Senior Dog Blog

Health Benefits from Loving Your Dog by Ann-Marie Fleming

24 June, 2015

It may surprise you to learn that there has been a number of studies done over the years exploring the human-animal bond with a growing body of research revealing actual health benefits that result from quality time with your dog. In fact the more I read, the more these studies pointed to the need for even more research into this field.

While some question the validity of the studies completed to date, there does seem to be convincing evidence that our dogs do make us healthier. For starters, having a dog usually means that we are more active than if we were without our four-legged family. In one study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) they looked at more that 2,000 adults and concluded that dog parents who walked their dogs on a regular basis were more physically active and less likely to become obese than those without a dog. A slightly larger study which looked at senior adults between the ages of 71-82 for a period of 3 years saw that those who walked their dogs regularly, walked faster and longer than those who didn't walk regularly and had greater mobility inside the home. 

Dogs Make Us Healthier

There has even been evidence showing that dogs can help adults suffering from dementia. By introducing trained therapy dogs into the lives of people with dementia it has been shown that they can stimulate social interaction, ease agitation, improve eating and increase physical activity.

Therapy dogs have also had positive results with cancer patients helping to alleviate depression, while offering welcome companionship and a positive distraction from treatment schedules and worries.

Perhaps the most convincing scientific results are found within the area of cardiovascular health. Several studies have found that people with dogs have lower heart rates and blood pressure than those without. Dogs as stress relievers has often been proven. Research has shown that our levels of Oxytocin (OT), a neuropeptide recognized for its role in bonding, socialization and stress relief, increase when we interact with our dogs. 

I can honestly say that the only time I truly relax and let go is with my dogs, especially when I am petting and cuddling with them. It is the one time I can let everything else go and just be with them in the moment. It's so therapeutic, I don't know how I would get on without them to keep me grounded and to remind me that there are more important things in life than our daily stressors.

My life is very hectic and I think part of the reason why I love senior dogs so much is that by their very nature they have a calming effect on me. Sometimes I feel more relaxed by just watching how Milo takes his time as he maneuvers through life, taking in every smell and every moment at his own pace, never rushing and never taking anything for granted. In fact I would very much like to see research that takes into consideration the age of the dog to see if seniors have a more therapeutic effect on cardiovascular health than younger, high energy dogs.

Overall, I find research in this area, while considered in its infancy, a very important field of study because the more we understand about our dogs and the positive impact they truly have on our lives emotionally and physically, the more society as a whole will come to value and accept dogs in all areas of our lives. With their ability to focus their attention on us, to read our signals often before we know them ourselves and their devotion to us which often sees them putting our needs ahead of their own, it's no wonder they make us healthier.

Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.

Anesthesia-free Teeth Cleaning for Older Dogs by Ann-Marie Fleming

16 June, 2015

I am a huge believer in the importance of proper dental health in our dogs. In fact it is one of the best ways we as parents can extend the lives of our dogs. The challenge is that as our dogs get older anesthesia becomes riskier and in some cases, completely out of the question. I have been through this many times with my own dogs - weighing the pros and cons of putting my dog under to rectify serious dental health concerns. I do believe that if your senior dog is healthy and has serious dental disease then surgery is the right way to go BUT once you have had the surgery I have always felt there has to be a better way to maintain their dental health that doesn't require anesthesia.

Milo is a perfect example. He has had 2 dental surgeries in the past 2 years requiring numerous extractions each time and there was no doubt in my mind that he needed surgery to avoid serious consequences of dental disease. The last surgery was less than a year ago and his teeth were already looking terrible and I knew that before too long he would need more extractions, something I had hoped to avoid. At the same time, now that he is 12, I am very hesitant to put him under anesthesia just for a cleaning. I decided to look into teeth cleaning for dogs that does not use anesthetic and I came across a company in my area called K9 Gentle Dental who gave a lot of info on the procedure including videos, photos and many amazing testimonials so I decided to give them a try with Milo.

Anesthesia-free Teeth Cleaning for Older DogsAs for the results, well the difference is amazing. Looking at Milo's teeth I had my doubts they could really be cleaned, but as you can see in the before and after photos, they look fantastic.

