Caring for your Elderdog’s Health

This week I’m writing about a topic near and dear to my heart – the joys and care of elderdogs . Everybody is starting to realize that an eight-year-old dog like Ginger is not really old (7 is the new 14, after all), but in order to maintain a dog’s premium health and well-being well into her teens, a few special steps can be taken. I learned the other day that pit bulls are among the longest living of the larger dog breeds, regularly reaching the age of 14 or 15 – or in the case of everybody’s darling, Sarge the Elderbull, 16.75 years old.

I was talking with my mom on the phone last night and she said, “You know what? I think Ginger looks so much healthier now than in those first photos you took of her. I really think you’ve made a difference in her health-wise.” I don’t often look at any “before” and “after photos side-by-side, but her comment made me curious. So… here is Ginger before:

You’ll notice she has kind of dull fur, a bit of a tummy pooch, and I rarely caught her flashing a big pittie smile or even with much light in her eyes. But look at her now…

It’s hard to find a photo of her NOT smiling anymore! I think this can be attributed to a few things, like her getting out of a stressful shelter environment, but I also think things like her exercise routine and proper nutrition helped a lot, too. Her exercise routine helped her to get rid of her pooch and slim down to a sleek pittie figure and her nutrition and vitamin regimen has helped to heal a variety of issues from her teeth to her coat to her…um, how shall we say this? Her intense gas!

So today we tackle two critical aspects of maintaining a dog’s health and well-being – nutrition and vet visits.

Elderdog Nutrition

First, we have Ginger on GNC Ultra Mega Digestive Health Complex to deal with her intense, room-clearing flatulence. You see, when we brought Ginger home from the shelter to foster, she was dealing with a double ear infection and she has been on antibiotics ever since. I thought her gas might be due to switching from whatever food the shelter was giving her to a healthy, all-natural diet but even after weeks on the new food, she was still dealing with gas. That’s when I found this article explaining that antibiotics can rob a dog’s system of good bacteria, causing gas. I immediately ran out to Petsmart to grab some probiotics for my girl. This is her “who farted? Not me!” face…

We also got Ginger on GNC Ultra Mega Hip & Joint Health for her hip dysplasia and arthritis issues and Iceland Pure Salmon Oil to help keep her skin clear and coat soft & shiny. We’ve been diligently using PlaqueOff as an attempt to get her teeth closer to pearly white than the soft gray they were in those first few weeks we had her. They are definitely better than where they were, but we’re not quite there yet. But don’t tell her that she doesn’t have perfect teeth – she thinks her smile is beautiful!

We feed all of our dogs a high quality dog food (Nature’s Variety Prairie kibble) to ensure that they are receiving the best nutrition possible. According to Nature’s Variety’s site:

Prairie foods are the ideal blend of meat, poultry or fish proteins, hearty whole grains, and healthy fruits and vegetables. Every ingredient is chosen with care for the health of your dog – each Prairie food is 100% free of corn, wheat, soy, chemicals, and artificial flavors or preservatives.

I know there is some argument among dog lovers about the benefits of all-natural foods with grains, grain-free, or even the RAW diet, but I think it depends on your dogs what you believe is the best choice for them. I think we are all in agreement though that a high quality diet – whatever the specific type – is a good choice for your pet!

We also are very careful to reward our dogs with high quality, healthy snacks. I shared our favorite combinations for “pupsicles” last week and swear by these treats because they are low calorie and contain tons of vitamins that are beneficial for all dogs (elderdogs especially)! We love to treat Turk and Rufus with baby carrots – they LOVE it – but Ginger has never seemed to enjoy that, so for her, we stick to peanut butter, blueberries, bananas or yogurt. Here is a shot of some pupsicle ingredients, pre-mashing…

Elderdog Vet Visits

For any dog – but especially older dogs – regular vet visits are crucial.  It is important for your vet to watch for teeth issues, any lumps or bumps that could be something serious, arthritis, changes in eyesight, etc. For senior dogs, two regular visits per year are recommended, and can help catch any potential issues early on, so that treatment or mitigation can begin immediately.

Finding a vet who you and your dog trust, and is really willing to take the time to be thorough in her exams, can make all the difference.  The first few vets Ginger met barely spent more than 60 seconds with her before moving on to other patients. Poor Ginger really suffered from this lack of attention – she has had severe Ginger’s ear issues that have persisted over the past 2 months, bringing us back to the vet five times!

Thanks to the kind vet who saw us on our lucky fifth visit, we now have a treatment plan that will put Ginger back on the path toward sparkling health and happiness. It’s going to be expensive, and possibly involve surgery, but this girl is well worth it. Here is Miss Ginger at this morning’s follow-up visit with our new favorite vet!

Stay tuned tomorrow for more on what we discovered, and what it’s going to take to get her back on her feet.