A Dog's Eye View: Caring for senior dogs, part 1

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While seeing old age take hold of your pet can be challenging, it does not have to be a time of constant pain and discomfort for dogs.

Her eyes don’t hold the light like they used to. Her movements, once fluid and lyrical, now seem stiffer, more of an effort. She once indiscriminately wolfed down her meals, but she now hesitates, considers and selectively picks at her food. Does this scenario sound familiar?

A little while ago, my Zoey passed on, but before she did, we had 15 years together to explore and experience life. Zoey’s aging, starting with visible changes when she was about 13, was a gradual, subtle process — a quiet slowing down with small shifts in ability. But if I compared the 9-year-old Zoey with her 15-year-old self, the changes seemed cataclysmic and even disheartening.

Although it provides challenges, old age does not have to be a time of constant pain and discomfort for dogs. When dogs reach a certain age, owners too often assume there isn’t anything they can do to improve the lives of older pets.

Within the world of holistic animal care, there are techniques that can help relieve the physical and emotional discomforts associated with a pet’s aging. I use the term holistic to refer to the treatment of the whole animal, a practice whereby the medical treatments used are minimally invasive, stress relieving and take into account not only a pet’s visible health but also its overall well-being and lifestyle. Other terms used to describe this type of veterinary care are complementary, integrative and alternative. Many area veterinarians offer such care.

Some of the treatment and care options available to pet owners include acupuncture, cold laser treatment, chiropractic work, the use of medicinal herbs, TTouch and healing touch, hydrotherapy, nutraceuticals and nutritional guidance.

In the coming weeks, I will describe some of these senior pet care options that are available through local practitioners.

My goal is to give pet owners insight into how to provide a dog in the late stages life as much comfort as possible. Through Zoey and the guidance of veterinarians, I was able to learn about what is available to help senior dogs, and I’d like to share this learning with you.

Lisa Mason is an experienced dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training group. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.

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