Tag Archives: senior dogs

Fraggle Friday: Things I’ve Learned About Senior Dogs

Stella is not my first senior dog. Montana, my very first dog, was adopted while I was in college and I had her for about 12 years. She grew old with me, and in the end, despite two hip replacements to help with severe hip dysplasia, her body just couldn’t do it anymore.

There’s some ailments that seems to affect most senior dogs, once they’re of a certain age. Decreased mobility and dementia seem to be the ones that effect the most dogs, in my experience. Montana started to go into corners and stare at walls. She began panting and pacing a lot, usually not needing to go anywhere, just as if she was uncomfortable in her own skin. I tried special food, and even meds. And they helped to a certain degree, but in the end, she was an old dog, and I couldn’t change that.

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While I did everything I could for Montana, I feel I have learned so much more about what senior dogs need through the years.  And while I am happy Stella gets to benefit from this, it hurts my heart that Montana did not. Senior dogs need special care. More than just a dog food labeled “Senior.” A friend, lamenting about aging parents, said to me “once an adult, twice a child.” It took me a moment to understand what she meant, but then it rang so true. We start our lives depending on others, and unable to care for ourselves, and if we live long enough, most likely we will end our lives the same way. I think about this phrase a lot when I am caring for Stella and it’s led me to understand a few things that can really help senior pets.

Stick to a Routine

If you don’t do anything else, this will still help your senior dog immensely. Stella knows my routine better than I do. She knows that I open the blinds to the front window right before I take her for a walk. She would hear or see those blinds move, and she knew it was time to get up and get going. Nowadays, she can’t hear the blinds opening, and rarely wakes up while I am opening them, but I keep the routine the same regardless. Feeding time, walk time, nap time, everything, I try to keep it as regimented as possible. If she wants to sleep in, great, but if I don’t wake up when she wants to go out, she starts to pace and gets stressed. Knowing what to expect greatly reduces her stress, and I do my best to help with that.

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Remember New Places Aren’t as Fun as They Used to Be

What young dog doesn’t bound out of the car and love to explore new smells? Siri is an absolute spaz the first night in a new place. And while Stella has travelled to hundreds of places with me, and she still loves a car ride, spending time in a new place when you can’t see or hear very well, can be very stressful. Especially for dogs suffering from dementia. Getting out of her familiar routine and having to adjust to a new place can create an anxious, pacing, dog. To try and help her, I always bring along her favorite bed. I try to put this bed away from all the activity going on so she has a quiet location she can claim as her own. If she were better about being crate trained, I would bring her crate along and just have her hang out in her crate in a new place. I’ve cut back on a lot of the places I house/pet sit as it’s too stressful for her, and instead try and only take her places with me that she knows well.

Take a Cue From Motel 6

And leave the light on for them. Stella used to get up and walk into things when she was trying to find her water bowl. After a night of this, I went out and purchased a night light. Now, Stella follows the light and has no problem finding her water bowl. In new places, I leave a stronger light on for her since she won’t be as familiar with where she is going. It seems to have made a huge difference in her anxiety level. I also think this is key for dogs with dementia, especially if the pacing and staring happens primarily at night.

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They May Need to Go Out More Frequently

This one probably seems pretty obvious. But it took an accident in the house for the first time in 11 years for me to realize my senior dog Montana couldn’t hold her bladder for 6-7 hours anymore. With Stella, I try to get her our every 4-4.5 hours during the day, and she usually sleeps 7-8 hours at night without an issue. However, she’s quick to let me know that even if it’s snowing and 5am, she still needs to go out. I limit her evening water intake if possible, or try to get her drinking around 6-7 pm rather than 9-10pm.

They May Not Want to Go for a Walk

Stella loved nothing more than running and running and running some more when she was young. Even these days, she loves bombing around the barn, helping me bring June in from her paddock. But other times, she has zero desire to go for a walk. She wants to go potty and go back inside. And that’s ok. I let her dictate what she wants to do, rather than me sticking to a plan. I let her be the control freak, rather than me. Or, I try at least.

