Administering Anesthesia To Your Older Dog Up until the late fifties and early sixties, the successful outcome of many surgical procedures for older dogs was somewhat uncertain. This was due in small part to the surgical techniques and materials employed at the time, but primarily to the types of anesthetics that were available then. Those anesthetics were often unpredictable, sometimes produced longer periods of anesthesia than were needed for the operation, and they had to be detoxified and eliminated largely by the liver and kidneys, organs which usually are already under stress in the older dog. These problems sometimes prompted many conscientious veterinarians to advise clients that "your dog is too old to anesthetize or be operated on." What they were really saying was that the risk from surgery and anesthesia was at least as great, or greater, than the risk from whatever was wrong with the dog. Today that situation has radically changed. Anesthetizing a seriously ill older dog is still in the high-risk category, but the chances of a successful outcome are tremendously improved. The new types of anesthetics give excellent control over the depth and time of anesthesia and allow for rapid recovery to a normal, conscious state. Many of the newer and much safer injectable anesthetics can be used alone for general anesthesia or, in combination with some gas anesthetics, to provide "balanced anesthesia." And certainly, the ready availability of artificial respirators which can breathe for your dog has both increased the overall safety of anesthesia as well as permitted surgery within the chest cavity for some types of cardiac and lung disorders. No dog should be considered "too old" for surgery or anesthesia if otherwise in reasonable health. The aging kidneys and liver still must detoxify much of the anesthetic, aging lungs can make inhalant anesthetics more difficult to control, and heart disease does increase the overall danger. There still is risk, but it is a calculated risk, usually weighted on the side of success. In today's modern veterinary hospitals and clinics, surgery is done under conditions similar to those found in human hospitals. Everything is done to keep the surgical area sterile, which includes doctors scrubbing before surgery and wearing sterile cap, mask, and gown. All instruments, surgical drapes, and any piece of equipment that will come in contact with the patient is sterilized. The surgery is performed in a separate operating room, which is used only for sterile surgery. While each operating room will vary in the variety of equipment available, it will have whatever is needed for the particular operation being done. If your veterinarian's hospital is not equipped to perform a particular type of surgery, he will refer you to a colleague who does have the necessary equipment, or he may do the surgery himself but in his colleague's hospital. Changes In Your Aging Dog Aging dogs are less adaptable to, and more adversely affected by, stress and change. Yet so many dog owners do not take this into consideration when making plans involving their older dog. For example, for years you and your dog enjoyed those races through the woods or around the playground. You may still enjoy it now, but your older dog possibly finds it difficult to keep up with you. What used to be lots of fun may now make him a bit grouchy and force him to breathe abnormally hard. You have just redecorated the house, and what used to be your dog's favorite spot to relax in, is now occupied by a piece of furniture. Your dog becomes restless, temperamental, may even urinate or defecate in the house or right on that piece of furniture, and you cannot understand why. It is not necessary to baby or spoil a dog just because he is aging. In fact, this should be carefully avoided, as it is a trap into which many dog owners readily fall. You should encourage your older dog to take part in family life as always, but you must be alert to avoid undue stresses or unnecessary changes. That piece of new furniture does not have to stand on the exact spot where he has snoozed for more than ten years. In his mind that spot is his personal territory. Even in his youth such a loss would have been upsetting, but he would soon find another acceptable location. The older dog finds it more difficult to adjust and can develop undesirable behavior as a result. A dog is both a dependent and an independent animal in his relationship with you. In youth he will follow your every footstep even to the point of getting underfoot. His greatest joy is to be with you everywhere, and there are few times he wants to be by himself. As he gets older, however, this will often change, and he may seek solitude much more of the time. He loves you still but, depending on his physical state, he just prefers to be by himself. He will play with you and be your companion, but do not expect necessarily the same kind of response you got from him when he was a lot younger. Take care not to "kill him with kindness" by offering what you consider tasty morsels of human food such as cake, ice cream, bacon, or liver pate. Such sudden changes in diet can produce serious stomach and intestinal upset, resulting in profuse vomiting or diarrhea. It may also encourage your dog to refuse his normal food and hold out for the "goodies” which in time can cause severe nutritional imbalance. Changes You Can Expect As Your Dog Gets Older Your dog's body takes a beating throughout his life. Muscles are pulled, joints stressed, and organs scarred by infection. Cell structure breaks down, decreasing the efficacy of organs and tissues. All of these traumas cause abnormal cell development, which in turn create tumors and arthritic conditions. On the outside, he can appear as healthy and active as any younger dog, but inside his organs are not functioning as efficiently as when he was younger. For example, if the kidneys begin to deteriorate, they can continue to function with only 40 percent of the tubules (the part of the kidney that breaks down nutrients from urea) working. Your aging dog will continue feeling fine and behaving normally. However, this can take a quick turn for the worse if a kidney disease continues to deteriorate. This can happen slowly or what seems like overnight. Until this happens, the only difference in your dog will be his need to urinate more often. Otherwise, there is no sign of a problem. As he ages, you need to ensure his complete health by adjusting his diet, exercise, and by keeping a close watch on his behavior. In fact, you'll notice many problems first through behavioral changes before his body shows the outward signs. Changes in appetite, a lack of desire to move about, or overall grouchiness are usually symptoms of a deeper problem. Your dog's muscles will remain strong, provided he exercises. The more he does as a youngster, the more he can do as an oldster. You must keep in mind, however, that he cannot tell you he doesn't want to go those extra miles with you. All he wants is to be with you and please you, regardless of how he feels. His muscles may still be strong at this point, but his internal workings are no longer operating in prime condition. Your dog can still remain physically healthy with a little less exercise - maybe two or three miles instead of five or maybe you can do the run on softer ground instead of hard concrete. The musculoskeletal system will usually exhibit arthritic changes as he turns into a senior dog. Arthritis is formed through changes in the joint bones, a reduction of cartilage, and a thickening of the synovial fluid between the joints. Often, inflammation can cause more irritation and lameness. Not only will the arthritic changes cause pain in the joints, but they will also cause atrophy in the muscles because your dog will not want to move around. The muscles begin to get loose and hang off the bones. This is most obvious along the spine, chest, and hind legs. As the muscles atrophy, the skin will appear looser or baggy. Overall, your dog becomes a different dog as his senior years take over. He moves more slowly, picks at his meals, and may bump into things that he can't see. However, the biggest change will be in his behavior. As he ages, he may not only slow down, he will also become less excitable in general. He will still greet you with a wagging tail, but not jump on you or perform aerial leaps when you come home. When going out, he'll walk to the door and wait patiently as you search for his leash - no more racing in circles, barking excitedly, and jumping about. Does Your Aging Dog Have Lymphosarcoma? Accounting for better than five percent of all tumors known to occur in the dog, lymphosarcoma is the commonest malignancy seen in aging dogs, especially those in the eight to twelve-year range. Its cause is unknown and is relentlessly fatal, but early diagnosis combined with one or more of the therapy modes just described can comfortably prolong life for eight months to a year. This tumor can develop in any organ or part of the body, and symptoms will naturally depend on the location. If it's in the digestive system, there may be vomiting, prolonged diarrhea, and continuing weight loss despite a good or even ravenous appetite. The liver or spleen may become quite enlarged causing a "big belly." Tumors in the chest can cause coughing and difficult breathing, as can tumefied tonsils. In the skin form, there may be many hard, reddened areas which ulcerate easily. Some dogs show tumor development in one or both eyes, usually in the iris or just under the cornea. Any or all of these can occur in one dog, but the commonest symptom is enlargement of the lymph nodes located just under the skin on the back of the thighs, the front of the shoulders, and on either side of the throat near the jawbone. Such a dog may appear perfectly normal in all other