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Senior/Elder Pet Care Ideas

Posted by darenka (My Page) on
Sun, Nov 1, 09 at 16:33

A couple of the posts have reminded me that I've been meaning to ask. What do you do to help your senior citizen enjoy their golden years? Really, anything from mobility to incontinence solutions would be most welcome. I'm sure I, as many others, will experience lots of different challenges as time goes on. I'd like to draw on your collected wisdom to tackle these. So what have you tried and what works for you?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Senior/Elder Pet Care Ideas

1.If you bathe your dog yourself, put a towel down in the bath or put down a non slip item to make standing in the shower/bath easier.
2.I purchased a 1991 Plymouth Voyager - took out the seat nearest the sliding door so he could get in and ot of the van easier (I dont suggest everyone go out and buy a new vehicle for their pet) you can use a ramp instead - make certain the ramp is wide enough so your pooch wont be too scared to use it. Better yet pick up your dog to get it in and out of the car.
3. I add lots more water to his food than before - making it easier to digest, easier on his teeth and provides more water in case he just has no energy to get up to hydrate.
4. Instead of bathing, get a warm wet wash cloth and add a small amount of shampoo to, rinse out so that not much soap is left and use that to "freshen up" your dog instead of making it stand for so long for a bath.
5.Purchase used ugly comforters to add cush to bedding. Comforters are easier to clean through and through (dog beds you can only clean the cover properly) and if your pup soils them or rips them you are out $10. not much more.
6. Cut walks in the heat down to about 15 minutes or less, or water down your dog with the hose or with a nice jump in the creek before walking in the summer heat. Bring a water bottle and portable collapsable bowl for walks in the heat.
7.You can use an old electric blanket or heating pad to use under your dogs comforter in the winter to help with stiff joints.
8.Put down more area carpets to keep elder dogs from slipping on floors - makig it easier on fragile joints.
9.Feed your dog less, more frequently - I have added more fresh meat to my dogs diet as he has gotten older.
10.More hands on care like massaging achy muscles and joints and if possible some water therapy to help keep achy joints from stiffening up too much.
Make absolute certain your elder dog has water available 24 hours, shelter from the rain and cold, and shade and a cool place in the heat. Watch your dog for signs of increased lethargy, coordination problems, issues with getting up from the floor, or groaning when laying down. Press on your dogs gums to make certain your dog has good blood circulation. Clean teeth and ears frequesntly and just put your hands on your dog daily to check for any lups, hard masses, cuts etc.


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Fabulous ideas. I think my fellow would like me to purchase the van rather than a ramp. He hates ramps. I'm definitely going to do some area rugs. The sound of him skidding and falling on the tile is breaking my heart. Cold, damp weather is a killer on old joints I guess, because his decline has been rapid with the onset of winter. My mother is even going to try knitting him some 'leg warmers', what a sight that will be. I'll have a 70's disco dog--if I can find a way to make them stay up and not turn into scrunchy socks.


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For a dog that starts to suffer from incontinence go to the vet and ask about PROIN. It greatly reduced accidents in the house which made my baby feel bad...we never yelled at her for them because we knew she couldn't help it, she still felt bad.

I second not letting an older dog jump too much. We used to pick our girl up and put on the bed and take her off, anytime it looked like she wanted to be somewhere high, we put her there.

I think the hardest part of being owned by a dog is watching them decline as they get older. The best thing I can think of is to make life as easy for them as possible. For instance, sometimes my baby was sore and achy and didn't want to come and get treats....I would give them to her in her comfy position.


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RE: Senior/Elder Pet Care Ideas

Very hard to watch your babies get old. My Dakota is almost 13, and is very arthiritic.

He's on Glucosimine and Milk Thistle for his liver, plus some prescription meds to help with the pain in his joints.

I have 2 dog beds on top of each other, we call them his "throne". He finds them very comfortable!

I have a stool he uses to get into my truck, he's a 75lb yellow lab/husky mix with long legs ... not much i can do about lifting him anywhere.

The hardest thing is getting my other dog, Lily, to play gently with him. She's going on 5, so has tons of energy and really wants him to play. He just can't play the way she wants him to.

Patience ... and not reacting to the occasional accidents in the house ... and LOTS of love!


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Also with an older dog you really want to make sure that you know your dogs daily schedule...how much they eat, drink, potty. When one of these things changes it can be a sign that its time for a vet visit.