If you google non-anesthetic dental cleaning for dogs you will come across opposition to the idea, but this negativity mainly stems from a fear that parents will use this technique in place of dental surgery which is not what K9 Gental Dental is about. In fact the first portion of the session is an evaluation of your dog's teeth. If upon inspection they see a need for surgery they will ask that you take your dog first to your vet for further diagnosis and dental surgery before using their services. Even with Milo they noticed a tooth where the gums were significantly recessed indicating possible problems below the surface and advised me to have that tooth checked by my vet. It was not loose so they were still able to proceed, but I did witness another dog that they could not clean because the issues were too severe and surgery would need to be the first step. They do not charge you if they are unable to continue with the cleaning.

The other objection I have read in terms of cleaning a dog's teeth while they are awake is the belief that a dog will not stay still long enough to allow a thorough cleaning, but when you see the video below you will quickly realize that this is not the case. The technicians were so sweet to Milo and while he channeled his inner pug and was more dramatic than the situation warranted, he was able to stay still long enough for the cleaning. Since Milo's teeth were so bad his treatment took almost an hour which included a couple small breaks, but I know if I have him treated every 6 months that the next time will be significantly shorter. And yes there is a certain amount of stress that the dog feels. Milo certainly didn't enjoy himself, but his stress level was about the same as when someone tries to cut his nails and given the health benefits and level of safety over anesthetic, I felt it was well worth it. 

Milo is a very laid back dog so I asked what their experience has been with high anxiety type dogs (in my mind I was thinking about my Lily (pug) who gets very worked up at times and my Winnie (french bulldog) who is terrified of strangers) but they said that quite a lot of dogs will simply freeze and become some of the easiest dogs to work on, even the highly strung types. You can see an example of this in the video below where a Boston Terrier becomes almost rigid, but seemed fine having them work on his teeth.

A great suggestion they made for dogs more susceptible to stress is to have them come to your home, which they can do for a bit more money. Milo was treated inside a pet store and the whole time there were dogs barking and people coming and going so I can see why for certain dogs being in the comfort of their own home is a big advantage. Also if you are like me and have more than one dog, having them come to your home is very convenient so I will try this next time. I am not sure if Winnie will go for it, but they told me that if they try and she is simply too stressed then they will not continue and I will not be charged.

Check out Milo's experience:

Right now my plan is to have all three of my dogs checked by my vet since I need to have that one tooth looked at for Milo and I believe both Winnie and Lily may need some extractions, but then I will get everyone on a 6 month non-anesthetic cleaning routine to hopefully avoid future surgeries. I believe that if you go into this treatment method knowing that it is a way of maintaining good oral health and not a cure for dental disease then it is an amazing, far more affordable and safe option, especially for our seniors who have a more challenging time coping with anesthesia. I know I felt so much better going in this direction for my Milo and I look forward to having all my dogs treated this way moving forward.

*Special thanks to K9 Gentle Dental for taking such great care of Milo and for allowing me to record his cleaning experience.

Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.

 

Heart Disease in Senior Dogs by Ann-Marie Fleming

28 May, 2015

Up to 75% of senior dogs face some form of heart disease. A scary thought I know but the more that we understand about heart disease and how it impacts our senior dogs, the better we can manage its effects. We can categorize heart disease into congenital and acquired.Congenital represents a very small percentage of dogs and involves conditions that are usually detected quite young. Acquired heart disease includes conditions that typically impact our senior dogs and consists of disease with a valvular cause or disease with heart enlargement.

Valvular Disease: The leading cause of heart failure in dogs is Chronic Valve Disease, also known as Degenerative Valve Disease (among a variety of other terms). This form of heart disease is characterized by degenerative changes in a dog's heart valves resulting in a loss of valve function and a reduction in cardiac output. The most common valve that is affected is the mitral valve (located between the left atrium and the left ventricle) .Over time the mitral valve may begin to wear out and leak, typically indicated by a heart murmur on the left side of the chest. Mitral valve disease more commonly affects smaller breeds.Heart Disease in Senior Dogs

Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Dilated caridomyopthy (DCM) is a condition in which the heart muscle itself begins to weaken, impacting its ability to contract and pump the blood efficiently throughout the body. As a result, the heart over time becomes enlarged as the muscle stretches and the walls thin. DCM develops over many months and even years affecting large and giant breeds more so than small or medium breeds. In its early stages often times this condition goes unnoticed only detectable through diagnostics such as an ECG or ultrasound, but as the heart's ability to contract worsens, symptoms may include loss of appetite, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing and even fainting.