ways and could misleadingly induce you to ignore the swellings until the tumor spreads further and causes obvious signs of illness. Biopsy of an enlarged lymph node or suspicious skin will confirm the diagnosis. X-ray studies can confirm additional disease in the chest or abdomen and are essential when there are no external tumors. Blood studies are also helpful, about half of the dogs with lymphosarcoma tumors also have leukemia. Most cases of lymphosarcoma involve multiple parts of the body, thereby making surgical excision of the tumors impractical, if not impossible. Chemotherapy is the method most often used and initially prednisone, a cortisone-like drug, is the medication generally prescribed. It makes your dog "feel better" and is less dangerous than most other effective drugs. These more toxic drugs may be used later on, or they are sometimes combined with the prednisone right from the beginning of therapy. Radiation treatments and immunotherapy are occasionally used as adjuncts to chemotherapy. Health Concerns Commonly Found In Older Dogs: Part 1 Abrasions: Abrasions are often caused by scratching and biting skin surfaces that itch. Herbal treatments include an infusion of blackberry leaves, rosemary leaves, or elder flowers and leaves to which a little witch hazel has been added. Apply topically to abrasions. It is recommended that no greasy preparations be used because they will retain moisture on the skin surfaces and retard healing. Abscesses: Abscesses are the body's attempt to throw off through the skin toxins from impure blood. Blood that is excessively toxic is choked and is unable to carry away the waste matter of cell metabolism through its normal channels. Thus white blood cells surround disease-producing bacteria and toxic waste and carry them out of the body through the skin in the form of pus. If your dog is bothered by many abscesses at one time, or by frequent growths, he should be fasted for several days on distilled water and raw honey (to keep up his energy): two to four teaspoonful a day, depending on the size of the dog. As the dog begins to eliminate more toxins, give him several garlic cloves daily with his food. Garlic will help him to detoxify even more. Hot fomentations (packs) of blackberry leaves or elderberry, may be put on the abscesses. You can also use chopped-up garlic or onion or both, heated in several ounces of castor oil. Heat it in a pan of water till it is comfortably hot, and then apply as hot packs. Nutrients that may be helpful in treating abscesses are vitamins A, C, and E, and B complex, red clover, cayenne pepper, goldenseal, and grated carrots or potatoes. Anemia: Anemia is basically a lack of hemoglobin and oxygen in the blood. It is often caused by faulty diet, lack of exposure to sunlight, and a constipation of the entire system, including the lower bowel. The dog may become weak and faint, losing energy and stamina. His eyes may show excessive brightness in the white portion. Internal parasites may weaken a dog, causing severe anemia. Anemia can be caused by too little blood or too few red cells. If you check your dog's gums, they will be whiter than normal, upon pressure, and slow to return to a pink color. Your dog may lack sufficient iron in his diet; toxins produced by many diseases can cause an anemic condition. To boost the iron in his diet, you can give him desiccated liver and brewers' yeast, in with his food. You can also give berries or fruits of the black variety including blackberry, bilberry, elderberry, or grapes. Honey is also good, as well as eggs, kelp, and parsley. Other nutrients that may be helpful in cases of anemia are vitamins C, E, and the B complex, protein, and copper and iron. Chemical iron aggravates anemia and cause constipation. Health Concerns Commonly Found In Older Dogs: Part 2 Arthritis: Arthritis has become a common ailment in dogs, especially the older dog. Several factors contribute to this condition, including an all-cooked-food diet, lack of exercise, poor absorption of minerals, and lack of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. It occurs as an inflammation in bones and joints. The onset is gradual and the owner notices the dog having increased difficulty in walking, getting up, lying down, running, and moving in general. Putting an arthritic dog on distilled water exclusively will help to leach out some of the mineral deposits that have settled in the joints. Your dog also needs a live-food diet. You may use a good-quality dry kibble as a base, but along with it give your dog plenty of sprouts, grated raw vegetables, garlic, and raw fruits, all of which are alkalizing to the body. Meats and grains are acid-forming for the most part, and an arthritic dog already has too much acid in his diet. Any meat should be raw to slightly braised. Give chopped comfrey and parsley leaves in with the food. Keep the dog in a warm, dry place, and try to give him some moderate exercise in sunlight. You can feed rosemary leaves daily as an infusion (steep them in water).The inflamed areas can be massaged with four tablespoonful of raw, unrefined olive oil, one tablespoonful of linseed oil, and ½ teaspoon of eucalyptus oil. Nutrients that may be beneficial in treating arthritis are vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E, and F; calcium, iodine, lecithin, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, and protein. Bad Breath: Bad breath is often caused by a constipated digestive system, locking in putrefying toxic wastes. This comes from having too much dead, refined food and not enough raw, live food or fiber (roughage) in the diet. A sluggish system will give back the stench of indigestion, all the way back up to the mouth again. A dog can be constipated even if he has a daily bowel movement. In fact, only a few dogs are not constipated throughout their lifetime, although this is rarely evident to their owners. Infusions of rosemary leaves and flowers, lemon juice and water, apple juice, raw honey, and a short fast (several days) will all serve to sweeten up the intestines. Regular fasting, one day a week, on distilled water and raw honey, will help to rest the digestive organs on a regular basis, giving them a chance to catch up on their contents. Use lots of raw fruits and vegetables in the diet, give yogurt to reinstate the friendly bacterial flora, and feed only raw or slightly braised meat. Health Concerns Commonly Found In Older Dogs: Part 3 Baldness: A chronic slow loss of hair, due to ill health, is sometimes found in older dogs. Feed a diet of raw foods: meats, vegetables, and fruits. Give brewers' yeast, kelp, and desiccated liver. Add raw corn, olive, peanut, or safflower oil to the food for unsaturated fatty acids. Chopped dandelion leaves (high in copper) may be added to the food. Balding areas can be bathed daily with an infusion of rosemary leaves, marigold flowers, or daffodil leaves. Castor and eucalyptus oil can also be massaged into the balding areas. Breast Tumors: Often occur in unspayed female dogs. Tumors are very often caused by hormonal imbalances and changes, together with a general state of toxemia and ill health. The breast tumor can be linked with an estrogen factor. Tumors on any part of the body are the body's attempt to localize and isolate some disease condition. "Tumor" means swelling, and tumors are benign or malignant by classification. In reality, a tumor is often benign in certain of its areas and malignant in others. Biopsies can aggravate the malignant portion of tumors, sometimes causing their rapid spreading. By cutting out the tumor or tumors, one is only removing the local indications of the disease. Nothing is being done about the cause. In many cases the cause has not even been sought for or recognized. Therapies that will decrease or dry up a tumor can also serve to prevent them. Nonorthodox treatments have been used to stop the spread, even though they did not significantly reduce the size of the tumor. It is the spread of a malignancy that kills, more often than the size of the tumor itself. Removing the toxic or poisonous quality is all-important in treating a tumor, malignant or otherwise. A diet rich in live, raw foods, will serve to supply vital enzymes to the body. Enzyme therapy may be indicated along with raw foods. A theory on cancer that seems most valid among nutritional circles is that cancer is partly caused by faulty protein metabolization. By changing to a raw, live-food diet, you will give the blood a chance to clarify itself. A clean blood stream means a healthy body. A diseased, choked-up blood stream can breed nothing but disease. Herbal therapies include blue violet leaves, red clover, goldenseal, garlic, and turnip used both internally and as a poultice; goose grass as a poultice; burdock, dandelion root, slippery elm, comfrey, blue flag, and poke root as a poultice and as tea. How To Determine If Your Older Dog Is Sick You and your dog have been together for many years and have shared many good and bad times. When you were a child, you could tell your parents if something hurt or was not well with you. Even as a baby you could at least cry to indicate that something was wrong. However, our beloved pets cannot do either. Besides, a dog's pain threshold seems to be considerably higher than that of humans, and they will not whimper or cry until the discomfort is quite severe. It is therefore necessary for you to know what is normal for your dog, any changes will be quickly detected. One good way to do this is to develop the following habits of observation. 1. On first greeting your dog in the morning, stop what you are doing, and watch him for about one full minute, allowing him to move about as he wishes. 2. During the morning and evening outdoor activity, observe him for at least ten seconds as he moves up or down stairs, on and off a curbing, porch, etc. Let him walk a short distance ahead of you and watch his body movements for ten seconds. 