Your Senior Dog…He’s Been Keeping You Healthy All These Years (he’s your “pet prescription dog”)

Take a health break...spend time with your dog!Did you know having a pet is good for your health?

Research has shown that interacting with a pet, whether furry or not, is good for your heart, your stress level and your health in general.  In fact, this research goes so far as to indicate people who have pets are more likely to survive heart disease.

Having a pet in our lives gives us a sense of purpose and of unconditional love and acceptance.  Who doesn’t occasionally drag themselves in the door after a challenging or frankly awful day out in the world to be greeted by (in my case) your dog?  To her, I am the best thing since sliced bread, and not just because I’m about to feed her.  To her, it doesn’t matter that I dropped a ball or two at work or that I was in a bad mood.  I’m the best, and she lets me know it.

When we stroke our dog or cat’s fur, it lowers our blood pressure and gives us a sense of calmness and well being.  If we are impatient with them (and we should never be, but we are humans…), they are forgiving, and they don’t hold grudges.

Petting your dog or cat can affect the level of several chemicals in our bodies and benefit us greatly!  Cortisol, a chemical which is released by stress and is very damaging to our health, can be reduced; dopamine, which helps us feel happier can be increased; immunoglobulin A which bolsters the immune system can be increased.

Amazing though it is, we humans think we care for our pets and we do, but they give back in ways we are still learning about.

The next time you are having a bad day, do something good for your health!  Give yourself a break…stop, take a few slow, deep breaths and pet your dog or cat!

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Senior Dogs and the Weather…(be careful, and be kind!)

Extreme cold is not good for long periods of time

My usual rant about dogs in general and the weather happens in the summertime when it never fails I end up calling the police at least once to get a dog out of a closed car, or a car where people thought it was ok to leave the windows “cracked” a little.

This winter has been so extremely cold for our area, especially compared to last winter (which was a free pass on the gas bills), that I am moved to write about your pets and the cold.

It’s now illegal in many states to leave a pet in a car in the summer; I think it should be illegal to leave a pet outside in the extreme cold as well.

To anyone doing this or considering doing this, I would suggest putting on a light coat and going outside without boots or gloves for a few hours and seeing how you like it and how you feel.

All dogs, especially older dogs, dogs with low body fat and those battling disease should be kept from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.  An irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing, and impaired consciousness to the point of coma may result, so this not coddling or being a softie; this is a serious health risk for your pet.

There are three levels of Hypothermia, mild, moderate and severe, and the symptoms and treatment you would have to provide vary according to the level of the animal’s trouble.

Mild hypothermia is characterized by weakness and shivering and can be accompanied by a lack of mental alertness.  A moderate problem would involve stiffness of the muscles, shallow breathing, low blood pressure; the dog can appear to be in a state of stupor.  With severe hypothermia , the animal would be having trouble breathing, pupils would be fixed and dialated and he could be in a coma.

Mild hypothermia can be treated with blankets to prevent further heat loss, while moderate hypothermia requires active external re-warming with a hot water bottle, microwaved heat packs or a heating pad.  Apply the heat source to your dog’s body, but be sure to put a protective layer between the heating pad and his skin to protect him from burns.. For severe hypothermia, invasive core warming will be necessary, so you’ll need to involve your vet if this is the case.

Hypothermia can be prevented by avoiding prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, so be careful and be kind!

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A Special Senior Dog – One Awesome Story of Love of a Senior Dog (and it’s true!)

A warm coat for a cold day!A few weeks ago, my husband and I were antiquing in one of our favorite local haunts.  This shop often sends out coupons and has sales which makes me love them even more!  Plus, the shop owner is a hoot!!

This particular chilly Saturday, there was a man there with an obviously older dog in a sweater.  The man was busy chatting with the store owner, and the dog just seemed happy to be hanging out with them.

As I can’t seem to help myself where animals are concerned, especially dogs, I asked the man about the dog.  He was obviously a sweetie…the dog, that is…and I said so!

The man explained the dog’s name was Duncan, and that he had been his Aunt’s dog.  His aunt had passed away a year or so ago, and the man had taken Duncan in as his own.  His reason was that if he hadn’t, Duncan would have spent the rest of his life without his family.  My kind of guy…

To so many people, animals are disposable.  I was so touched by the man’s obvious love and attachment to Duncan and his concern that Duncan shouldn’t lose his family.

It is my fondest wish that more animals be treated like family members and that more Duncans in the world find forever homes with the families they love so much.

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Your Senior Dog and Eating Habits (they can surprise you!)

Chloe, a 17 Year Old Mixed BreedWow…It’s been an adjustment going from living with a dog who would eat absolutely anything and eat it in a flash to living with a very senior dog with health challenges who won’t eat until she’s famished by the evening, and then, if you find something she will eat, won’t eat it for more than a couple of days in a row.

