[caption id="attachment_5954" align="alignright" width="747"] Credit: Adobe Stock[/caption]
When my dog Toby was 11, I checked out a book on anti-aging for dogs from the library. I left to run a few errands and returned later to a grisly scene.
I found the mangled book on the floor, cover gnawed off, two chapters torn apart and puncture wounds to the appendix. Apparently, Toby didn’t intend to age gracefully.
I’d adopted Toby, a Lab/chow mix, from a shelter six years earlier. Toby’s feisty personality soon emerged. He raced up and down stairs and barked ferociously whenever a stranger approached the door. He was my big, protective dog. And then one day, he wasn’t.
After he turned 12, Toby seemed afraid to descend the stairs. At 14, he barely curled his lip when the mail carrier dropped letters through the slot.
I Iooked up Toby’s age in human years when he turned 16. He was the equivalent of a 120-year-old man. By then, my old guy struggled to stand, suffered digestive issues and needed as much attention as any aging family member.
“We all age differently, and it’s the same thing with dogs,” says Connie Schulte, a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner and doctor of physical therapy at Blue Pearl Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center in Missouri and Kansas. “I’ve seen 12-year-olds [dogs] that act old and I’ve seen spry 12-year-olds.”
Thanks to veterinary advances, today’s dogs live longer than the family dog you knew as a kid. As a result, pets and their owners are now faced with a “whole new set of age-related conditions,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
If your old dog struggles with geriatric challenges, here are 10 things you can do to make his or her life better:
To help those muscles stay strong, practice “sit” and “come” at mealtime and throughout the day, says Schulte. Even brief activity helps dogs retain the ability to get up and down.
“If they fall on the stairs, they could break or dislocate their hip,” says Schulte. “Then you’re forced into a surgery or decision that you weren’t yet ready to make or didn’t need to make.”
“It’s such a little thing to offer, and 10 minutes of your time can mean so much to them,” she says.
“Love is a vitamin,” says Fallek. “Keeping your dog happy is the most important thing for their immune system.”
© Twin Cities Public Television - 2017. All rights reserved.