3. Once a day observe the first twenty seconds of eating a meal, a full twenty seconds during sleep, a complete urination, and a complete bowel movement. Many subtle variations from your dog's normal patterns will be noticed by doing this, even though you are not looking for anything specific. In addition, unconsciously noticed changes will register on your brain and, during the giving of the medical history at your veterinarian's clinic, they will come into your conscious memory. If gross abnormalities are seen, resist the urge to get upset and excited. Try to objectively watch those abnormalities, so you will be able to describe accurately what has occurred. This observation pattern should become a habit. Though it will take practice at first, it will eventually occupy only a total of four to six minutes spread out over your waking day. Most symptoms of illness are vague, general, or nonspecific. A single symptom, by itself, is often meaningless, at best, and misleading at worst. There are so-called pathognomonic symptoms which supposedly, in and of themselves, indicate a specific illness or disease. While such symptoms do exist, they are few and far between. How To Handle Your Dog's Emergency Heat Stress Both obesity and advancing years reduce a dog's tolerance to extremes of heat. The brachycephalic breeds (those with the pushed-in face) are particularly susceptible, due to their normal respiratory difficulties. It is through respiration that the majority of your dog's excess body heat is eliminated. When you and I get overheated, we breathe rapidly and perspire all over our bodies. Because of their hair coats, dogs are unable significantly to per- spire through their skins, although a small amount does occur through the underside of the paws. For all practical purposes, excess body heat must be removed by rapid respiration. Most dogs, other than the brachycephalics, can withstand exposure to the sun and rather high environmental temperature as long as they are free to move about. It is confinement, restraint, and excitement in hot weather that sets the stage for heat stress. The dog left inside a car in the sun, leashed to a post outside the supermarket, or held in a pen when there are other dogs nearby to excite it, is a prime candidate for this life-threatening emergency. Symptoms range from panting with a hot dry tongue, bright red mucous membranes in the mouth, rapid heartbeat, and a hot, dry skin, to a dazed look, inability to stand, unconsciousness, and death. The body temperature may be between 106° and 110°F (41.1 °- 43.3 °C). The chance of death increases in direct proportion to the length of time the body temperature remains that high. This is a true emergency. If heat problems occur, remove the dog from the constraining environment to a cooler place, preferably indoors. Immediately, before anything else is done, telephone your veterinarian. If she is in, and you can get to her clinic quickly, go directly there. In the event travel time will be prolonged, she may advise you to start emergency treatment at home, under her telephone direction, and then bring your dog to the clinic. But suppose you cannot reach her by phone - you're camping out miles from a telephone, or she is on vacation and the nearest veterinarian is in another town at a considerable distance. You must take action at once! The most urgent need is to lower the dog's body temperature. Immerse the entire body, except the head, in cold or ice water - bathtub, stream, river, or lake - anything that has or can hold cold water. Take care to support the dog so he doesn't collapse into the water. Massage the skin all over the body and flex and extend the legs one at a time. This will stimulate the flow of the cooled blood back to the heart, through the internal parts of the body and to the heat sensitive brain. If you have a rectal thermometer handy, check the temperature every seven to ten minutes until it reads 103 °F (39.4 °C). Do not cool below that point. The dog should then be removed from the water and the temperature checked with the same frequency for at least three-quarters of an hour, to be sure it doesn't start to go up again. Once the temperature has remained stable for that period of time, take your dog as quickly as possible to a veterinarian somewhere. There are important medications which should be given to prevent the many serious complications which can follow heat stress. Hyperplasia In Older Male Dogs Hyperplasia of the prostate gland is a benign enlargement due to an increase in the number of cells within the gland and occurs in about 2/3 of older male dogs. However, only a small percentage of these dogs ever show any noticeable signs of the abnormality. The underlying cause is unknown but is thought to be an imbalance of the hormones produced in aging testicles. As the prostate is located directly below the rectum, the enlarged gland may press up against the rectal wall and cause difficulty and discomfort while defecating, straining, and constipation. Unlike man, there is rarely any pain or difficulty in urinating. Medical treatment with an estrogen injection generally stops the symptoms, reduces the size of the prostate within five or six days, and will keep it that way for several months, in most cases, and occasionally for several years. Some few dogs respond poorly, or not at all, and can be helped only by castration, which causes a permanent shrinking of the prostate. Should your dog need this operation, he will be home from the hospital in just a few days, but you should keep him quiet and resting for at least one week. A low-bulk diet may be advised for several days. He will probably walk cautiously at first, experiencing some slight discomfort each time he moves a rear leg. This may prompt him to lick or bite at the stitches. Restraint collars or tranquilizers may be used for a short time until the operation is healed and the stitches can be removed. Cancer of the prostate is rare in dogs and fortunately so, because by the time any noticeable symptoms develop, the tumor has almost always spread to other parts of the body, making it inoperable. Severe loss of weight, lameness in one or both rear legs, pain and difficulty during urination, blood at the beginning of urination, and low back pain may be present in addition to difficult defecation and constipation. Castration or estrogen therapy offer temporary relief of symptoms, but the tumor continues on its destructive course. A recent discovery holds out hope that immunotherapy may be successfully used to treat prostatic cancer but such research is still in its infancy. Is Your Dog Loosing His Hearing? One sign of your dog aging which can be very upsetting if you don't fully appreciate what is truly happening, is an increasing inattentiveness and apparent loss of obedience training. When you call to him, your dog seems to be ignoring you, or else he responds so slowly that you tempted to punish him for disobedience. Nothing of the sort should be done! Your older dog is, more likely than not, developing a gradual hearing loss. Both the loudness and the range of sounds are being reduced and account for what seems to be inattentiveness. These same changes, plus slight alterations in the nerve pathways leading to, through, and from the brain, account for his noticeably slower response once he does finally pay attention to you. To punish him, or to subject him to obedience retraining, would be a cruel thing which could easily break his spirit and build a wall of distrust and fear between the two of you. It is quite easy to conduct an objective test of Duke's hearing yourself. Be sure the room is quiet and there are no distracting sounds, lights, or physical vibrations. While he is resting quietly but awake, stand about five feet behind him, being sure he cannot see you. Loudly clap your hands together as you watch his head and ears. If his ears perk up and he turns to see where the sound is coming from, he can still hear quite well. If there is little or no response, there is hearing impairment to some degree. You should then try the same test a bit closer, again being sure that he neither sees you nor feels the vibrations or air currents created by the movement of your hands. Assuming he does respond adequately, you may try again with not so loud a clap or by snapping your fingers, progressively decreasing the volume of the sounds. One caution; do not do these tests in rapid succession, as louder sounds may temporarily diminish response to succeeding quieter ones. Allow at least fifteen to thirty seconds to elapse between each decreased degree of sound. By means of such testing, you can establish the approximate level of your dog's hearing ability as well as monitor it periodically to detect any further hearing deficiency. Keep in mind, however, that there can be a considerable variation in his ability to hear spoken sounds of differing pitch. Therefore his response may be quite different, depending on whether the speaker is a woman or man, child or adult. Q & A: Part 1 Is there any special training equipment that should be used for the older dog? No. A chain collar and six-foot web leash are applicable for all training sessions with a normal healthy dog, regardless of age. Why don't dogs get cavities except in rare instances? It is speculated that the enamel surface of the dog's teeth is harder and more impenetrable to pathogenisis than that of humans. Another factor could be that the dog is presumed to not to have amylase in the saliva as humans do; so while human starch-digestion begins in the mouth, the dog's starch- digestion starts further down the intestinal tract. Some research has since discovered salivary enzymes. Do dogs have to go out for walks more often as they get older? Yes, but