Both mitral valve disease and dilated cardiomyopathy can lead to congestive heart failure; however the majority of cases can be attributed to a leaky mitral valve. The most common sign of congestive heart failure is a persistent cough accompanied by difficulty breathing. Loss of stamina, excessive panting, coughing while sleeping can also indicate signs of heart failure.

The good news is that there has been great scientific progress in heart treatments over the years so a lot can be done with medication. Often times dogs can live for many happy, high quality years. Diet is also an amazing way to help manage heart disease because by keeping your dog's weight in check, you take a significant load off the heart and that can make a huge difference in both prevention and treatment.

The more I experience with my own dogs, the more I see how incredibly important early detection is in ensuring a positive outcome. I have been fortunate with some of my dogs' diagnoses and heart broken with others, but my strategy is to always obsess. We are so close with our dogs that we are able to detect even subtle changes in their behavior and often times these are cues to have your vet run some tests. Some diseases like cancer can be difficult to detect early and can often sneak up and break our hearts very quickly, but what gives me hope in the prevention of heart disease is that if we are watching and have our senior dogs checked on a regular basis we are often able to catch problems very early on and through early treatment we can see amazing results.

 Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.

Understanding the Special Bond with our Dogs by Ann-Marie Fleming

21 May, 2015

Lately I find myself thinking a lot about the bond we form with our dogs. Interestingly, new research is finally emerging that is starting to explain the how and why behind the close relationships we form. I remember back to grade 5 when my teacher Mr. K told our class that dogs cannot love; that the only reason they pay attention to us is because we feed them. I remember this so clearly because even at such a young age I knew how wrong he was and how sad it was that he never experienced the love of a dog. Human Dog Bond

Recent advances in canine research has started to produce results proving what dog parents have known for years in terms of our relationship with our dogs. Through specific training researchers have been able to keep dogs still enough to perform MRI's while they are awake and as a result we are now starting to extract, through neuroscience, key information about a dog's brain and its response to various stimuli.

Attila Andics of Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest conducted valuable research where he performed the same neuroimaging experiment on both dogs and humans, where he studied responses to sounds. He discovered that dogs have dedicated voice areas of the brain just as humans do and that dogs and humans use similar brain mechanisms to process social information which helps explain why vocal communication between dogs and humans has been so successful.

Another very interesting study was done by Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist and author of How Dogs Loves Us - A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain. Berns showed that the caudate nucleus, a part of the brain associated with positive emotions, was similar in dogs and humans. Backed by some impressive findings he argued and I am sure we would all agree that dogs empathize with human emotions and experience friendships in a similar way to humans.

In the book titled, Inside of a Dog - What Dogs See, Smell and Know author Alexandra Horowitz describes contemporary research into dog cognitive abilities, which reveals that the way a dog pays attention to us is very similar to the attention we give as humans. In fact, it has been shown that dogs have learned to look at humans the way humans look at humans and in the dog's case they are often more aware of details and changes we are going through that we realize about ourselves. One of the things I miss the most is how Paige would stare at me. Her eyes had so much intensity that they told me how much she loved me without words and science is now recognizing that the attention and gaze they place upon us is quite rare and complex.

I find that bonds form especially deep with senior dogs, perhaps because they are so appreciative of a second chance or maybe it is because they are more vulnerable and respond to us helping them when they need us the most; either way I feel that relationships at this stage of a dog's life reach a whole new level. It's a time when just being with us is a higher priority than anything else.

Part of my love for older dogs stems from the closeness I feel with them and it doesn't matter if you adopt them in their senior years or if your dog grows old with you - that same bond exists. Sometimes I feel it is their neediness that attracts me to them but then I realize that I need them just as much as they need me and that in my mind is a big part of the reason I have been fortunate enough to have a closeness I never thought was possible. 

