt.  There needs to be a connection for it to be a good match.

Additionally, the holidays are rushed and stressed which is not a good environment in which to start a new relationship with a pet.  A quieter time when the introduction is more relaxed makes for a better outcome.

Buddy Dog does get small adult dogs in, and a visit there might be a good idea.  If Rachel’s mother-in-law found a dog she wanted to adopt, BD will hold him until after Christmas for her.

I hope all this is helpful.  Either you or Rachel are welcome to be in touch with me again about this.  Happy to help in any way I can.

Merry Christmas!



From: Debbie Miller

Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2012 2:25 PM

To: Cheryl Major

Subject: dogs

Cheryl – Thanks for you input.  At least we now understand the process a little better, and we have exactly that problem – we think she really needs a companion and something to get her out of the house, but we are not sure how receptive she will be.  So – back to the drawing board.


Debbie…thanks for making my point! 






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Oh Ho…the Mistletoe…but not for dogs and cats…puppies, kittens or seniors!

Mistletoe...pretty but poisonous for petsIs Mistletoe Poisonous to your Dog or Cat?

Holiday time is a fun, busy time for us all.  We get to enjoy seasonal items, decorations and greens not around us the rest of the year, but some of these items pose health risks for our furry friends.

One of these holiday items is mistletoe.  Pretty to look at, fun to have around, but it can really put a wrench in your holiday celebration if your dog or cat gets a hold of it.

Mistletoe is poisonous to dogs and cats just like the chocolate we discussed in my last post.  Ingestion of smaller amounts will cause unpleasant symptoms like drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. Ingestion of larger amounts can result in rapid pulse, walking drunk, seizures, collapse or even death.

While you might expect those pretty white berries to be the culprit (and they are toxic), the leaves are the deadliest.  You may hang the mistletoe up high and think it’s out of your pet’s reach, but bits can break off especially as it begins to dry over the ensuing days or weeks.  What fun your will cat have batting the bits around on your hardwood floors before he sits down to munch away and finish off those white berries!?  You can see that, can’t you?!

All in all, not a good addition to your holiday festivities or to Fido or Fluffie’s either!

I am a natural decorations person myself, but in this case, I’ve decided to opt for the plastic version of mistletoe!

Symptoms to watch for are:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hypotension
  • Walking drunk
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Death

If you suspect your pet has eaten mistletoe, contact your vet or Pet Poison Helpline for evaluation and treatment recommendations.



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Dogs Love Chocolate…Chocolate Does Not Love Them Back!

Chocolate...yummy for people but poisonous for dogsWe enjoy chocolate all year long, but it seems to be around the house especially at holiday time.  At these times, we’re also very busy and more distracted, giving Fido a better chance to help himself to the goodies, or in this case, the baddies.

Though it’s hard to believe that something as delicious as chocolate could kill your dog, it’s true.

Chocolate contains the substances caffeine and theobromine which can cause all kinds of problems from vomiting and diarrhea to hyperactivity, seizures and in extreme cases, death.

The incidences of chocolate poisoning have increased in recent years, due in large part to the trend toward eating darker, purer chocolate.  If your dog gets a hold of milk chocolate, he is less apt to become seriously ill than if he gets into your box of Godivas.  Don’t be fooled though; a dose of milk chocolate can be serious depending upon the quantity of the candy and the size of your dog.

To get an idea of what level of chocolate ingestion would do your dog harm, I’ve included a link below to a chart provided by National Geographic.  It provides a sliding scale so you can adjust for your dog’s weight and then see the different types of chocolate and the amounts your pooch would need to eat in order to start exhibiting the various levels of illness or death.


Often veterinary care is necessary to avoid disaster.  I’ve been there with a dog we had about 15 years ago named Bristie.  He was staying over night with my mother who had a 5 lb box of Sees Candies on the dining room table…probably too near the edge.  Bristie managed to get the box off the table which conveniently opened it up when it hit the floor.  He probably ate at least a dozen delicious Sees Chocolates before being discovered; we couldn’t be sure of the exact number he ate because time was of the essence with this event.  I’m sure he didn’t let candy papers get in his way.  Because he weighed less than 25 lbs, it was off to the vet where they had to induce vomiting and keep him for the day to save him.  Believe me, it was not fun for anyone.