for different reasons. If we are dealing with a normal, healthy dog, he can get along on the frequency he is used to. However, if you have an older dog that is beginning to show arthritis problems, it is a good idea to get him moving more often during the day. The older dog can also tend to get lazy, and circulation is improved with moderate walks. Is a dog's bladder weaker at eight or nine years old? Most of the time, what is interpreted as a weak bladder is actually a bladder infection or an ensuing kidney problem. Bladder infections can be common, regardless of age, and kidney disease is very pronounced in the older dog. Two of the most common problems in the older dog are bad heart and bad kidneys. If the older dog begins to urinate in the house for apparently no reason, after being housebroken for many years, would you assume this to be a medical problem rather than spite-work? Yes, most definitely. You must first eliminate any medical problems before you chastise your dog for disobedience. Medically speaking, if he is urinating in the house, this is most likely a bladder problem. If he is drinking more water and also urinating in the house, it could more likely be a kidney problem. Is exercise bad for the older dog? No. Exercise is very good for a dog unless there are definite contraindications, such as heart problems. All exercise should be within reason. Jumping hurdles is exercise that the older dog should not be asked to do, but walking provides healthful exercise for all dogs of any age. Do older dogs need a different diet? Yes. They should have less total protein but a higher quality protein. Different age dogs do require different diets. Young dogs need a high concentration of protein, middle-aged dogs can thrive on the protein that exists in the average good-quality dog food, and older dogs need lesser amounts of higher-quality protein. Excess protein produces more nitrogenous wastes, which means more work for the kidneys. Dogs with kidney problems could be put on prescription dog food, or small amounts of high-quality protein, such as in eggs, yogurt, tofu, ricotta, farmer cheese, cottage cheese, and hard mild cheeses, together with a lot of raw, grated vegetables. Kidney problems require low protein. Heart problems require low salt. Very often the two maladies go hand in hand. Q & A: Part 2 What can be done for a very old dog with severe dysplasia problems? First, the condition would have to be evaluated through X-rays. The symptoms may be due to a neurological problem and not a bone problem. If surgery is indicated, and the dog is checked out as a good surgical risk, operating can prove very helpful in alleviating the pain. Excellent results have also been obtained using vitamin C therapy. What is the incidence of cancer in dogs? Cancer incidence is low as compared with humans. Even when there exists a lipoma, a benign fatty tumor, or breast tumors that are diagnosed as malignant, these do not precipitate a spreading malignancy or death. Occasionally dogs will have a liver or spleen tumor that spreads to the lungs. Such dogs can bleed to death because the tumors bleed, or the malignancy can cause sufficient damage to the liver to cause death. Fibrosis of the heart and kidneys, which means a loss of elasticity in those organs, is far and away the most common disease-induced cause of death. Cancer affects more cats than dogs, but the reasons for this are somewhat obscure. Much can be done to control and prevent cancer in dogs. Is the older dog more affected by heat prostration? Yes, an older dog's thermostat does not work as well, so he will be more affected by extremes of heat and cold. If a dog has a bad heart or bad kidneys, he will be more affected than the healthier dog. However, if you were to put a two-year-old dog and an eleven-year- old, both in good physical condition, into a sun- baked car, they will both suffer with equal severity and trauma. Is it advantageous for an older dog to wear protective clothing of any kind? Wearing apparel we would define as being generally superfluous. However, there are some good reasons for wearing clothing on certain occasions. Are older dogs subject to high blood pressure? If a dog has a bad heart, he usually has low blood pressure because he is hampered by an inefficient pump and poor circulation. This is why a dog with heart problems often also has kidney problems. You must maintain adequate pressure and blood supply to organs in order to maximize kidney efficiency. Should an owner take his own dog's temperature? No! In consideration of safety factors such as thermometer breakage and absorbing the thermometer up into the rectum, as well as not being able to diagnose the symptoms concurrent to the temperature (which at 101° to 102° is normal in a dog), you should not to take your own dog's temperature, but to call the vet without delay if you suspect illness. Q & A: Part 3 Can older dogs develop cataracts? Yes, but cataracts can also be seen in younger dogs. Do mixed breeds live longer than pure breeds? Researchers have not found that the longevity differs greatly between mixed and purebred dogs. Are there any kinds of parasites that would particularly affect older dogs? If an older dog gets hookworms, it might affect him more. In general, it all depends upon the dog's state of well-being. Are organ transplants performed in older dogs? These operations are performed experimentally. But practically, the cost would be prohibitive, not to mention the problem of availability of organs. Do older dogs shed more? No, they may even shed less. But they may develop more seborrhea. What dog diseases are communicable to humans? Ringworm, rabies, sarcoptic mange, ticks, can all be communicated to humans. Incidentally, ringworm is a fungus disease of the skin and, as such, it is a misnomer. In the case of sarcoptic mange, when you kill it on the dog, the human symptoms will disappear. Does an aging dog become senile? In general, no, unless there are other circumstances involved, such as a brain tumor. Do dogs utilize their full capacity of intelligence? We know, and most people are amazed to discover, that a dog has a tremendous capacity for learning, regardless of age. This potential is seldom tapped by most dog owners. Are there special food considerations for diabetic dogs? Yes. In general, you should not be using the semi-moist packaged foods for a diabetic dog, because of the sugar they contain that moderate in whole grains, and high in high biological-value dairy products. Can you tell a dog's age by the condition of its-teeth? No. Some two-year-old dogs could chew on rocks and have teeth that look like the dog is fifteen. Others retain the shape and color through very advanced years. Is there any age beyond which you should not purchase a dog? You should try to find out why the dog is being sold at an advanced age. If he is aggressive, you likely will have a problem. But if you are satisfied that the reasons are valid as to why the dog is being given up, then, beyond the fact that you will have a shorter life together, the love that passes between you will be just as strong and meaningful as if it had been a complete life span. Q & A: Part 4 How old should a bitch be when weaning her last litter? In general, a female should not be more than five years old when weaning her last litter, nor younger than the second heat, which means between one and two years old. She should also be bred only every other heat, which means a total of three or four litters throughout a female's lifetime. How old should a male dog be before he should be prevented from copulating? Dogs generally have a self-checking mechanism, which means that they would not ordinarily pursue sex beyond their abilities and fortitude. If they did attempt copulation beyond their physical stamina, they would simply pass out. As dogs get older, they have a lower sperm count, so for selective breeding purposes you are better off using a younger dog with not only fine conformation but stable temperament as well. Do female dogs experience a change of life? Not that we are aware of. Female dogs can remain fertile until they die. We know of a cocker spaniel who had puppies at the age of fourteen. For the most part females simply stop coming into heat, or come into heat less often, without any menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, etc. What is the oldest a dog can live? We have heard of dogs living to eighteen years. In general, these cases occur among the smaller breeds. How does a dog's hearing or sight change as he gets older? It generally gets worse. Barring any medical problems, it is not uncommon to see normal longevity of nine to fifteen years in a dog that has become deaf. The older dog will lose his hearing gradually, so that his owner is often not aware of it until the dog is deaf or almost deaf. Dogs very rarely become blind, but many will experience a clouding of the lens as they get older. A dog's sight is comprised of rods but no cones, so they don't see color - only shades of black, white, and gray. Do older dogs tend to get fat? Dogs in general tend to be overfed. They are being killed with kindness through frequent snacking. However, older dogs, like people, will tend to loose muscle tone. Overfeeding and lack of exercise will cause any age dog to become overweight. How common is the problem of gastric torsion? It seems to occur primarily in big dogs. The condition usually is precipitated by a heavy, fatty meal, eaten hastily, followed closely 'by a lot of water then by exercise. The stomach is contracting, trying to digest food and building up fermentation momentum until, in the big chested dog, the stomach literally flips over, twists, and closes off the openings at both ends. It can be remedied only by immediate surgery to unflip the stomach and sew it to the stomach wall if necessary. If