Autumn is well and truly upon us now and I think it is my favourite season. I love nothing more than crunching through the crispy leaves on a lovely bright day and warming myself with a cup of hot chocolate afterwards. The only downside to the nights drawing in and the colder weather is the affect it has on my elderly dog 'Ben'
I introduced you to my dog 'Ben' on my last blog post, but to go into a little more detail, Ben is 11 years Old, he is a rescue dog and a lab x border collie. A couple of years ago Ben needed a total hip replacement due to hip displaysia, a very common condition in Labradors. He had the surgery and all went well, sadly 3 months later a very rare side-affect caused Bens leg to break just below the implant and he required some pretty major surgery to fix this and thanks to the wonderful team at Fitzpatrick referrals (you know, the famous 'supervet' on channel 4) he has recovered very well. As he gets older, Arthritis has set into all four of his legs and his condition is exacerbated due to the historic damage to his leg. We have found many ways to manage his condition and I thought it may be helpful to share them with you as I know he is not alone in his suffering.
Possibly the best tip I can offer. Find a good Canine Hydrotherapist and they can help your dog enormously. Make sure you find one that is registered with NARCH as they are the regulatory body that ensures high standards of care for your dog and you can be sure the hydrotherapist has a good knowledge of canine anatomy and can target specific areas of concern. Swimming is a non weight bearing form of exercise so its a great way of keeping your dog active without pain and most dogs really enjoy it. Hydrotherapy is a great way to keep your dog's weight under control too, excess weight is a major problem for dogs with joint problems and it is essential to keep them trim, believe me I know how hard this can be especially when you have Labradors.
2. A Good Bed and Blanket
Just like you, your dog needs a comfy bed to keep their joints in good condition. Good rest is essential to your older dogs and a good deep bed, positioned away from drafts is a must. There are several types on the market, Memory Foam,Fibre filled and Feather Filled. I am obviously a fan of the Duck Feather filled as that is what we make at The Dandy Dog Company but all the above are great products and as long as they are good quality with a generous amount of filling I would say buy whatever suits your dog and your budget. A good deep hollow fibre filling is a good ethical choice for Vegan and strict vegetarian owners but do make sure you buy an overfilled pillow as they do squash down very quickly and no amount of plumping will refluff them. Fleece blankets are also a great addtion to your dogs bedding, adding warmth and extra comfort.
3. Joint Supplements
I have had many discussions with my vet on this subject and he is of the opinion that supplements do not work. I do tend to agree with him and I have experimented with various ones on the market and have been unconvinced that they have helped much. Other people I know swear by them and are convinced they work. I would say, make sure you pick a reputable one as regulation on these things is very sketchy and just because something is herbal it doesnt mean it cannot harm your dog. I currently give Ben a teaspoon of cod liver oil everyday and if it does nothing else it keeps his coat shiny and I know it will not harm him in any way, he also loves the taste, YUK!!!!!
4. Short Walks
As your dog gets older it is tempting to keep going for the same length of walk you have always done twice a day and they will happily follow you. You then realise that they suffer horribly afterwards. When you think about it, can you walk the same distance you could ten years ago, the answer is probably not, and ten years to a dog is almost a lifetime in human terms. I have found this out the hard way, and now we go for 2 or 3 fifteen to twenty minute walks a day. Ben keeps mobile this way, can interact with other dogs at the park and catch up on all the local sniffs.
5. Your Vet
Lastly, I cannot stress how important it is to build a good relationship with your Vet. Try and see the same Vet each time you visit a practice so they can get to know you and your dog. Take their advice! I was very reluctant to put Ben on full time Painkillers but my vet convinced me it was the right thing to do and with regular blood and water checks to make sure his kidneys and liver are all ok it has been a good thing for Ben. Sometimes a low dose of anti inflamatory medication is enough to manage your dogs pain effectively without damaging their vital organs.
I hope you have found this helpful. I have no medical knowledge or training and these are just tips that I have found to help my own dog. Always consult your veterinarian before changing anything of significance in your dogs life. As always, please leave your comments below.