Changing a dog’s diet quickly and often is breaking what is just about Rule #1 on the “how to feed your dog” list.  It’s supposed to mess with their digestive systems really badly and can make them pretty sick, give them intestinal problems…you get the picture.

Now, we are faced with a very picky eater who has turned her nose up at hamburger, chicken, turkey, liver, brown rice, (we gave up on the high grade kibble ages ago).  A few days ago, out of desperation, I grilled her a Panini, which she ate ravenously.  Next day, made her another Panini…no way, turn her nose up and walked away.

She’s losing weight too, and because she has cancer (a benign cancer in her lung cavity), the weight loss is of great concern.

This morning she ate blueberries.  That was it.  By tonight, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the little can of “beef stew” that seems to be working does the trick again.

We’ve had her on a cancer diet or a reasonable facsimile for the past year, so until a couple of weeks ago, she’s mostly eaten a small amount of high grade kibble, animal protein, brown rice, millet or quinoa and raw or lightly steamed broccoli.

This has worked well for the past year, and has kept her in very good health for her age (well past 17!) despite the diagnosis of cancer we got over a year ago.

Living with a Senior Dog or Cat can be a roller coaster ride.  Some days good; some days, not so much.  We’ll keep working with Chloe to keep as many of those days good and to keep her eating!

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Buddy Dog Humane Society, Senior Dogs and Cats and TV

NECN Adopt a Pet Segment for Buddy Dog Humane SocietyI have long been affiliated with The Buddy Dog Humane Society in Sudbury,MA.

What began as a timid visit to see if I could even bear to do volunteer work back in the 1990s morphed into regular volunteering doing dog walking and some behavioral training…for the dogs and, in truth, for me…

One afternoon when I was at the shelter walking dogs, the shelter director came out of his office and announced he had just gotten a call from New England Cable News (NECN) the major regional news station for our New England States.

They had a cancellation for their Adopt-a-Pet segment for the following morning and wanted to know if Buddy Dog had someone who could fill in.  No one else stepped up, so I said “Sure.  I’ll do it!”

What I didn’t realize at the time was that it meant getting up at 4 am, driving a half hour to Buddy Dog, trying not to set off the alarm, which I did one time…picking up my guest dog or cat and driving another half hour to the TV station in Newton.

Over the next 12 years, I was privileged to be on live (and later taped) TV with a dog or cat who needed a home.  That 2-3 minute segment was instrumental in giving homeless dogs and cats who needed a little extra visibility a better chance to find a good, loving home.  Some of our dogs don’t present well in the shelter.  They can be depressed (a topic for another blog), or just too stressed by being in the shelter with all the noise and activity to show their true personalities.

I mostly showcased dogs who were older or who had special needs; occasionally I would have one of our rescue dogs from our Save a Sato program from Puerto Rico.  Sato is a slang term meaning “street dog”.  (again, a topic for another blog).

Eventually times and management changed, and sadly, the segment was discontinued.  It was a shame to have a regional TV station decide they could no longer donate 2 minutes of air time a week to help a homeless animal find a home.  During those many years, I was privileged to work with many wonderful on-air people and producers.

If you’d like to take a peek at one of the later segments, here is the link:

http://www.necn.com/07/16/10/Adopt-a-pet-Ginny/landing.html?blockID=272384

 

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Your senior dog or cat’s food and label reading (you should do it!)

Are you a label reader?  For yourself… for your dog, for your cat?

The more I write about senior dogs and cats, the more I realize I approach their health the same way I approach mine.  Carefully…very, very carefully.

Yesterday I received an email from a pet supply company from which I have purchased a number of products in the past.  The ad was for a cookie for dogs that quite accurately resembled an Oreo Crème Sandwich.  They looked delicious and also came vanilla and chocolate versions!

I decided to look at the ingredients and perhaps make a purchase for my dog.  I really like how you can pull up the label online now and see what’s in the product.

They all had either partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils.  Poison!  That’s what clogs up your arteries.  Why would you eat it or give it to your pet?

Equally alarming, these cookies were loaded with sugar!   Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose…all sugar no matter how you spin it.

Did you know inflammation is the leading cause of disease?  Sugar causes inflammation which is what turns on the different disease genes in our bodies; especially if we are prone to that disease.  I know, I know, some people can smoke, eat and drink whatever they want and live to be 100.  Do you feel lucky?  Do you think your dog is lucky?

Become a label reader; question ingredients.  Look up stuff online to find out what it is you’re putting in your body and in your pet’s body.  It is very often a rude awakening.

Advertising tells us what we should be eating and feeding our pets.  Do you really think the sugar lobby is doing what is in our best interest for our good health?

If you have any question at all…follow the money, baby.

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For Senior Dogs, Especially Over 10 Years Old, Sugar is Cancer Food… (It is for you, too…)

 Did you know sugar is cancer food?  Before you think I am nuts, think about this.  In laboratory tests, when cancer cells are fed sugar, they grow like crazy.