not caught in time, the dog goes into shock and dies. Q & A: Part 5 Is the surgical risk greater in the older dog? Usually yes, again depending upon the status of the heart and the kidneys. All of this should be thoroughly checked out before the older dog is anesthetized. The anesthesia provides a greater risk than the surgery. If the dog is competently evaluated before surgery, there should only be a one-percent risk factor of anesthetic death. During the time when sodium pentobarbital was more widely used for anesthesia, many dogs never woke up because of a condition called acidosis. Over-dosing caused excess absorption of the pentobarbital into the body. Just when you would think the dog was nicely asleep, his fat began to release it, thereby effecting an overdose in the dog. When sodium pentobarbital is in the blood stream, there is no control or reversal. Today, with gas anesthesia, risk is almost zero because of the greater control the vet has. Do dogs get arthritis as they get older? Some do. Larger dogs are more prone to arthritis because of hip dysplasia, and because of the proclivity to hip dysplasia, they also get arthritis in the hip joints. But dogs don't have to be old to get arthritis. Small dogs are less prone to arthritis, regardless of their age. The general correlation does not preclude the existence of one condition without the other; however, the two usually do go together. Do older dogs need more sleep? They probably rest more, but this indicates a lessening of physical activity rather than excessive sleeping. Do older dogs eat less? Growing dogs eat twice as much as those no longer growing, but, once they attain adulthood, they generally stabilize their eating habits. However, a sick dog, no matter what his age, will generally stop eating altogether. Older dogs will tend to eat less. Can an older dog be hurt by using a metal choke chain to train him, or even just to walk him? Metal chain collars are prefectly safe as long as the dog is in good physical condition. Nylon choke collars provide an alternative. How often do dogs get heart attacks? Dogs don't get heart attacks as they manifest themselves in humans. If a dog gets a heart block, related to an arterial obstruction, he can drop dead but it wouldn't be a heart attack. However, dogs do get strokes, which would indicate an obstruction leading to the brain. Heart attack is not a veterinary term. What is the most common cause of death in dogs? Cars kill more dogs than all other causes combined, more than all diseases. Irresponsible dog owners are the real killers, the cars are merely the means of execution. Among diseases, kidney and heart diseases take equal toll, and cancer is a more common cause of death nowadays than heretofore. Let us repeat here what was stated earlier. There must be respect for community leash laws. Dogs should not walk themselves. Always take your dog for his walks, whether to answer a call of nature or just for a stroll, on the leash. We, the dog owners, have that responsibility to our pets; their safety and longevity depend on us. Q & A: Part 6 Do older dogs lose their teeth as do humans? Yes, but for slightly different reasons. Excessive tartar builds up. This creates a bacterial climate whereby destructive agents invade the gum and bone surfaces, causing damage or destruction to both, and eventual tooth loss in some dogs. Machines such as the cavitron have been used with some success in removing excess tartar from a dog's teeth. Once the dog has bitten down on a piece of food, the outer surfaces are not utilized very much so most of the tartar forms on the outside of the teeth. The inner surfaces are being stimulated more by the action of chewing and therefore remain cleaner. Why do dogs live such a relatively short life span? Every type of animal has a predetermined life span and we cannot deduce any logical or medical rationales for the relatively short life span of dogs. However, all dogs will reach their maximum longevity if kept in good health. A proper diet will increase your dog's lifespan. Why do small dogs live relatively longer than the larger breeds? It probably has something to do with the metabolic rate. The greatest difference occurs within the very large breeds, such as the St. Bernards, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds. Their average life span might be eight or nine years, as opposed to a tiny Poodle or Chihuahua that can seemingly live on forever, becoming senior citizens of eighteen or nineteen years old. What is the most humane way of ending a dog's life? Euthanasia, as performed by an overdose of anesthesia, is the most painless way of ending a dog's life. He simply goes to sleep, in a matter of seconds, and feels no pain or apprehension. Phenobarbital is the anesthesia used. Some facilities use suffocation, which means putting the dog in an evacuation chamber and extracting the air, a method most often employed where cost dictates mass disposal. This procedure, of course, is much less humane and to be avoided wherever possible. Carbon monoxide is also used, and could be considered a second alternative to the phenobarbital. How often should the older dog be bathed? The older dog, as well as any age dog, should be bathed whenever he is dirty, and as often as he needs it, in a wild, natural, herbal shampoo from a health food store. Do older dogs need special vitamins? An older dog should be on a good multivitamin, mineral, trace mineral, intestinal flora, and enzyme preparation, because he does not absorb nutrients as well from the intestinal tract. Q & A: Part 7 Which breeds tend to have the greatest incidence of pyorrhea (bone degeneration), leading to loss of teeth? The two breeds with the most frequent incidence of periodontal disease are the Dachshunds and Schnauzers. The host resistance factor seems to be lower in these breeds. How septic is a dog's mouth? Since bacteria do not break through the body's protective barrier, namely the skin, we needn't worry about having a dog lick us and our subsequently contracting a disease. However, from the point of aesthetics, dogs do sniff every conceivable pile or puddle of excrement deposited in the streets by other dogs, so many people may deem it ill-advised to allow a dog to lick them on the mouth. This choice is entirely personal. The people who sleep with their dogs usually allow all manner of familiarity, including kissing. What are ear hematomas and what causes them? Usually a hematoma is precipitated by irritation of some sort within the ear or upon the ear flap. The dog tries to ease the annoyance by shaking his head, frequently hitting his ears against solid objects and rupturing the veins of the ears. This causes internal bleeding, which collects in a swelling beneath the skin until the blood clots. Hematomas can reabsorb, but the dog winds up with a cauliflower ear. The surgery performed for ear hematomas is cosmetic, not crucial to the dog's health. How does one dog react to the death of another dog in the family? This can be very personally traumatic for a dog. Just as some dogs will refuse to eat, and subsequently will starve to death, after the death of their master, the emotional affinity can be exceedingly strong between one family pet and another. Should a new puppy be introduced into a family with the older dog? This is advised against this for several reasons. The older dog may bully the younger pup, causing permanent damage to the pup's personality. Also, the older dog may feel forced to compete, resenting strongly the presence of this newcomer. An older dog, in resentment, may try to hurt, or even kill, the new puppy, causing a tragedy that you can well live without. Sometimes the older dog gets a more acute awareness of his age and debilities, causing him undue stress and unhappiness. On the plus side, some older dogs have been known to become rejuvenated by a new canine family member. A sedate older dog can sometimes act as a calming influence upon a young boisterous puppy. Chewing and barking problems are sometimes lessened when anxiety is diminished through companionship. But, here again, it is just as possible for a new dog to pick up bad habits from an older dog, as it is likely that he will pick up the good habits. We advise that you do both yourself and your dog a service by not introducing a new puppy into the family until such time as your present devoted companion has died. Questions To Ask Your Vet Regarding Prescription Drugs Modern drugs are surely a benefit to the practice of veterinary medicine. They have helped save the lives of many critically ill dogs and restored countless others to normal health. Yet improperly used, they cannot only fail in their intended function, but can actually create a more serious threat to your dog. An antibiotic given at haphazard and infrequent intervals can create a resistant strain of bacteria. A corticosteroid abruptly discontinued after long use can precipitate a dangerous adrenal gland hormone imbalance. A drug intended to be given four times a day may produce a dangerously high blood level if given, only twice a day, but at double the dose. When your veterinarian dispenses or prescribes medication for your aging dog, he or she should also give you the following information in addition to the dose and frequency. Do not hesitate to ask your vet the following questions: 1. What is the medication expected to do? 2. How soon can improvement be expected? 3. How long should you wait if there is no change in condition? 4. How long should the medication be continued? 5. Is the medicine to be stopped abruptly or is the dose to be reduced and how? 6. Does the medicine need special storage? Away from light? Refrigeration? Must it be kept airtight? 