Getting Old is Hard for Them, Too

It’s hard for us to see our dogs age. The once crazy puppy who now spends 90% of its time sleeping can be a hard transition to experience. Stella has always been an independent dog who never needed my help. But that’s changed now. She needs my help going up the stairs. She needs my help to soften her kibble prior to eating it. She relies on me for so many things now. I know she doesn’t love it when I help her up the stirs. I know she would rather not need to be leashed when it is dark out because she can’t see her way. So, I try to honor who she was by still giving her as much independence as possible. If there are steps she can go up and down, I let her. I praise her like crazy for taking a few steps at a run. I pretend I’ve just walked into the house when she doesn’t wake up until I have been there for a good 5 minutes. I try to be my most patient self at all times because deep down, I know that taking a minute or two longer to get up isn’t happening because it’s what she wants, it’s happening because it’s all she can do.

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We still spend time on top of mountains so she can feel the wind in her fur PC: Nate Liles

So give your senior pup a kiss and enjoy every single moment you have with them. They sure deserve it!

 

 

 

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Fraggle Friday: Stella Update, 7 Months Post Surgery

It’s been just over 7 months since I made the decision for Stella to have back surgery. Am I glad I made the decision I did? Absolutely. While the fact that she most likely has a brain tumor is devastating, I have to say she had an incredible summer swimming and getting out and about. And while she has slowed down a bit with the colder weather, she still seems no worse for wear. Now, remember, she’s 15 years old. So she spends her time doing a lot of this:

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She rarely cuddles with Siri so this was actually pretty magical

But when she is awake, she is eating well, eager to go for walks and when we get to the barn, one of her favorite places, she runs around like a banshee

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Yay walks!

Obviously, every day with her is a treasure, especially since I am not positive we will have a lot more of them.

But for now, I’m excited to see report that she is doing great and seems to be enjoying life to its fullest. Just like we all should be!

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One of my dogs has no shame in front of our foster dog…

 

 

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Fraggle Friday: Stella Update!

Poor Stella, she just hasn’t gotten the blog attention she deserves.

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To be honest, in the last few weeks, she has really slowed down. More sleeping, less enthusiasm about going for walks.

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It could be she is less enthusiastic to go for a walk when the weather is crap, but she looks so cute in her raincoat shouldn’t she want to show it off?

She still sleeps through the night, as long as you consider night to be over by 4:30 or 5am. The good news is, if she does get up this early, I let her out to potty, she comes back in and goes right back to sleep. So, naturally, I do too…

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She and my cat, Bunny, sleep together like this every night

She really can’t see at all. Especially in the dark. She can see things right in front of her, but that’s about it. Her hearing is hit or miss, she seems to be able to hear high-pitched whistles, but often doesn’t hear me when I come home and I need to make some noise to wake her up.

So, essentially, she’s old.

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Another raincoat pic. This time in the sleet…. ugh

But besides getting older, and the difficulties associated with that, she’s doing pretty well! Walking and hop/running, no more seizures, and she is just as opinionated as ever.

So, naturally, I am just trying to enjoy every moment of it.

 

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Fraggle Friday: Stella’s 15th Birthday!

This past Wednesday was a very special day. So specia, in fact, that I deemed it a holiday and took the day off of work. It was, you guessed it, Stella’s 15th birthday!

I had major plans for the monkey, I wanted to make sure it was a truly special day. I ended up doing an Instagram story chronicling the day which was really fun.

It started with a walk around the block.

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Then she had breakfast with a few extra treats thrown in, followed by a nap so Siri and I could go for a run.

Her favorite part of the day was probably what happened next…

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SWIM TIME!!!

After being thoroughly worn out playing fetch, she came home for another nap. And woke up just in time for her acupuncture appointment!

Basically acupuncture for Stella involves her laying on her bed gulping down treats while some needles go into her back. She’s pretty good at just laying there..as long as there are treats!

Then it was time for me to make the birthday cupcakes! A mixture of peanut butter, ground beef and lamb jerky, all her favorite things!

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When you’re 15 your birthday involves a lot of this…

Because, little did Stella know, she was having a surprise party! Sure, the surprise party was all my friends (she is over having dog friends stop by), but it was still fun and involved drinking mojitos and singing happy birthday!

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Siri was so excited that I made her a cupcake too!

At about 8pm Stella let me know she was totally over all of it, and wanted to go to bed. So my friends and I went to dinner and she went to bed, exhausted from all the activities.

I’d say it was a pretty great birthday and I am elated I got to spend another one with my best dog.

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