So the next time you describe your connection with your dog and are met with skepticism you can tell them that science is now behind us in our knowledge that our dogs do in fact love us and our bond with them runs deep. I know you didn't need science to tell you what your heart already knew, but it's nice to have further proof that what you feel is real. 

Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.

 

5 Reasons Why You Should Adopt a Senior Dog by Ann-Marie Fleming

28 April, 2015

Over the years I have been owned by dogs of all ages from puppies to seniors, so I feel that I have a good perspective on all stages of a dog's life. And while the energy of a puppy or young dog can be infectious, I am drawn now to the sweet nature of a senior dog, which makes adopting an older dog in my mind the obvious choice. There are so many dogs in shelters and rescues, but sadly seniors are often the ones that are left behind. I would like to ask that people take a moment to consider the many rewards that bringing an older dog into your home can bring before you immediately decide on a younger dog. 

Here are 5 of what I consider to be the best reasons to adopt a senior dog:

Adopting a Senior Dog
  1. Truly grateful - it has been my experience and that of so many other wonderful parents that when you rescue a senior dog you genuinely feel how thankful they are. Older dogs are more interested in having someone who loves them than in chasing a ball and when they are freed from a shelter or adopted from a rescue they let you know what their new life means to them. You will know instantly that you did the right thing. Not only are they grateful for their new family, but they show this gratitude by showering you with love. It's one of the most rewarding things you can do and your heart will truly thank you.
  2. True sense of self - one of the traits that amazes me the most about older dogs is how well they know who they are. They are past the trial and error stage and have become so comfortable in their own skin that they know what they like and what they don't like. I find this refreshing to be honest. This is not to say that you cannot take them outside of their comfort zone; like all beings they still need to be stimulated, but they will definitely let you know what they think about it when you do. I like to try new things with my dogs to see if I can get them hooked on new activities which happens quite often, but when I ask them to do something they have decided they are not fond of they make no secret of their preference to be excluded. For example, Milo my oldest has made it very clear that he would prefer to not be my first mate on our row boat, but he loves car rides and adventures in the forest :)
  3. Satisfied with the simple things - senior dogs have an impressive ability to appreciate the simple things in life. They live life at a slightly slower pace which allows them the time to stop and smell the roses. In our family we used to be in awe as we would watch Mackenzie my senior pug at the time drink his water and eat his food. He would take his time and savor every moment. It was pure joy! I now watch my current seniors who sniff every blade of grass when we are outside, who sit on the couch and watch the birds for hours and exude utter contentment when participating in lap time - they find peace in so many moments. I often take time to stop and appreciate their perspective because there is no stress, no worry, just being. I try every day to be a little more like them.
  4. Real pro's - while a puppy can certainly be fun, most people are unaware of the challenges they bring when it comes to house training. It can take years with some young dogs for them to truly grasp the concept that bathroom breaks are meant to take place outside. In addition to the potty phase you also have to contend with the chewing phase and what feels like endless energy. With a senior dog you typically have seasoned veterans who know perfectly well where their 'business' should be done and that shoes are for wearing. Many senior dogs still have tons of energy, but it's more paced and I find more fun because they aren't always 'on' so when they are playful it becomes even more exciting! This is not to say that senior dogs are not without their challenges; many do struggle with incontinence but speaking from experience I find incontinence a lot easier to manage than a puppy that isn't house trained. Incontinence is more predictable making it easier to cope with especially with the help of products such as dog diapers and pads. And not all seniors deal with incontinence - I have had seniors that had bladders of steel, but ALL puppies need to be house trained!
  5. You are saving a life - thinking about someone other than yourself can work wonders for your heart, mind and spirit. Sadly many senior dogs are abandoned at a time in their life when they needed their families the most. It makes me tear up thinking of how sad they must feel when all of a sudden their family is gone. When you adopt a senior dog you could very well be saving his/her life because quite often the older dogs are the ones that have the hardest time getting adopted. Just think of the impact you could make on a senor dog's life by opening your heart and your home. 

I promise that if you adopt a senior dog it will be the best thing you ever did. There is something so sweet and so special about dogs in this stage of life that will make your heart swell and leave you feeling overwhelmingly fulfilled. They are hilarious, honest and loyal - you will feel needed, appreciated and above all so loved. What more can you ask for?

Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.

    Dog Obesity - What Every Senior Dog Parent Needs to Know by Ann-Marie Fleming

    22 April, 2015

    Dog obesity is a topic I have written about on several occasions, but given that research shows the situation is getting worse, I feel the need to re-emphasize the seriousness of this problem, especially as it pertains to our senior dogs. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, which conducts a nationwide (US) survey every year, approximately 53% of dogs are overweight or obese, up from previous years. Perhaps what is more shocking from this survey is that 95% of dog parents incorrectly identified their dogs as normal weight. Dog Obesity Rates 2014

    Why is weight so important?

    As the problem of obesity continues to grow so are the medical conditions it often creates such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and many forms of cancer. In fact obesity has become the number one health threat our dogs face. As parents we all know the challenges our senior dogs face, but were you aware that many of these conditions are avoidable? And even if a condition is not completely preventable, are you aware of how much better their lives could be if their weight was controlled?

    At Dog Quality we have the privilege of speaking with so many dog parents who I know would do anything for their senior dog, but we still see so many dogs struggling because of excess weight. I suppose the rising number of overweight or obese dogs should not be completely shocking given that approximately 68% of human adults are also overweight or obese and if we cannot control this issue among ourselves, how can we help our dogs?

    Well I believe we can because so often we put the needs of our dogs ahead of our own. I also think I understand why so many are not seeing the weight gain even when veterinarians point this out. We are so close with our dogs making it very difficult to see changes because they happen gradually, usually over long periods of time. Here is a trick that you can use to help identify changes in your dog - look back at photos! I myself, someone who obsesses over the weight of my dogs, have often been surprised at weight changes that I hadn't noticed until I looked at older photos that made me see the difference. It can be shocking. Eventually you'll get better at noticing the subtle changes before they become a problem, but sometimes it is useful to look back to better understand if you are going in the right or wrong direction when it comes to your dog's weight.

    Challenges for older dogs

    It is never too late to start making improvements in your senior dog's weight. Yes it is easier to help a younger, more active dog shed excess pounds, but you can also find success even if your dog is a senior - you just need the right strategy. One of my past dogs, Mackenzie my pug, became obese. I was one of those people who didn't see it. And when I did come to accept his weight as an issue I was so worried that it would cause too much strain on him that I let the problem go on for too long until I found a strategy that worked. Mackenzie had an enlarged heart and even a tiny bit of exercise caused him to hyperventilate. His problems however were made exponentially worse because of his weight so it was critical that he lose the excess pounds and he did! To break the cycle diet became the number 1 priority.Dog Obesity

    I had tried every low calorie food I could find, but the only food that worked for him was Hill's Reduced Diet (RD) which is purchased through most, if not all, veterinarians. Before Mackenzie could even begin to exercise we needed to make activity easier for him and with his new diet the weight started dropping. Then I would walk him in the morning and in the evening when it was coolest, starting with very short distances and increasing the distances gradually over time. The combo of the low calorie diet and exercise helped him drop 11 lbs! The new and improved Mackenzie blew me away. His energy went way up, he was much more mobile and I feel like this extended his life by years. He never hyperventilated again! I should mention that even with a low calorie food you have to be very careful about portions. Just because it has less calories doesn't mean you can feed them even more :)

    My obsession with keeping my dogs skinny stems from the amazing transformation I saw with Mackenzie all those years ago. I vowed to never let one of my dogs become overweight again. He really showed me how difficult the extra weight made his life and how much better it could be just by shedding those extra pounds; a benefit that helped him throughout his senior years. With so many medical conditions out of our control it is empowering to know how much we can improve or prevent problems by helping our dogs maintain a healthy weight.

    While Mackenzie is no longer with me I continue to fight the weight battle with all my dogs. I'm not going to pretend that it's easy because it's not, especially if you have food monsters like I do who act like they have not eaten for days. So while it is always a challenge, it is more than worth it and even if your dog would prefer a bottomless bowl, they will thank you by having more energy and by being healthier and happier.