7. What possible side effects might be expected? The dispensing label or prescription should carry specific directions for use, which should be followed explicitly. Is the medication to be given before or after or with food, or perhaps on an empty stomach which should remain empty for a specified time? Some medicines are inactivated by food, due to mechanical or chemical interference with their absorption from the stomach or small intestine. If there is more than one type of medication, can they be given together, or is there a particular sequence of administration or time interval between them? Certain drugs interfere with each other when given together while others will intensify the reaction. The directions say "three times daily." Does that mean morning, noon, and night or breakfast, lunch, and supper or every eight hours? The effective levels in the blood of some medications fall more rapidly than others and require administration at regular and specific time intervals. The prescribed tablet is quit large and not too easy to administer twice a day. Will it be just as good to give ½ a tablet four times a day? For some drugs the answer is yes. For others definitely not, because by doing so, you will render the drug ineffective. And you most certainly will want to know when to start giving the drug; when you get home, later that day, the next morning, or only if certain symptoms appear? Ask your vet all pertinent questions before leaving the examination room! This is especially important if the prescription is to be filled outside of the veterinary hospital. Taking Extra Precaution With The Older Dog's Diet: A Lesson In Illness A proper, well-balanced diet is essential, especially for the older dog. Every degenerative disease your older dog suffers, whether it is a heart problem, arthritis, cancer, kidney failure, or cataracts, is in some way related to nutritional deficiencies or to poor absorption of nutrients. Most authorities agree that the older dog needs more vitamin and mineral supplementation, as well as a smaller quantity of higher-quality food (higher biological value). Many of the experts, however, do not properly interpret degenerative symptoms into recognition of substandard nutrition. When your dog is young, time is on his side, even considering the numerous nutritional errors that were provided to him in his daily menu. Your dog does not know or care that he is not getting optimum nourishment. However, you, as his owner, need to realize that many of the old dog's illness are preventable through proper nutrition! Many experts agree that essentially there is only one canine disease; toxemia. By whatever local disease names or manifestations you choose to call it, waste matter is backing up in the cells of the body and causing them to malfunction or to cease functioning. How do our animals get into this shameful condition? The shocking truth is that most often they eat the wrong foods. The common source of canine illness could lie in putrefaction in the colon. The large intestine (colon) develops rings of fecal waste, much like a tree acquires rings as it advances in age. The rings gradually solidify into impermeable yellow plaster (fecal matter) that becomes quite hard. These layers of fecal plaster impair a very obvious function. The main mode of movement of food from the esophagus to the rectum is peristalsis, the wavelike motion used by the digestive system to push the food from one end of the body to the other. A dog's colon is normally an efficient sewage system for the evacuation of wastes. But we have, in all innocence, turned it into a cesspool of seething putrefaction. Without peristalsis, fecal matter continues to collect in the colon. Without proper elimination, disease-producing bacteria increase in the intestines. With the intestines stuccoed with dried fecal matter, how can good food be absorbed through the walls of the intestines? What is to prevent contamination of good nutrients by putrefactive juices? The flexure that acts to push food from the small to large intestine, is often draped in feces. So it either jams open, or it jams shut; either way, your dog has trouble. Understanding Balanoposthitis In Your Older Dog Certain disorders are rather common occurrences in many older dogs and are potentially life threatening. In the female dog, conditions such as mammary gland tumors and pyometra, as well as the less serious false pregnancy and mis-mating, can be prevented to varying degrees by ovariohysterectomy. If your mature dog has already had such surgery you have removed the sources of several major threats to her continuing good health. Although castration of the male will similarly prevent at least two reproductive disorders related to aging, side effects are more extensive and such surgery is rarely recommended for preventive reasons. The treatment of existing reproductive disease may, however, require such an operation. Balanoposthitis: This inflammation of the penis and prepuce (sheath) is seen with variable frequency in dogs of all ages, even young puppies, but is more common in aging males. Small amounts of yellow or grayish discharge at the opening of the prepuce are apparent although the dog's licking at the area may clean most of it away. In several cases, the amount of discharge is quite large and will be greenish and pus-like, often matting the surrounding abdominal hair in long-coated dogs. The surface of the penis and the lining of the prepuce develop multiple little bumps, called lymphoid follicles, and bacteria actively begin to grow in the secretions. Should your dog have this problem, you will often find some of the discharge on the various surfaces that he lies on for any length of time. You can usually clear up mild cases yourself by gently flushing out the sheath twice daily with hydrogen peroxide solution for a week or ten days. Using a rubber human ear syringe to hold the peroxide, insert its tip into the sheath opening, at the same time pulling the sheath gently toward the syringe. This will avoid the syringe tip touching the penis. Holding the sheath opening firmly around the syringe tip, slowly instill the peroxide until the prepuce distends slightly. Remove the syringe, keeping the prepuce opening closed, and gently massage the fluid back and forth within the sheath. Release the opening, let the fluid drain out, and carefully clean the surrounding area. More severe cases should be treated by your veterinarian and may require the application of irritating medications to these delicate tissues. This would, of course, be done under anesthesia and probably followed with soothing antibiotic ointments which you would continue at home as instructed. Your older dog may be recurrently bothered by this condition. Regular flushing with peroxide or the application of an antibiotic ointment or both, done once or twice weekly should keep the discharge under control and avoid the more serious problems. Understanding The Benefits Of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrate In the hopes that your older dog can enjoy a golden age that you never thought possible, it is wise to look into the evolvement of a nutritionally wholesome, additive-free, all-natural dog food. The rewards would be a constant improvement in the overall health of animals fed on such a natural diet. Such rewards include the improvement of almost every disease and condition affected by nutritional deficiencies. Food is a highly significant factor in your older dog's health. The broadest food classifications are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The three classifications help us in assessing the major components of a food. Foods are generally considered to be of the category that predominates in their composition. But this does not mean that a carbohydrate such as wheat contains no protein because it does. Or that a protein such as liver contains no carbohydrates because it certainly does. Similar to people, pets need a proper ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in their diet in order to maintain proper health. Proteins are vital to the growth and development of all body tissues. Protein helps in the formation of hormones; it regulates the acid-alkaline and water balances; and it helps the body to form enzymes and antibodies. Protein also aids in the formation of milk during lactation, and in the process of blood clotting. Protein can be used as an energy source when fats and carbohydrates are insufficient in the diet. Fats (lipids) are the most concentrated energy source in the diet. When oxidized, fats yield more than twice the calories of proteins or carbohydrates. Fats act as carriers for the fat- soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. By helping vitamin D to be absorbed, fats make calcium more available to body tissues. Fats also aid in the conversion of carotene to vitamin A. Fats insulate major organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, and help to maintain body heat. Carbohydrates are the major source of energy for all bodily functions. They are a splendid source of quick energy. They assist in the digestion of other foods, and they are essential in regulating protein and fat metabolism. Carbohydrates are considered the fuel in which the fat burns. Carbohydrates consist of sugars, starches, and cellulose. Simple sugars, as in honey and fruits, are easily digested. Use Care With Obedience Training For The Older Dog Obedience training can certainly be accomplished at any age, yet we must use discretion when training the older dog, since obedience training is psychologically demanding. We should differentiate between old and seriously infirm. To effect a good program of obedience, we must always have infinite patience. But, with the older dog, we sometimes need more patience and gentleness than usual. The older dog is approached with the same basic techniques as his more youthful counterpart, but certain compensations should be made. Hand signals need to be more