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Mazer, I object strenuously to your #5. The Princess in our household does NOT want "ugly" comforters, she wants beautiful ones. Still for $10.

I agree with all other ideas, particularly #8. With our last Grand Old Girl, we had throw rugs all over the house because she just could not get her feet under her on the linoleum.

Darenza, you can also purchase pet stairs (or steps). We have a two-step item, again for Grand Old Girl, to get onto the bed.


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HA -Prairie, I have a boy dog - he does not "do" pretty....Although I have to say he is beautiful :-)


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My sweet Maggie, who left this world in May at age 15, had a terrible time with anything but carpet. Instead of throw rugs, I bought some of that runner stuff that is sold on big rolls at Home Depot. It was not really attractive, but pretty inexpensive and did the trick. I bought about 50' of it and cut to fit the areas needed. When she went to the Bridge, I put it on freecycle so someone else could get some use out of them.

The other thing I did with Maggie was to go ahead and use drugs to make her comfortable. For a younger dog, I would be hesitant to use certain drugs with side effects, but those side effects were typically from long term use, and I knew "long term" was not happening in her case, and the benefits outweighed the risks.

I made her an extra soft bed by stacking some of my down pillows on top of her dog bed, then covering the whole thing with an old sheet.

I took her for one last walk alone, (I had two other dogs), and let her go as fast or as slow as she wanted to.

When I took her to the vet at the end, I took her bed, and had her on that for the crossover. My vet is so wonderful, and I spent as much time as I needed with Maggie before the injection. I did that with my other dog too. Having them in their own bed helps, I think.


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I made Bessie and Maggie their own afghans when they got older. They were allowed to do with them what they wanted. They would drag them to where ever they wanted to roost and cuddle up in them. They were with them on their last moments with us as I also took them to the vet with us on the final trip.

Also as they aged, I found that they really appreciated the sweaters that I made them to use outside. Maggie always wanted to keep hers on inside too. They were both short haired dogs.

Bessie used a ramp to go down the stairs to get outside the last 7 years of her life. Simple construction with the runner stuff that Weed mentioned on top.

Great suggestions from everyone.


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RE: Senior/Elder Pet Care Ideas

Really, such great ideas. Nothing like asking people who have been through it to come up with real solutions. I don't know who many times I sanitized my dining room with my first litter of rescue pups before I hit upon the idea of a plastic kiddie pool to keep everything contained. I didn't know about this forum back in those days. **sigh**

Good thing we are generally keeping a sense of humor about this whole process--it's probably the key element. But Weed's comments brought some tears to my eyes. Darn, why cannot we keep our friends longer. Still, it's part of the process and I'm much more human and humane since 'dogs have start to own me'. I had to laugh at the comforter debate. My old guy likes something that shows off his coat to his best advantage. Since he's black, there is a wide range of hues to choose from, but it's like he has a well developed fashion sense. He'll always choose something that compliments his coloring. I think I need to designate a special blanket just for him that gets washed a little less frequently so it's ripe with his odor. Let's face it, he's a dog, and he likes stinky things. As a young pup he had a hedgehog I tried to lose countless times. (I'd ruined several soft toys by washing them and they were no longer interesting.) For a dog, there is comfort in a little doggy odor. How can I deprive an old friend of such joy as long as it's pest free and sort of clean.

And if anyone has any other thoughts, stories, please share. I'm learning, and hopefully, someone else is too.


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Weed, I was a euthanasia tech at the shelter I worked at. We use to offer a euth service to people, and sometimes it was really hard to do -- mostly if the owner wasn't prepared. I wish everyone had been as prepared as you were. My thoughts were that dog/cat's last moments should be happy ones.. or at least peaceful..Bringing in the petbed is a wonderful idea for the crossover.

I know mocha's time is going to come.. or rusty or ginger.. they are all getting on in years now. And I really do dread it. But.. I will remember your idea of bringing his bed. (OK I can't bring my kingsize bed, cuz he still sleeps on my arm most nights like a tiny puppy, but that's ok).

He has some back leg trouble now and then, and we tried "steps" for our bed. He didn't like them - and for an aussie who can walk a teeter board, something must have been amiss with the steps. I switched and got one of the ottomans off of our deck - a large cushioned one, but lower than the bed -- and put it up next to my side of the bed. Well now, every night he uses that to go to bed with me. Doesn't "go" with the decor, but he finds it useful and that makes me smile.