Sugar is present in many commercial dog foods, and in fact, is what keeps the soft and chewy food and treats soft and chewy.  Sugar also masks the flavors of real food; we are used to the taste of sugar instead of the actual flavor of the foods we are eating.  Same for your dog.

Lobbies are so powerful.  Don’t think for a minute your sugar consumption and that of your dog isn’t lining the pockets of someone in the sugar industry while it destroys your health and that of your pooch.

It’s a shame!

Most regular vets don’t think about diet when they are dealing with cancer in dogs, although they address other dog health issues with dietary changes and adjustments.  Allergies, digestion problems and weight gain all have their special “food” recipes…but not cancer.

Did you also know that cancer is now the number one cause of death in dogs?  1 in 3 dogs contract cancer at any age.  I have a good friend who lost her Kerry Blue Terrier at 9 to a virulent and very aggressive form of lung cancer.  Absolutely nothing could be done, and she tried both conventional and alternative therapies.  Did you also know that a dog over 10 years of age has a 50% chance of getting cancer?

My dog has cancer.  That’s what has led me on this search to try to figure out why it is so prevalent and is killing our dogs so frequently.  According to the Animal Cancer Foundation, there are 6 million cases of dog cancer annually!

We all need to wake up and get sugar out of our diets.  Get used to the way real food tastes, and get your dog off sugar, too.  He’ll live a longer, healthier life.

 

 

 

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“Israel Bans Animal-Tested Cosmetics. Why Can’t We Do the Same?”

innocent animals suffer at the hands of cosmetic companiesI received a copy of a blog written by Alicia Graef this week that prompted me to digress from my subject of senior dogs and cats…the above was the title of her blog, and it’s a great question.

I remember the very first time I was made aware of animal testing for cosmetics.  There was a page in our TV Guide decades ago telling how cosmetic testing was done on rabbits.  This was decades ago, and I don’t understand the delay in doing the right thing.

Let’s say you don’t care about the animal testing and approach it from a simply selfish point of view.  Don’t you think a company that doesn’t animal test, doesn’t have fancy packaging and doesn’t pay some already over-paid “star” to push their products might be putting their resources into the actual ingredients?  Hello L’Oreal…possibly the biggest offender in the animal testing world.

“Animal testing in the Cosmetics Industry inflicts horrific suffering on these animals. Each product requires between 2,000-3,000 tests, and animals die in agony,” said MK Eitan Cabel, who called the move a “true revolution in animal welfare.”

“The end of animal testing for cosmetics has come a step closer today,” said Troy Seidle, director of research & toxicology for Humane Society International (HSI). “Whilst we commend Israel for taking this truly historic action, strict enforcement of the law alongside active assistance from cosmetic companies, will now be vital. HSI’s Be Cruelty-Free campaign is working in India, Brazil, South Korea, the United States and beyond to achieve a world where no animal has to suffer and die for the sake of cosmetics. Once the EU enforces its own sales ban in March, the creation of these two cruelty-free markets will be a significant milestone towards achieving our goal.”

Do yourself and lab animals a favor…change the way you buy your personal care products and cosmetics.

To find truly cruelty-free products, visit gocrueltyfree.org.

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Keep your senior dog from falling…(hint…use his regular harness and leash…)

A few months ago, I was coming down the stairs from our second floor to our first with our 17 year old dog, Chloe.  She got about mid-way down, somehow lost her footing, and she went down the rest of the stairs like a sled down a snowy hill…on her side.

A few days later, it happened again, so we started carrying her down the stairs.  We thought this was a good solution, but during a trip to the vet, he told us the more we coddle her, the weaker she would get and the faster it would happen.

We started putting up a gate at the bottom of  the stairs to keep her from coming up all the time.  This wasn’t a really good idea either as she barked constantly if we went upstairs.  She has become very deaf  in the past two years, and as a result, seems to be almost panicky at times if she can’t see us.

So, back to the drawing board.   I wish I could say I thought of this, but my husband got the idea to use the same harness and leash we put on her when she goes for a walk when she is going downstairs.  As a side note, it’s a much better idea to use a harness to attach a dog’s leash than a collar.  This becomes even more important as the dog gets older to avoid jerking what may be a neck with some arthritis pain in advancing years.

Because Chloe had become terrified of the stairs after falling, and who can blame her, this seemed like a really good idea and worth a try.  Get down to your dog’s level sometime and look down a flight of 13 steps.  It was a reality check for me of what she was facing every time she had to go downstairs.

We started taking her harness and leash upstairs with us and putting it on her when she comes downstairs.  It’s made a world of difference to her.  She is more confident and comfortable, and so are we.  We make sure to keep the leash taught so if she stumbles, we can support her and keep her from going down in a heap.  It’s saved her from another bad fall on more than one occasion.

We’ve also started using the same technique when she goes up and down the steps outside.  Although there aren’t nearly as many steps, now that winter has arrived in the northeast, we have the ice to contend with.  Again, the leash has come in handy on more than one occasion.

 

 

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