distinct, to accommodate a gradual failing eyesight. Verbal commands should be extra clear and lengthened to counteract any possible hearing impairment. When in doubt, the learning or placing phase of obedience can and should always be carried on for an extra few days to an extra week. We don't want to encourage resistance by exerting weak corrections, so we must compensate with extra placement. A dog who is older will not move as quickly as he did in his prime. If your dog is not taking advantage of you but is simply sitting more slowly, then you must allow those extra few seconds before exerting a sit correction. Should the dog be arthritic or suffer from serious hip dysplasia, you may want to dispense with the SIT command altogether and just have your dog do a Stand-Stay at your side when you stop. In this way you will have heeling control without discomforting the dog unfairly. Once your older dog is sitting with reasonable speed and comfort, it takes very little extra effort to make him stay. A Sit-Stay increases your control over the sit. A dog who finds it hard to negotiate walking, or one who lies down and gets up very slowly, will have to be placed on the down for an extra week, on a soft surface, so he won't resent it. When you return to heel your dog off, he may very well require more time to get up from the Down-Stay than from the Sit-Stay. This holds true even with a young healthy dog. So you must have extra patience allowing him to rise as you give the command to HEEL. Watch For Pain Or Symptoms When Training The Aging Dog Dogs very often tell you when they are in pain, although not always. Should you find the down placement very painful for your dog, and should he find it painful to lie down apart from his obedience lesson, then it may be more beneficial to dispense with the DOWN command altogether. These conditions vary with the individual dog, so that ultimately you have to trust in your own evaluation of the situation and then follow your inclinations. In no instance do we want to obedience-train an older dog at the expense of his reasonably physical and mental comfort. The Down-Stay serves to keep the dog out of your hair, and your company's lap, for longer periods of time than a Sit-Stay. With an effective Down-Stay, you need not shoo him away in a strategic retreat to the basement or bathroom. Chances are that your older dog is fit enough to pester company. If this be so, then he is certainly fit enough to learn the down. In obedience training you must behave like a cool, calm machine. You will be able to hold out longer, with less exhaustion, and your dog will learn more easily and more rapidly, realizing that you have the situation under control. Dogs will take advantage of their owners' weaknesses, even at an older age, and this will only mean more difficult, resentful training, with more discomfort for both of you. Speak and act calmly, slowly, deliberately, rationally, and consistently if you want to maximize your training potential and the subsequent benefits that accrue both to you and to your older dog. The older dog is no longer as efficient at regulating his body temperature. Fats are responsible for this. The older dog often tends to lose weight and some of the fatty components of his body. In effect, he is not that well insulated anymore. So, when obedience training the older dog, you must take care not to work him in extremes of heat and cold. This holds true for any dog, but more so for the older dog. Constipation and incontinence can also be problems. It is important to allow the dog to relieve himself before and after an obedience session. If a dog suffers incontinence during the course of training, just ignore it and clean up later. Don't allow a small puddle of urine to interfere with your training session. It is also important not to feed your dog just prior to or after an obedience-training session. Feeding before can upset his digestion, and feeding after can not only cause indigestion but can be interpreted as a bribe. This we never want to do. Don't work your older dog to exhaustion. Several short sessions are always preferable to one long one. What is a Slipped Disc? Very often a dog will suffer spinal damage from degenerative processes. This is usually referred to as "slipped discs," but they are not really discs at all, and they have not really slipped. Essentially what has occurred is a loss of resiliency between the vertebrae, and so- called slipped disc can be the result of an accident or, more likely, a gradual degenerative progression that shows itself in one of the body's weakened areas. A contributory factor could be lack of exercise (a sedentary lifestyle in which the older dog very frequently indulges). Lack of exercise decreases blood flow to vital areas, slackening the muscles and allowing the intervertebral "shock absorbers" to become thinner and less resilient, thereby leading to possible perforation upon impact. Diet is also a factor, since the cells that make up the "shock absorbers" are being starved for nutrients, which impairs their vitality and regenerative ability. Whether the origin lies in degeneration from lack of exercise and poor nutrition, or the slipped disc results from an auto accident or other acute calamity, rehabilitative factors remain the same. The dog needs to be put on an optimum diet containing ample amounts of vitamin C and its complex, the bioflavonoids. The dog needs to maximize his digestive potential with the use of enzyme therapy, taken both internally and by injection at the site of the ailing disc. Raw grated vegetables and sprouts should be added to the food as sources of additional live enzymes, vitamins, and minerals in a readily available form. The herb comfrey is a most valuable addition to the diet in all bone disorders. The entire matter of diagnosis, diet, and injection should be discussed thoroughly with your vet. Exercise up and down the stairs should be stopped temporarily, as it will only serve to put more pressure on the already weakened spinal joint. The dog should remain on level ground, placing newspapers in the house if necessary, as it can be a toss-up, in severe cases, between temporary paper training and paralysis. As the dog begins to rise and walk on his own, then slow walks on level ground can be encouraged. When the dog is feeling much stronger, you can slowly reintroduce more vigorous exercise, including the resumption of climbing stairs. Slipped discs do not suddenly appear mysteriously, and they will not subside mysteriously either. If you are taking proper precautions with diet and exercise, the chances of your older dog suffering slipped discs are happily minimized. Should you also take vital precautions and not allow your dog out without a leash, then you are eliminating the chances of his getting a slipped disc through his being struck by a car. Remember that a slipped disc can lead to paralysis and impairment of vital motor and excretory functions, and this can most certainly lead to death. Constipation And Flatulence As your dog grows older, the muscles of the colon and rectum may lose some of their ability to propel and expel feces adequately during a bowel movement. Reduction in stomach and intestinal digestive secretions can produce a bulkier, firmer stool as can diets very high in dry food content if there is insufficient water intake. Your dog will squat and strain to force the fecal mass slowly out. She may cry from the discomfort. Prostatic disease can mechanically cause constipation as the prostate gland enlarges and presses up against the floor of the rectum. Similarly, tumors in the rectum or on the anus can interfere with the passage of feces. Any dog may have an isolated difficult bowel movement on occasion. This should be no cause for alarm if he is otherwise in good health and there is no bleeding or excessive pain. Repeated bouts of constipation can slowly stretch the rectal muscles, causing permanent dilatation and resulting in chronic constipation. Once this occurs, your dog will need frequent enemas as well as fecal softeners to help him eliminate. The increased time the stool remains in the colon and rectum will allow bacteria that normally live there to act on the stool, causing putrefaction and excessive gas production. Degenerative Joint Disease Noninfectious osteoarthritis is the commonest form of joint disease in the aging dog, a situation not too different from that in humans. The disease is progressive and causes few, if any, noticeable symptoms in the early stages. It is not uncommon for a veterinarian to discover the existence of degenerative joint disease or its predisposing causes during a routine checkup. Primary arthritis develops from the normal wear and tear of a joint with time and age. While seen occasionally in very old dogs, it is not the commonly observed arthritis that it is in people. The bulk of aging dog arthritis cases are secondary to disorders which happened or started earlier in life. The following are just a few of the many such disorders: • Obesity in any breed but especially in the large and giant breeds. • Mechanical trauma such as falls and jumping mishaps. • Torn ligaments in any joint but especially the stifle joint in toy or miniature poodles. • Chronic dislocating patella (slipped knee cap), most common in toy breeds. • Osteochondritis dissecans, a disease of young dogs. • Hip dysplasia. Elbow And Hock Callouses When dogs lie down in their normal position, the major portion of their weight is supported by their elbows, especially when on hard surfaces. With the passage of sufficient time, and as your dog gets older, the hair covering the elbows disappears as the constant pressure destroys the local hair follicles. In response to this same pressure the skin undergoes hyperkeratinization, a thickening and toughening process, and callouses are formed. A similar