Dogs and Old Age

Your Dog is getting older.

As this normal part of life occurs, many changes may be occurring as well. Its normal. It is one of those facts of life that happen to all of us, including our pets. Behavior changes may very well be part of the aging process. Dementia and aggression are common, as well as things like loss of bladder control, deafness and other physical signs. These problems may very well get worse as time goes on. It does not necessarily mean a trip to the vet to help your best friend go off into an endless peaceful sleep. There are other alternatives; other ways to help you and your pet both during this time of stress.

First, look at the changes in your pet’s behavior the same way you would if it were an elderly relative. After all, your dog is your loyal, loving best friend and companion.

Dementia, for example is a disorder that is as common in dogs as it is in people. It affects the ability to think clearly and one of the causes of forgetfulness. Eventually, your dog may even forget his own name and stop responding when you call. In dementia, the neurotransmitters in the brain are aging, slowing down and this leads to permanent damage of those transmitters. Just as in people. Your dog may be walking along without any sense of direction or purpose; it seems he just doesn’t know where he is going or why. He doesn’t.

Another sign is aggression.

Your normally happy, friendly dog will just as a puppy, jump up and wag its tail but its hackles will be raised and he will be baring his teeth. Hostility toward other dogs especially during play will be noticeable. Instead of playing, it becomes fighting, and the old guy is really out to take off his former playmate’s head.

Sometimes this aggression if directed toward you and your family. Your dog suddenly becomes a threat. As hard as that is to believe, it is a common occurrence among old dogs. Your dog becomes apprehensive, thinking something bad is about to happen and directs this aggression toward you or another family member. When your pet has reached this point, things are going to be tough for the both of you.

There are many courses of action available, mainly in the realm of medications. There are medicines out there, available from your vet that can and do help with these cognitive disorders. Using these medications can help improve overall mental abilities, improving memory and helping your dog be less confused and more aware of its surroundings.

Now is the time to talk to your vet. He or she can offer a load of advice, suggest treatment options as well as prescribe medications. Another alternative is a pet behavioralist. These professionals can also offer a wealth of insight, advise and expertise in changing the behavior of aging dogs.

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Care Tips for your Dog

Before you add a new pet to your family you need to make sure you are able to care for it. If you are accustomed to cats for example, a dog requires different care because it has different needs. Love, attention, feeding and vet care are pretty much the same, but cats are independent, and a dog requires exercise and running room.

You can find pet care information at your vet’s, at pet stores and even online. You can find out about how much and when to feed, how to keep them happy and healthy, what their specific breed requirements are – don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Your vet is the best place for information. You can find out anything and everything you need to know in order to ensure your dog is healthy. Diet, weight, exercise requirements, recommended toys are all available for the asking. And, most vets will give you the information you need whether you ask for it or not, they want to make sure your pet is kept healthy and happy.

Online, you can find articles about training, housing, housebreaking, health alerts, nutritional needs and just about anything else you can think of, including clothing and accessories.

Below are a few tips to get you started:

1) Overfeeding your dog is unhealthy, so is feeding dog food that is not nutritionally appropriate. Read labels, and follow your vet’s advice as to dietary needs. What is best for one dog may not be the best choice for another.

2) Physical punishment, such as hitting or even shouting, will only accomplish making your dog afraid of you. It will not change the unwanted behavior. Scolding is fine – just as with a child. If your dog needs to be trained or retrained, there are many sources of information available. After all, you want to change the behavior, not alienate your friend.

3) Make sure your dog has had all of his shots. These prevent disease and other illness that is uncomfortable for the both of you. Regular vet visits are also a part of the general care of your pet.

4) Never, ever give a pet as a gift, unless you know for a fact the person receiving the animal wants one and can take care of it properly. Including the additional time and expense a pet requires.

5) While your dog is not a human being, he or she has feelings, too. Don’t push them away when they are craving attention – especially if you have been gone all day at work. They missed you! Your animals convey their feelings, pay attention to what they are trying to tell you. If there are major changes going on in the household or in your life, talk to your dog about it. He may not understand the words, but he will understand your body language and tone of voice, and understand that things are really ok. Praise them when they do something good, and don’t forget a treat or two!

6) Make sure your dog has an area in which to do his or her business. And, make sure it is accessible. Imagine the confusion you dog will experience if you are gone longer than expected to be, and just can’t hold it any longer, and then gets scolded for soiling the carpet. Remember the discomfort you yourself feel when a toilet is not handy – your dog experiences the same discomfort, and sometimes really just can’t wait for you to get home to let him out.

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Weather Affects Our Pets

The Change in weather affects our pets just as much as it does us.  As the weather warms,  we put away our heavy winter coats and clothes, and bring out our summer stuff.  We bring out our patio furniture and beach equipment and picnic baskets.  As the temperatures cool, we start to batten down the hatches make sure the furnace is in top working order!

The heat and cold effect our pets.  Make sure you are aware of what the changes do.  Rule of thumb is, the smaller the body, the more changes in temperature effect them.

Summer

In the summer, move fish tanks away from windows with direct sunlight, In the yard, make sure there is plenty of fresh, cool water and a place in the shade. Don’t forget the local yard creatures, such as lizards and birds – they need shade and water too. Move food out of direct sunlight as well, especially moist or canned. It can spoil easily.

Never, ever leave your animals in a car – both heat and cold can and does kill. If you notice an animal in a locked car, try to locate the owner. If that is not possible, and the pet is in distress, call 911 for assistance.

Watch dogs and cats for signs of heat stroke which may include panting, wobbliness, dark red tongue, glazed eyes and vomiting. If overheating occurs, cool them down as soon as possible, move to a cooler area, Starting at the paws, use cool (not cold!) water then legs and finally the body. Cooling down too quickly can send them into shock, which only makes matter worse!

Winter

Don’t assume just because our pet has a fur coat that they cannot be affected by the cold. Hypothermia and frostbite can and does occur in animals as well as in humans. Severe shivering is the first sign, and it is important to get the animal warmed as soon as possible. The warming must be gradual otherwise shock will occur. Again, start with the paws and legs, as the body will conserve the warm blood in the body’s core protecting internal organs.

Our pets are important to us. It is our responsibility to make sure they are not effected by the elements, whether it be heat, cold, rain or snow. We need to be watchful to changes in our pets’ demeanor and activities to make sure they are as happy out in the weather as we are!

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