Learn from my mistake, and keep chocolate high and dry and far away from the reach of your sneaky pooch!


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A Tip of the Hat to a 17 Year Old Shelter Dog!

A tip of the hat to my Senior Dog, Chloe…

My dog is now 17 years old and still going strong. Her name is Chloe, and though we didn’t choose the name for her, it is a perfect choice.  She is Chloe.

We adopted her from The Buddy Dog Humane Society when she was 4 ½ years old.  She was surrendered to the shelter on a day when I was there volunteering and dog walking.  It was love at first sight.  When the shelter staff put her in her kennel, I went to the door and knelt down to talk to her.  She looked so confused and was so sweet.

She also reminded me a lot of a very special dog we had lost 3 months earlier.  My husband didn’t feel he was over the loss of him yet, but I couldn’t bear life without a dog.  I firmly believe it is a tribute to how much you loved a dog to adopt another as soon as you are ready.

Chloe is a wonderful, smart, rubbery with some puppiness still in her… dog.  She was billed as a cockapoo, but we suspect she is poodle and Wheaton Terrier.  We strongly suspect the terrier part because of her “you want me to do what?” attitude.  That strength of character has led us to negotiate life with Chloe at times.  We have tried kind discipline, but she will not be squashed.  I’m trying to think of what famous woman she might be likened to, but a name doesn’t come to me…I’ll think more on that.

Almost a year ago, we had a senior dog blood screen done.  Partly because she hadn’t had one done in a while and partly because she had developed a bit of a cough that seemed to be getting a little worse.  The results of the blood screen and the follow-up xrays were not good news.

Chloe’s diagnosis was that she had a primary lung tumor; cancer.  Until that moment, I didn’t even know what a primary tumor was.  Because of her age, neither a biopsy nor surgery to remove the tumor was an option; she wouldn’t survive either procedure.

We were resolute in our decision not to put her through radiation or chemotherapy, instead dedicated to making what time she had left with us as full and loving as possible.

Almost a year later, Chloe (typical for her) has done her own thing by defying the odds.  She gets 3 walks a day, occasionally still likes to play and has maintained a healthy weight.

We are grateful for each day we have with her.  A tip of the hat to you, Chloe!

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Don’t Give a Pet for Christmas!

The holiday season is in full swing.  A couple of days ago on very suburban roads, not highways mind you, I saw three pretty bad accidents while driving home from work.  That commute usually takes about 25 minutes.  Note…it took a lot more than 25 minutes that day.  I guess distracted driving and people not concentrating, or trying to concentrate on too many mental tasks, is part of our holiday behavior.

Those accidents prompted this blog in an attempt to save you from making a really, really bad mistake.

It is a wonderful gift to yourself and your family to open your heart and your home to a dog or a cat.  But, like any new addition to the family, bringing home a dog or cat whether adult or puppy or kitten requires some adjustments, getting used to, and extra time spent.  The average holiday reveler doesn’t have extra time…

Let me be more specific…Christmas Day is not the time to make this addition.  Let me repeat that…Christmas Day is not the day to have the dog or cat with the big red bow under the tree.

The dog or cat will be handled much more than he should by too many people.  He will be stressed to the max by being in a new place, not to mention that he will pick up on your stress of trying to keep all the holiday balls in the air.

Rich food will be shared with your new family member with the best of intentions which will make your pet sick.  Aunt Martha will step in the resulting vomit or diarrhea, grinding it into your favorite rug, the dog or cat will be in trouble, will pee from nervousness, and you will be left with a disaster.  You will be left thinking getting a pet was a really bad idea.

It’s not a bad idea; it’s a wonderful event if you make the right moves at the right time.

For Christmas, give the promise of a new pet.  Give a dog or cat toy, give a leash, give a certificate for a dog or cat from your local animal shelter.  Wait until the holiday stress and craziness dies down to bring your new family member home.

Many reputable animal shelters won’t adopt animals out for the two weeks before Christmas to avoid just such disasters.  It’s a bad idea for you and for the animal.

Open your heart and your home to a dog or a cat when you can make time to adjust and help the animal adjust; when you can spend a little extra quiet time with your new family member.  That way you’ll have a great start to a rich and rewarding relationship!


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