Aging has been on my mind lately. My own, but especially that of dogs. Several of my friends have lost their old, and not so old, dogs in the past few months. As my own dog is almost 13 and dealing with several small health issues, I decided I needed help evaluating the care I was giving him. He had a vet check-up, full blood work, and a visit to his DOM. I also rented the Winding Down video by Dr. Karen Becker from BowWowFlix. This DVD was a treasure trove of useful information! I was familiar with many aspects since I've been on a natural healthcare journey for years, but it was a good reminder of some things I had forgotten. While specifically aimed at owners of geriatric animals, the wealth of information provided will help you make better choices while your pet is still young and help keep them healthy far into their senior years. Here are a few highlights for you:
- For optimum health dogs need a varied diet of fresh, whole foods. While a species appropriate raw meat and bones diet is optimal for our dogs (and cats), even a prepared diet can be improved with the addition of raw foods.
- They need regular access to clean air and pure water. If there are smokers in your home, an air purifier will reduce your pet's exposure to second hand smoke. Filtered or purified water is available in many forms for us and for our pets.
- We need to reduce their exposure to toxins, chemicals, preservatives, and other obstacles to good health. Make informed choices about all vaccinations and the use of flea and heartworm products.
- Our animals "break" at the weakest link. So things that happen in their youth can give us an inkling of their weak spots - accident, injury, surgery, chronic infections, sensitive digestion, pulling on leash, jumping off furniture, chronic reactivity can all lead to weakening of the body in some way. The more we recognize this, the sooner we can take steps to mitigate the damage with supplements, preventive care, and training.
- Regular check-ups and a good relationship with your veterinarian are vital to your pet's health.
- There are MANY complementary modalities that can also benefit your pet's health. Acupuncture/acupressure, chiropractic, TTouch, massage, Healing Touch for Animals, flower essences, herbs, nutraceuticals, etc.
- Most older animals can benefit from the addition of digestive enzymes, probiotics, anti-inflammatory supplements and acid reducers. I chose the N-Zymes system for Solo.
- Despite all that we may be able to do for our pets, we must also be respectful of their spirit and desires. That may mean NOT adding another supplement, treatment, or surgery and accepting that they have a voice in deciding the length and quality of their life.
- Dr. Becker suggests creating an "autumn file" for our animals - information that will help us when we reach the "fork in the road" with them. If we pre-plan and make some decisions while they are well, it will save us feeling overwhelmed during a time of crisis.
You can get a copy of the Winding Down DVD for only $20. I went to order a copy for my library and found that they have a special offer available now - buy any book and get a free DVD. So I ordered Dr. Becker's Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats and requested the Winding Down DVD.
He will be 13 on the 4th of July. That's phenomenal for a Doberman! The current average is, sadly, 8-10 and I lost 2 of my previous Dobes at about 8. Solo is my first "old dog". That has brought some added challenges but also many gifts. He's incredibly sweet and funny now. He sleeps more. He has more lumps and bumps than you can count. Some past issues with his liver and digestion continue to give him trouble at times - which leads to sleepless nights for both of us. He has arthritis in his front feet and he is slowly losing muscle mass and strength. Despite a life of raw foods, his teeth are wearing out.
The Winding Down DVD reminded me that much of this is "normal aging" and some of it is simply the by-product of his life. He has always been an intense dog. He over-reacts, worries, has trouble relaxing, and throws himself into his activities with abandon. This kind of lifestyle takes its toll over time. I've worked hard to moderate his intensity and have made great strides. But that hasn't changed his basic nature. So I accept him for who he is and we compromise on many things.
Puppies require a certain vigilance and lots of extra care and attention. So it is at the other end of their life as well. Fortunately for us, all that extra work is balanced with an emotional closeness and intensity that can't be duplicated. If your pet is still in the spring or summer of their life, take some time to review your care plan. Are you doing what you can to create a lifetime of health? If, like mine, your pet is in their autumn stage, is there anything more you can do to provide them with, as Dr. Becker emphasizes, "comfort and relief"? I'm doing my best.