    A trick I do now that has been working great is I give my dogs a mix of kibble and green beans which allows me to keep their kibble portions under control and still leave my dogs feeling full without the extra calories. I also learned to cut out all soft food which has so many calories. It's just plain kibble for my dogs and if softening is needed, I simply soak the kibble in warm water.

    So no matter what age there are always ways to help your senior dog reduce that extra weight and I promise that you will have a healthier and more energetic dog in no time! Once you see the difference this can make - you will be forever changed.

    Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.

     

    Happy Mini Tails April by Dog Quality

    20 April, 2015

    April brought us more amazing happy tails from traction and protection with our socks and diapers to freedom in our Dogger stroller. Bella and Buttercup show off their Washable Wonders dog diapers giving them and their parents peace of mind, Bailee, Buddy and Daisy can once again travel across their hardwood floors without fear of falling and Nipper goes shopping in his Dogger stroller.

    Bella

    Washable Wonders Dog Diapersclick to zoom

    Bella tells us that her mom is letting her back up on the bed again thanks to her new diapers, which makes her (and her mom) very happy.

    Buttercup

    Washable Wonders Dog Diapersclick to zoom

    Buttercup and her family are very happy with her new doggie diapers - isn't she adorable?

    Bailee

    Grippers dog socksclick to zoom

    Slippery hardwood floors are no match for beautiful Bailee in her Grippers dog traction socks.

    Buddy

    Grippers dog socksclick to zoom

    Buddy is loving his gripper socks. He can get up without help! Now he's so much more mobile.

    Daisy

    Grippers dog socksclick to zoom

    Daisy (15 1/2 yrs) is a lot more stable on their wood floors and walking much more confidently now with her Grippers dog socks.

    Nipper

    Dogger dog strollerclick to zoom

    Nipper went shopping at the Super Pet Expo where he was able to show off his Dogger, proving it to be the Cadillac of dog strollers.

    5 Ways to Help Your Senior Dog Feel Young by Ann-Marie Fleming

    25 March, 2015

    Dogs do a much better job than us humans at rolling with the punches that life gives them, including the challenges that come with their golden years. It is this amazing attitude that gives us a way of helping them to stay young even longer. Far too often we as pet parents stop doing the things our dogs gain energy from as we try and accommodate this stage of their lives. Yes we do need to make changes, but we do not need to simply stop doing - we just need to do things differently.

    Keep your senior dog young

    Here are 5 ways to help your senior dog feel young:
    1. Regular Exercise - it is very common for a parent of a senior dog to reduce and often eliminate daily exercise from their routine due to mobility issues or other age related conditions. Unfortunately by doing this you can often make their physical ailments worse. Helping your dog stay active not only gives them a big lift mentally, but it can often slow the effects of aging. Even the most arthritic dogs need to keep moving and while you definitely don't want to overdo it, you can still find a balance. This is one of the reasons that I love dog strollers and dog wheelchairs so much because they help get your older dog outside and moving around, but in a way that caters to their needs. Another great way to help them continue to exercise is through hydrotherapy. Movement in water is much easier for their joints, but can still give them the activity they need. 
    2. Create a Purpose - Just as humans, our dogs love to feel like they have a purpose - to feel needed, to feel like they are contributing to something beyond themselves, to have a routine that they can look forward to. This can take many forms such as being a therapy dog (officially or unofficially) bringing happiness to others who may not have their own dog; being involved in raising awareness like many dogs we see through social media who travel around and act as examples for others to learn from; teaching children about the joys a dog can bring or even going to work. In my case my dogs are with me every day at work since it is a full-time commitment for them being the super models (and possibly the brains) behind our Dog Quality products starring in videos and participating in photo shoots ☺ 
    3. Never Stop Playing - your dog may have slowed down, but the more you encourage play, the more they will retain their inner puppy. I can always find a way to encourage, even if only in short bursts, some form of play whether it's with a toy or even my hand. You may need to get creative, for example a dog dance party often does the trick ☺ and you may need to increase your own energy to get them going, but they will respond. The other important benefit to this is the positive energy you give off when you enter play mode. Our dogs are incredibly perceptive and feed off of our energy. If we look at them and see them as old, or feel sad for the changes they are going through, they pick up on this and if they feel that from you, how can it not impact how they feel about themselves? The younger you make them feel through your actions and attitude, the younger they themselves will feel.
    4. Massage - if you have ever had a massage yourself then you know how amazing it can make you feel. The same can happen for your dog. Last month I wrote about simple massage techniques you can do at home in my post titled: Massaging your Senior Dog to Better Health which can go a long way in improving your dog's mobility by loosening up their muscles, increasing circulation and helping them feel happy and relaxed. Spending time massaging your dog is also an incredible bonding experience that should be a part of everyone's routine.
    5. Keep them Lean - the most important way to help your senior dog feel young is to ensure they stay lean. There is a serious obesity issue with pets today with more than 52% of dogs in the United States considered to be overweight. And sadly a large portion of these dogs are in their senior years. With their reduced activity levels it is often easier for them to start gaining weight, but by finding ways to keep them active and adapting their diets accordingly, they can stay thin and healthy throughout their golden years. I have seen the transformation with my own dogs when they shed excess weight; their energy increases and they feel the effects of age far less. With so many joint problems plaguing senior dogs, to lighten the weight their joints have to carry makes a huge difference. Their mobility will improve and their pain will decrease. It also reduces the burden on their internal organs when their bodies don't have to work as hard and can help reduce the chance of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and respiratory impairment, among others.  I cannot stress the importance of this enough - shedding those pounds can help give you not only more time with your dog, but more quality time at that. 