I am back to consulting now, no longer a euth tech, but I sure do miss him when I'm off visiting a client. I love coming back home and my mocha jumping up with me to snuggle for the night :) Love that ottoman.


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And I love you cindy. OK, got a little over excited there. I actually love all the posters who have made wonderful suggestions. But my dog will use an ottoman. I don't know why that thought never occurred to me before. I've tried many forms of ramps and stairs, I even have a set of stairs that match my mahogany bedroom furniture (now that was a waste of $$$$--and I did cover them with carpet in the insane hope he'd like them better.) He's had so many surgeries that I've had the opportunity to try lots of things over the years. And I'm strong and skillful enough after all these traumas to be able to lift a 100 lb dog. It's when I have my back turned that I always worry, because I know that darn dog will attempt a leap for the comfort of the bed. My back was turned and out of the corner of my eye, I saw him jump to the ottoman and then onto the bed. DH informed me he used it all day yesterday to get in and OUT of bed--didn't think to tell me of this great event. OK, the day will come when we'll have to put a mattress only (not a box spring) on the floor, but I hope that's about 10 years down the road. Yeah, someday, I'll probably be joining him in his dog bed that does get some use even now. :-)

Has anyone tried the 'bottoms up' sling that takes some weight off their hind legs? Post surgery I've used a towel with the same concept in mind, but the towel isn't all that comfortable to walk with. Just curious if anyone has tried the official version?


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cindyandmocha (and others): I forgot to mention the other helpful thing about having my dogs in their beds for the crossover: When it was over, they just looked like they were asleep in their beds. That was a very important last thing for me to see. They were not on a cold table...they were in their own beds. The vet didn't take them out and make me take the beds with me that day, so I left the vet's with a comforting vision. They kept the beds for me, and I got them back when I picked up their ashes. I also received very nice sympathy cards signed by everyone that works there.

I do have a wonderful vet.


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Weed, you do have a wonderful vet and that really is a great suggestion for our last good-byes. I think any vet would be open to that if they hadn't thought of that. I cannot say we were so clever with our childhood pets. I am grateful that the hospice center where I last saw my father was home-like, because I'll carry that mental image with me forever. I always remember to bring a toy/blanket when I travel, as it's such a comfort. But it never occurred to me to suggest that to my sister when we said good-bye to her dog last year. I'm sure Bogey has forgiven us our ignorance though. I do get smarter with each dog, each new experience--usually.

I'm going to go pick up two wool rugs tomorrow (ebay finds that weren't expensive), but will look great next to my dog's coat and the wool will be a good insulator on the cold tile floor and help him keep his 'pawing'. If/when accidents happen, they are cleanable/disposable as they aren't heirloom quality. I'm pretty excited to be implementing these ideas so life is easier for him. A heated mattress pad is on the way for his king-sized dog bed too. The whole family might enjoy that one. :-)


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I forgot to mention be mindful of the stairs....I supervise my dog when he is on the stairs.


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for larger dogs, a crib mattress topped with throws and blankets works so well. They have room to move around and get comfortable.(plus you can wash the mattress cover too)


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Besides carpet....whats the next best thing for a dog to maintain traction?


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For Cody, we used the inexpensive roll carpet from lowe's also. It really helped. Carried him up and down the steps at the cabin on the weekends.

We had to move Cody's crate out onto the patio the last few months of his life - just left the door open so he could go in and out as he wished, and it was easier to hose off the patio than the house. Never was a cuddler, and slept in the living room in his crate for most of his life. He loved it outside and being in Southern California the weather wasn't a factor. Our little old man would go from napping in the house to napping outside in the dirt under the orange trees to sleeping in his crate on his favorite blanket. The blanket took the final trip with him as well. We'll always miss him

We just got a new rescue dog. Here you can see Layla in front of Cody's memorial stone:


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If you can get the dog to wear some kind of rubber soled sock or bootie, that would help, but most dogs don't like them. If you don't have carpet, runners and throw rugs are the answer.


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Just wondering...we are building a house and I want to know what the best flooring is. I already know the bedrooms are going to have carpet....the builder told us wood is not good because the dogs can scratch it when they are old and trying to get traction...he said a tile with a texture would be the best.


