3/30/09 Elderly Dogs

Elderly Dogs

There is nothing sweeter than an old dog to me. I really love the old fellows. One problem that I have noticed is that people tend to stretch out appointments because they fear the old fellow can't handle the grooming anymore, but the truth is, they need it more often if they are a hairy breed because old dogs tend to lie down more, and don't tolerate brushing as well, and then they become matted which is very uncomfortable for them.
In addition, elderly dogs often have problems with urine leakage which when added to long hair can actually cause urinary tract infections. Sometimes it’s better to skip the beauty and go for an easy care hair style that will keep the problem areas short and out of the way. Yes, that may mean your “pookie” won't look like his breed anymore, but what is more important?

Keep your dog’s eyes free of debris and build up in the corners. Take a moist cloth and gently wipe out your pets eyes daily. Some dogs have a dry eye problem and simply a couple drops of artificial tears put in daily help.

Another problem of the older dog is tooth problems. If you notice your dog’s breath is getting particularly nasty, there’s a very good chance he has a bad tooth or teeth, or a gum infection. Face it, not many of us really open up Fide’s mouth and peek inside all the way to the rear molars, if you did you'd seen in an instant why your pet’s breath isn't minty fresh. Brushing your dog’s teeth is helpful, but if you don't do it at least weekly, the tarter will harden and will soon require a veterinary dental cleaning to scrape it off.
I know many elderly dogs that are now toothless or very close. Dogs have 42 teeth, and my Bogey has about 6 of his left. I know so many clients I talk to with elderly dogs don't want to have their dog’s teeth cleaned because they fear the risk of anesthesia. Most vets now use a gas anesthesia which is much safer and I've known 17 year old dogs that have had their first dental and not only survived it, but THRIVED afterwards because all the pain in their mouth was gone! Dogs with infections in their mouths that aren't treated end up with the infection affecting all their other organs, such as heart, kidneys and liver. So you aren't saving your pet by avoiding a dental, but prolonging a long, slow and painful death due to infection. So don't fear the veterinarian, ask your vet what kind of anesthesia they use, and if they don't use gas, then go see another vet for a dental.

Lumps and bumps are common with elderly dogs, many are benign and not a problem but if your dogs is scratching them or making them bleed, then it’s time to have them removed. Again ask your vet if your pet is a good candidate for surgery and ask about the type of anesthesia used and make an informed choice. It’s always a good idea to have any growth or lump examined. Many times when a lump is simply written off as a fatty tumor and ignored, it can turn out to be a very serious problem.

Elderly dogs are like elderly people, it hurts to get up when your joints are stiff and sore from arthritis. There are many new drugs available to help improve your pet’s quality of life. Ask your vet what they recommend. Chiropractic care is also an option for your elderly friend. Some vets do chiropractic or acupuncture treatments on pets that can greatly improve his pain without the worry of drug side effects.

Be careful handling your old pet, many old dogs have the reputation of being crabby and most people chalk that up to growing old, but it’s really because the dog is in pain. Dogs are stoic about pain, they don't show it the way we dog. Some signs of pain are licking the joints, trouble getting up and down, shaking, moving slowly or just not being their happy, normal self. Dogs don't often whine when they are in pain because that would draw attention to them and remember dogs are “animals” and in the animal kingdom, if you whine and show weakness, something else comes to eat you, so you keep your mouth shut! Gee don't you wish humans did that sometimes?

Old pets, like elderly people, lose their hearing and sight as they age and that’s not a death sentence necessarily, many dogs that are completely deaf and blind still use their nose to guide them and do remarkable when navigating about the house. My Bogey is almost 15 years old and completely deaf. What that means to me is he is no longer afraid of loud noises, or thunder. When other dogs come to be groomed and carry on and make a lot of noise, he just sort of looks at them with his head cocked as if to say, “I see your mouth moving, but what’s the problem?” At least he doesn't need earplugs to get through the day like I do sometimes!

Only you and your vet can decide if your pet’s quality of life is worth having him euthanized. Personally, I think until you’ve tried all you can to ease your old guy’s pain and woes, then you would have tremendous guilt if you have him put down too soon just because he’s aging. But if you’ve done all you can, and you still can’t make his life comfortable, then the kindest thing is to have him humanely euthanized and stop the suffering. I think that’s the last act of kindness we can do for our dear pets after all the years of love they’ve given us.

3/16/09 Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

Ahhh! The smell of spring is in the air, the birds are singing, and I've seen some flowers poking up through the soil. Maybe it’s just me but I've been impatiently waiting for this season to arrive for a very long time. When we get a nice mild day and the sun is shining, I get in the mood to spring clean the house and all the pets in it!

Unfortunately, so does everyone else and my phone has been ringing off the hook so my pets will have to wait. For all of you “do it yourselfers” out there who groom your pets at home I thought maybe I'd go over a few things to help you get your pet spring cleaned.

We all know with springtime comes mud, and naturally our four-legged friends are bound to bring some of it in on our freshly cleaned floor, so here are a few hints to help you out.

(Ideally any trimming should be done on a freshly bathed and dried pet to save your equipment. Nothing dulls a clipper blade or scissor faster than dirt or oil from your pet’s coat.)

If your pet has long hair especially on the bottom of his feet, trim that off either with scissors carefully, or clippers and be sure to get between the paw pads and make sure there are no mats, burrs or rocks hiding in there. Now brush up the hair on the top of the foot, and it should pull up the hair in between the toes, and you can trim that off too.

This will keep the mud down substantially.

While you are working on the feet, don't forget to trim your pet’s nails. Long nails will hurt your dog’s feet, and scratch up your floor. Use a nail file, emery board, or Dremel® type tool to smooth off the edges.