    The bonus with helping your senior dog feel young is that I bet you feel pretty good yourself in the process. Healthy, happy and active living can do wonders for your dog and for yourself!

    Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.

    Identifying and Managing Senior Dog Dementia by Ann-Marie Fleming

    24 March, 2015

    I remember years ago, when I was having my French Bulldog Churchill assessed by a neurologist for rear leg instability, I was asked if he ever stared at walls or became lost in corners. In my ignorance I laughed, not knowing the significance of the question, only to find out afterwards that it was a possible sign of dog dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). CDS is a neurodegenerative disorder in senior dogs similar to Alzheimer's disease in humans. Behavioral changes that are commonly seen include: disorientation, decreased social interaction, household accidents (fecal and urinary), and changes in the sleep-wake activity cycle.Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

    Here are some common signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for:

    • Loss of learnt behaviors -  absence of toilet training or decreased response to known cues
    • Disorientation / confusion - staring at walls or getting lost in corners
    • Increased anxiety - restlessness or agitation, increased dependence on family members, separation anxiety when apart
    • Compulsive behaviors - vocalization for no apparent reason
    • Changes in sleep wake cycles - increased sleep during the day and restlessness at night 

    Keep in mind that even if your dog demonstrates one or more of these symptoms it does not guarantee that they have dementia since there are other possible causes, but keeping an eye out for this behavior will certainly help your vet with their diagnosis and increase the success of treatment.

    I think it is difficult at times to be able to separate "normal" senior dog behavior from behavior caused by a medical condition because older dogs do change and adapt. In fact at times our seniors can become quite bossy and even a bit neurotic, but seem completely in control and purposeful in their idiosyncrasies. I did this video a while back on Mackenzie and his vocalization. Perhaps he was displaying compulsive behavior or perhaps he just figured out that I would cater to his every wish if he was loud enough ;) Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oKRYwRc2K4

    If you are like me then the older your dog becomes, the stronger your relationship is with your vet since you find yourself visiting more and more. As you discuss the changes you are seeing in behavior, your vet will be able to help determine whether your dog is showing signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. As with humans, there is no cure, but the good news is that the signs and symptoms of CDS may be lessened and the progression diminished by use of medications, supplements, pheromones, diet or even mental enrichment. And with the varying degrees of this condition, most dogs continue to live very happy lives.