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That is true, but I would get wood anyway. It's so beautiful, and you can always add runners for the dog(s) when needed. I had a young dog that scratched an area where she ran around a sharp corner, but the finish on the floor was really good, so you only saw the scratches when the light hit it just right. And the scratches were only on the finish, not gouges in the wood. (I also have a thing about tile -- it's not easy or cheap to replace!)


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Cal, I noticed Cody's memorial stone in the other thread. Cody lived a long and full life so you must have been doing lots of things right. Let's hope that Layla makes it 20+.

Trini, if it were me, I'd get the flooring I liked. This rental house has textured tile and it hasn't helped my old guy at all. He was still slipping and falling. Like all hard surfaces, it's a breeze to clean and a puppies best friend... (Honestly, I hope everyone on this forum continues to have animals in their lives because there are so many dogs and cats that need a good home. So this is probably a cycle we'll go through more than once.) I've only had the rugs down 1 day, but so far, no slips. In my home, I have Brazilian Cherry which is a very hard wood and I don't have any scratches/indentations even with my 100 lb dog. (My big dogs have left some in Mom's floors which have the hardness of oak--good thing mom loves us.) If you want wood, just get something very hard (look up the janka ratings) with a good finish. Even that textured tile won't help when they get old. I honestly think the rugs/Lowe's type carpet is probably the best solution. I know I won't feel a bit of remorse if the wool rug becomes so awful that it has to be composted. I've helped an old friend enjoy his golden years, and nothing got soaked through the padding. Now if you like the textured tile best....that's the way you should go--just be prepared for temporary carpet.


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Got carried away

ooops: bmmmalone, thanks for the crib mattress tip. I know those are made with 'accidents' in mind. That's brilliant. And thanks for the warning about the stairs Mazer. Even though those are carpeted, stairs just aren't built with a dog in mind. I can see that they will become our next greatest challenge. It's also when you wish you had a "Cody" sized-dog that you could carry up the stairs.


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Thanks for the advice darenka....i just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything....I'm glad you told me your experience with the tile...thats good to know. I was just hoping there was some type of flooring other than carpet which would be good for the dogs throughout their lives..I have bulldogs and their hips are not so great even when they are young and think they are indestructible:-) I think outside on the patio we will use colored concrete instead of tiles which seems to be easier for the dogs to handle. I do love hardwood floors. So many decisions I just want to design the house as dog friendly as possible, since I can't ever imagine my life without them :-)


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I don't know this, but I'm wondering if cork flooring would be good. I have a friend that loves it as it's softer on her joints than tile or hardwood. The floor just has more give to it. Hey, maybe start a thread were you ask what would be a perfect dog friendly house design? I know my first suggestion would be single level, and ramps instead of stairs (for a pool for instance). Natural paths with small gravel over cement. (The rough texture of cement does seem to be much better than tile though.) Personally, I wouldn't have any carpeting. I'd do hardwood floors with big oriental rugs (persian-type with lots of movement and pattern to hide life's little disasters) but which can be picked up and cleaned well when necessary. How fun though to be able to design a house with dogs in mind. I had high hopes for those textured tiles too though. They seemed to be ok, until the cold set in and he's really stuggling now with the cold/damp. So far, the rugs are working their magic (as are some good old meds, massage, and a heating pad.) I haven't seen much improvement with acupuncture yet, but we'll give it some more time. It's not hurting... and he loves the attention.


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RE: houses with dogs in mind - Someone over on the Kitchens forum built a doggie paw washing station in her mud room. It was very cool! It was right inside the back door, just a shallow tile sink type thing. I thought it was a fabulous idea.


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I read this thread late last week, and this past weekend I put carpet on the wood stairs between my family room and the rest of the house to help my old guy get up and down those stairs.

He had been slipping on them quite a bit.

And when I remodeled my house 2 years ago, I stole one of my sisters ideas and built in a water station, supposedly for the dogs, but you can see the cats use it too.
Cat drinking


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Pam, I LOVE that watering station. I so wish I would have thought of something so clever when my father with Alzheimer's used to trip over the dog buckets--no matter where they were. I think he'd go and investigate them and then forget about them. I can see they'd be great for all sort of situations. Thanks for sharing the picture. I'm sure the carpet on the stairs will help your fellow too. We've had about a week of slip free activity with my new rugs.