process can take place in the skin covering the hock joints, but this is less frequent. The rate at which these callouses form is directly proportional to the size and weight of your dog. They are rarely seen in Chihuahuas or other toy breeds, regardless of age, but occur with great frequency in German shepherds, Dobermans, Newfoundlands, Great Danes, and most other giant breeds as early as five years of age. As a rule they cause no problems. If they seem inordinately dry or hard, gently rubbing in a small amount of white petrolatum ointment once or twice a week should keep them soft enough to avoid any difficulties. Once in a while they do get so hard that they start to crack, developing raw fistulas which readily become infected. Your dog will lick at them and compound the problem by irritating the skin. When callouses reach this stage, they need prompt veterinary attention. Grooming And The Older Dog Proper and effective grooming contributes only indirectly to your dog's general health but becomes a more significant factor with increasing age. As the natural skin oils come to be less effectively produced, the skin can become dry and scaly, causing itchiness and discomfort. Matted or tangled hair-coats likewise cause scratching and, in addition, can hold dirt and debris on the skin from which bacteria can readily enter skin that is already abraded by the scratching and chewing. Bacterial dermatitis is not at all uncommon in older dogs. The daily grooming patterns begun in earlier years should be continued throughout a dog's lifetime. It is my firm belief that all dogs, with the possible exception of some show dogs and those with certain skin diseases, should be combed and brushed every day of their lives with a metal comb and a wire-bristle slicker type brush. Combing should be done first, as its purpose is merely to remove tangles and separate the hairs so the slicker brush does not get caught in them. This is followed by the brush which should be used in firmly applied, long, slow strokes. The object of the brushing is to get the wires down to the skin, which is where the dirt is, to remove that dirt and the dry scales of dead skin. Less Adaptability As Your Dog Ages It is not uncommon to find the older dog less adaptable to changes in diet, routine, or environment. For example, my dog always loved riding in the car, bouncing about with a sense of excitement. He never missed a thing that passed by; now that he is older he prefers to lie quietly on the seat snuggled up against me or else on the floor. He may even get an occasional upset stomach and throw up while riding. And he steps in and out of the car with considerably greater care! In the past it never seemed to bother him if I occasionally got home late for his supper. He'd jovially greet me at the door with little more than a "Hey, what's up?" and race you for the food dish. Now I find that he has thrown up small amounts of yellowish-green stomach fluid due to the increased acidity of a stomach which contains no food. I have found that leaving a small amount of dry food when I go out may solve this upset. Speaking of stomach upset, whenever I had parties, he always joined in the fun and most of the time survived the party foods given him by my well-meaning guests. Now he shows less interest in the goings-on, preferring to be by himself in a quieter part of the house. If he does indulge in any party food, he almost always has some digestive disturbance. Muscle Atrophy In The Older Dog The muscles of most aged mammals lose much of their strength and actually decrease in size with each advancing year. This is a normal part of the aging process and is to be expected. However, there are two as yet poorly understood muscle disorders which at first may look like normal aging weakness. In one the dog develops weakness in the leg muscles during periods of exercise or other physical stress, may fall down briefly, seem to recover, get up for a short time only to fall down again. This is often seen in polymyositis, a disease which causes inflammation of any or all muscles in the body. Polymyositis occurs mostly in late middle age and early old age, the most common of its several possible causes appearing to be a defect in the dog's immune mechanism. Treatment with corticosteroids is quite successful despite the often alarming appearance of the dog. Occasionally the muscles of the esophagus are affected, making swallowing difficult, but even these respond. Muscular dystrophy, the second disorder, occurs mainly in older dogs, bears some similarity to muscular dystrophy in people, and has a cause as yet unknown. Affected dogs develop a stiff gait as the muscles become progressively weaker and smaller in size. There is nothing we know of which will stop the deterioration or cure the disease. Treatment is palliative, trying to keep the patient as comfortable as possible, and is based on your dog's individual symptoms. Nutrition When dogs were wild, or at least still hunted for their food, hunger may have been an occasional concern, but rarely were nutritional deficiencies or imbalances ever a problem. Dogs killed and ate almost all of their prey's carcass including the entrails, skin, and even bones. Domesticated and dependent upon their owners for food, today's dogs are amply fed, right to the point of obesity, yet they often develop a number of deficiencies from their improperly balanced diets. The advent over the past decade of nutritionally "complete" or "balanced" commercial dog foods, and their increasing acceptance by dog owners and veterinarians alike, has drastically reduced the incidence of dietary deficiencies. Today such nutritional problems are seen mostly in dogs who are fed homemade diets or a diet of table scraps and leftovers. Poor nutrition, whether from dietary deficiencies or excesses, has a significantly negative effect on your dog's ability to remain in good health. Resistance to infection is lowered, as is the production of antibodies, allowing infectious agents to multiply rapidly and spread. The resulting fever, diarrhea, or other manifestations of illness, more than likely will make your dog less interested in eating, thus increasing the state of malnutrition. Prevention Of Heat Stress During The Summer Months There is no excuse for heat stress ever occurring. No one questions your love for your dog, or he wouldn't have survived this long. Just a little logical forethought during hot weather is all that is needed. Don't take him shopping with you if your stores do not allow dogs on the premises. Then you won't have to tie him outside. If you are going for a drive, be sure he will be welcome at every place you intend to stop. If his outdoor exercise area is small, take him indoors before you leave the house for any length of time. Those breeds more prone to heat stress (pug, boxer, English bulldog, Boston terrier, etc.) should have even normal outdoor activity severely curtailed during periods of hot sun and high temperatures. In extremely hot parts of the country they may require air-conditioning. Certainly, free access to frequently changed cool water is a must. As far as I am concerned, any dog who suffers heat stress, and survives, ought to pack up and look for a new owner! Rare Diseases That Strike The Aging Dog Fortunately, the aging dog has relatively few disorders of the brain and spinal cord associated with the process of growing old. Arteriosclerosis, that bane of human aging and a primary cause of senility, is quite rare in dogs. Hence it is unusual indeed to meet a truly senile dog. Cerebral hemorrhage, also called apoplexy or stroke, is likewise a very infrequent occurrence in the canine. Rabies is caused by a virus which is attracted specifically to nerve tissue and is transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal. However, there have also been rare reports in recent years of airborne transmission. It has been traditionally believed for centuries that once symptoms of rabies develop, death is inescapable, and because of the hazard to other animals and people, such dogs are euthanized if they have not yet bitten anyone. Recent reports of two human rabies cases which were treated successfully and survived the development of rabid symptoms, if confirmed, may possibly alter the present grim outlook for rabid dogs. With the extremely effective and safe vaccines available today to protect your aging dog, however, there is no excuse for you to ever have to worry about this disease. Tumors In The Older Dog Tumors of the brain and spinal cord are seen with relative infrequency in the older dog, the former having a higher incidence in boxers and Boston terriers. Symptoms will vary depending on the actual location and size of the tumor but will often include dullness, staggering, pressing the head against a wall, walking in circles, convulsions, or just weakness in one or more legs. In the hands of a competent veterinary neurosurgeon, many spinal tumors can be removed if detected before permanent damage has been done to the spinal cord. Chemotherapy is sometimes needed for a brief period following such an operation. Brain tumors can only occasionally be removed, as most are inoperable due either to their size or location within the brain. Such was the case with my dog TiTi, a gentle and ever so lovable standard poodle. Within a period of only one week he became suddenly aggressive, growled often at his owner, developed an insatiable appetite, and finally had a severe convulsive seizure. In consultation with a veterinary neurologist, an inoperable brain tumor was diagnosed. Medication controlled the symptoms and improved the dog's behavior for almost a month, then seizures started again, but with increased frequency and severity. Medication was ineffective at any dose and TiTi was euthanized.
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