    Here are some steps you can take to help ensure they remain happy and safe:

    • Talk to your vet about food, medication and especially supplements that can help slow down the decline and potentially reduce many of the symptoms. 
    • Keep your dog mentally stimulated. Just because your dog is getting older and may be having some trouble due to CDS, it does not mean that you should stop exercising their mind. Not only will this help to improve their spirit, but it can also help to slow the decline. Some great ways to keep your senior dog stimulated include: taking them for walks in new areas so they see new sights and breathe in new smells, even if this walk is in a dog stroller; hide the treat games or puzzles, even playing with them in different ways will help.
    • Simplify your household to ensure that obstacles are minimized and the layout becomes as straightforward as possible. This will help to keep them safe and calm. Gating off stairs is also a good idea. 
    • Be patient - one of the benefits to having your vet involved is so you can better understand the changes your dog is going through. Household accidents and their loss of learnt behaviors can become frustrating if you do not know the cause. As they change we need to also change to help them to better adapt. Learn to read their cues and react accordingly. You may need to take them outside more often for bathroom breaks, or you may need to rely on a diaper or a belly band to help prevent accidents. You may need to change the location of their water and food to ensure they are finding it without issue. Rather than getting frustrated, get creative!
    • Be careful - a lot of senior dogs with CDS will stand very close to doors and may not move away when you open them. You may find your dog walks closer to your feet than previously so be aware of their proximity as you move around. Also keep an eye out for the interaction with other dogs in your family to ensure that everyone is getting along as they should be. Sometimes with the increased anxiety or confusion there can be reactions that may rub other family dogs in the wrong way so be aware of the body language and give them space from each other when needed.

    As our dogs get older they often need us more than any other time in their lives. It's our chance to repay them for doing so much for us over the years, so rather than feeling sad, please look at this time as a new chapter. You can still be happy together, you just need to find new ways to enjoy life. I am sure you will find that your bond with each other grows stronger and even more meaningful than you could ever have imagined. I like the person I have become by having the privilege of caring for my dogs throughout this stage of life and I am sure you will too.

    Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.

    Happy Mini Tails March by Dog Quality

    22 March, 2015

    This month saw some very special Happy Tails from the young to the more mature. You can just feel the joy coming from these wonderful dogs. Meet Josh, the miracle dog, as well as Jak and Kismet putting their Washable Wonders to great use. See the difference our Grippers socks are making for Abby and Ceilidh, as well as the adventures that Chevy and our dynamic duos, Danny & Chloe, Taz & Jackson and Heidi & Archie are enjoying with their Dogger.

    Josh

    Washable Wonders Belly Bandsclick to zoom

    Josh was found in a dumpster with a broken back caused by blunt force trauma, but thanks to the amazing work of Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue and Bialy's Wellness Foundation he is getting the love and care he deserves and as you can see, he's incredibly happy. Josh is doing very well with his rehab and we are overjoyed knowing our diapers and belly bands have helped make life a bit easier.

    Chevy

    Dogger dog strollerclick to zoom

    This is Chevy. He had a stroke 4 years ago and drags one of his hind legs, but his awesome parents walk him four times a day and then he gets a ride back home in his Dogger.

    Abby

    Grippers dog socksclick to zoom

    Thanks to her new Grippers, Abby (11yrs) can finally get to her feet when she lays on the kitchen floor. Abby blew out both ACLs at some point in her life and the Grippers make it easier for her to get around on slippery surfaces.

    Jak

    Washable Wonders Belly Bandsclick to zoom

    Meet adorable Jak (10 yrs) trying his new belly band out for the first time. Jak is having some accidents so the belly band is giving both Jak and his parents peace of mind.

    Ceilidh

    Grippers dog socksclick to zoom

    Beautiful Ceilidh (12 yrs) no longer has to worry about those slippery floors thanks to her Grippers dog socks.

    Molly & Joey

    Dogger dog strollerclick to zoom

    Molly and Joey are having a blast in their Dogger.

    Danny & Chloe

    Dogger dog strollerclick to zoom

    This is Danny and Chloe enjoying their ride at Windsor UK today.They love it!

    Taz & Jackson

    Dogger dog strollerclick to zoom

    Taz and Jackson enjoying the Key West Sunset from the comfort of their dogger.

    Kismet

    Washable Wonders Dog Diapersclick to zoom

    Kismet modeling her new diaper to prepare for when she goes into her first heat cycle. As any puppy will do, Kismet was full of emotion when she first tried them on, but quickly realized that she looked great!

    Heidi & Archie

    Dogger dog strollerclick to zoom

    Heidi and Archie test out their new Dogger and give it two paws up!

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