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Thanks darenka ... the rugs have helped a lot, now I don't worry so much about him falling down those 3 stairs.

We're quite a pair in the morning, I had knee surgery 2 weeks ago, so I am stiff and gimping in the AM, and he is too from sleeping all nite. The 2 of us gimp out to the barn while Lily runs ahead ... she thinks we're slow. :>)


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You know... the more I look at that watering station (I'm in the middle of designing my kitchen remodel for next year), the more I think how cool that would be if there were a pot filler near that water bowl for them (rubbing chin and thinking on this one)...


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I know this is an older thread, but I meet with the contractors tomorrow to discuss the kitchen remodel. I too will have an island placement similar to the above pic by pamghatten. There will be a prep sink right above where her sister's pet watering station is. I'm truly thinking I could have something similar, and use that space as the same thing, and put in a small faucet there for the water bowl.

While this might sound silly to some, bear in mind filling up a community water dish for 4 dogs on a daily basis and *keeping* it filled (some of which are approaching 100 lbs)is a daunting task. And lets face it, at my age? I'm gonna have dogs (yes, plural) til the day I die.


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hey cindyandmocha, how about a tapmaster for the dogs? Then they could self-serve?!? LOL


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I just saw this and thought I'd add my two cents' worth. I have two steps between my kitchen and family room and I used rubber bath mats cut to fit. They stayed in place great and my old dog was able to get up and down without slipping. Easy to clean too.


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lol arlosmom, now that's funny. if you knew my mocha, you'd know he actually knows how to step on the garbage can pedal to open it -- I've had to scoot it underneath a table to prevent him from surfing at night.

Rusty would die of thirst however. Poor guy can't find his way around the coffee table.


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For all my old pets I give subcutaneous fluids at least once a week. Most of my older dogs and cats have had some degree of kidney insufficiency in their later years and hydration alleviates the nausea associated with it and perks up their appetites. I believe this has extended most of their lives, but more importantly it keeps them comfortable. Probably of all the things I've done to help my senior pets, this has made the most improvement to their lives.

My older cats enjoy(ed) their heating pad covered with a towel. In or near their 20s, they have all lost weight and it was/is harder for them to generate enough of their own body heat to stay warm.

I have a 4 foot wide gradually sloping ramp that I built so that my old dogs do not have to climb stairs to get in and out of the back door into the yard. I covered it in that fake grass indoor/outdoor carpetting so that it is not slippery. It is tough stuff and I can scrape snow and ice off it without harming it.

For my collie in the last months of his life (He had an inoperable tumor in his abdomen that I believe caused him to be incontinent) I wrapped his beds with plastic tarps and covered that with washable and comfy fleece blankets. (His beds were 2" thick blocks of dense upholstery foam that I had made for him when his arthritis made it too hard for him to get up on the couch.) When he slept urine would just run out of him, so I could just change his blanket and sponge off the waterproof tarp-covered bed with soap and water. I had about half a dozen blankets that I would just throw in the washer everyday. It was a system that was easy for me and comfortable sleeping for him.

Likewise my last two cats in their 20s were "leaky" when they slept. I lined all of their beds with plastic waterproof tablecloths, cut to fit. Then I covered that with soft cloths made from old towels and old clothes that were disposable. I affixed the disposable bedding to their beds with masking tape that I could tear off the next day. I had boxes of discarded fabric items cut into cat-bed-sized linens. When the supply began to run low I bought a box of hospital pads and used those.

When my dogs were very old their appetites waned. I home cook for all my pets, and I cooked only those foods that they liked the best in their last days, because it was most important for them to eat to keep up their strength and to get adequate nutrition. Poultry was a favorite, and I cooked many a 25 lb turkey back then. Toward the end it was too hard for my guys to stand to eat a meal, so I hand fed them so they could eat lying down.

For my dogs, glucosamine/chondroitin and fish oil capsules have helped their arthritis noticably. Eventually old age gets the upper hand, but these remedies stave off the crippling effects of arthritis for some time.

I hope some of these suggestions will help you with your older pets. I find it very rewarding to care for my pets in their later years. There are so many ways to make their lives more comfortable, and to provide them with contentment. They appreciate the extra care and enjoy this phase in their lives, even though their world and activities have shrunk from what they once were. And now that I, too, am old I can empathize even more with the difficulties they have, and instinctively take steps to alleviate them.


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