Since the days are getting longer, you'll notice more hair shedding in most breeds so make sure you brush and comb your dog or cat thoroughly to the skin and get that dead coat out of there. Be sure to pay attention to any lumps or unusual bumps or boo boos you find and take note of them. It won't be long until ticks are out, and it’s very important to make sure you get them off of your dog. Lyme disease is common around here and you should talk to your vet about prevention.

Be sure to check under your dog’s tail and trim any hair that tends to gather “cling-ons”. Yeah, I know not a pleasant job, but necessary. This is a good time to do a “sanitary” trim and clipper off the underside of your pet so you have less trouble with matting and soiling.

Don't forget your dog’s ears. If you have a pet ear cleaner squirt some in your dog’s ears and squish it around while your dog enjoys the ear rub. Then let him shake it out and you can take a tissue or paper towel and wipe out the ear canal with your finger and get rid of any debris. There are numerous things you can use for ear cleaner, but it depends on the condition of your dog’s ears as to what you want to use. If you have a dog with inflamed and sore ears, rubbing alcohol is going to hurt. Your vet may have some ear cleaner that fits the bill.

If your dog has a lot of hair around his ears, be sure to slide a comb under any matting before you cut the hair out! I've found wounds on dogs that the owner innocently tried to “pre-trim” before going to the groomer. It’s easy to do if there are mats, so be careful.

One of the very first signs of spring I'm told is not robins, but skunks! I've had several calls lately from desperate owners whose dogs have gotten skunked, bad for the owner and dog, but hey if that means spring has arrived, I'll take it! Here is the recipe for ridding your dog of the skunk odor. Be sure you are wearing clothes you don't mind destroying if needed.

1 quart of hydrogen peroxide (available everywhere)

¼ cup of baking soda

1 Tbsp. of Dawn® dish soap.

Mix this up in a non-metallic bowl and do NOT cover it, it can explode! Apply it to your dog on his dry coat and let it sit for 10 – 15 minutes. Be careful you don't get it into his eyes, if you do be sure to flush them with water for several minutes. If you've covered the right spots on the dog you should notice a difference in the odor soon. Then rinse and repeat if necessary, then bathe as usual and be sure to put conditioner on the dog, this is a very caustic mixture but it has to be to get rid of the skunk odor. Skunk musk is oily and you have to degrease it in order to get rid of it. Use it all up, you can't save this mixture at all, but it is very effective. Tomato juice is not going to cut it, trust me.

If your dog has a collar on, don't try to save it, it’s not worth the effort! Skunk musk is practically impossible to get out of fabrics and nylon collars. Do yourself a favor and buy a new collar. Besides, now that your pup now smells nice and spring cleaned, you’ll want him to look good with a new collar as a finishing touch.

March 2, 2009 Disposable Pets

Disposable Pets

When you get a pet, it is for life. I know sometimes, things happen, sometimes it isn’t a perfect match and sometimes you are lucky enough to find just the perfect home for a pet you adopted. However, that isn’t the norm.
It’s one thing to be asked to many different people to help them to re-home a pet. It’s another thing entirely to be asked by the same people over and over who never learn their lesson. As soon as they get rid of one dog, they go get another one! I’ve heard excuses from “I’m allergic” to “we just got new furniture and the dog doesn’t match it”! Rescues hear these excuses often. The problem is, there just aren’t enough good homes to go around. We have way too many animals and not enough good homes, the majority of them end up euthanized.
Many rescues won’t adopt out pets before Christmas due to this very same thing, people adopt a dog or cat, and a few months later, they are tired of them and they give them away, sell them, or just leave them tied up outside and ignore them.
Most people don’t research the breed of dog or cat they get and just fall in love with the baby animal and take it home, only to discover that it grows too big, sheds too much, require professional grooming regularly, is too high energy for their lifestyle, or just have no clue how to train the dog and get frustrated. Therefore, it goes up on bulletin boards at the local grocery, “FREE TO GOOD HOME” or in the newspaper, or ends up at the humane society. What makes people look at pets as disposable? How can we teach people not to do this?
Often many rescuers with the right heart, but adds to the problem is “enabling” people. They take in the poor pet to help the pet but that frees up space for the former owner to do it all over again. The cycle continues until someone finally puts their foot down and refuses to take the animal. The problem is the animal is the one who suffers. People must be held accountable for getting that pet, and dealing with the problems.
Some people do the unthinkable and end the life of the pet themselves, or dump it out in the country figuring someone will take it in. We are seeing more and more of this as our economy declines.
One thing we can do is to spay and neuter all of our pets so we can at least prevent more pets from facing the same fate. Rescues and shelters are packed to the brim with animals trying to find homes for them.
I get many emails daily from rescue lists that go to shelters and pull dogs that are going to be put to sleep soon. They are desperate to find good homes for these dogs that are no longer cute and cuddly, and have grown up and gone through the obnoxious puppy stage that the former owner couldn’t’ deal with. These dogs are put into shelters and given just a few days to become adopted or they will be euthanized. Yet everyone seems to want a puppy instead. Most of the time these dogs just need a stable home and someone to pay some attention to it and they fit right in. I’ll take an older dog over a puppy any day just because of the work and time involved in raising a puppy. I’ve had nothing but good luck with every adult dog and cat I’ve rescued in my lifetime.
That being said, I know my limits. I know that I cannot take on another animal at this time and give it all it needs in this economy. My house is full! So before you fall in love with that puppy and take it home, consider the costs of not only food, but shots, spaying or neutering, flea control, heartworm medicine year round and emergency vet visits because you just never know what can happen. Free to good home doesn’t mean free for life. Pets are like children, they are solely dependant on your for their food and care, and you have to be ready to take on that responsibility for the next 10, 15 or 20 years. When you have problems, seek help. Don’t dump them out in the country and hope for the best.