Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rainy Weather Achy Bones Blues

Boo Boo, a very sweet and sleepy flat-coated retriever
I didn't need to open the door to know that there was a chill in the air, I could already tell from just watching my senior dog rock back and forth once to get momentum enough to stand.

Just like people with arthritis, dogs exhibit some of the same symptoms with this affliction.

A day or two before and after it rained, I knew that we were going to need a little extra time and help getting going in the morning. The best preventative medicine for my old dog (and yours) is enough exercise to help them maintain their muscle tone. As dogs get older muscle mass decreases, so it's important to not skimp on the exercise for as long as they'll have it. Even if stairs are no longer part of their regimen, hit the slopes by traversing a path or two with gradual inclines and decline to work out all of their muscle groups. Replace a couple of longer walks with more shorter walks to make sure that they have enough time to relieve themselves properly, as well as meeting and greeting the neighbors.

Keeping their weight down is another important factor. The less pounding away at their arthritic joints the better.

I can tell you from experience that the rainy season is a rough time for your older, arthritic dog, but it is manageable. Check with your veterinarian to see what they can do to help alleviate the pain. There are a number of meds out there that will help take the edge off, but since they vary in effectiveness, sometimes according to breed, it's best that you work with a professional in selecting the one that is right for your senior pooch.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bark Out About the Dangers of Chocolate this Halloween

Sasha in her caterpillar costume at a San Diego dog rescue event

Whether the kids are bringing home treats this Halloween or you have some set out for trick-or-treaters, make sure they're kept out of reach of your pooch, in particular those treats of the chocolate variety. 

Chocolate is toxic to dogs. Period. I think we all know someone who feels like just a little bit of chocolate is a treat for a dog. It isn't.

Chocolate for humans, Yes. For dogs, No - Never.

Our digestive systems are different and as researched, the reason why every vet that you'll meet will tell you that chocolate is toxic is due to a dog's digestive system taking much longer to digest chocolate than humans. Since chocolate contains caffeine, this prolonged exposure which goes on for hours vs. the minutes that it takes to work through a human's system, can cause nausea, diarrhea, and cardiac arrest. This goes for dogs of all ages, but why put anymore strain on your older dog's heart that they would get with a few extra moments of exercise. 

Do the responsible thing for both of you and just say no to chocolate.

For more information, check out this WebMD article:
Most of us have heard that chocolate can make dogs sick. But how serious is the risk?

Our cover dog this week is Sasha, who is sporting her caterpillar costume. I was lucky enough to be Sasha's handler at an adoption event last week. This picture was taken after we were off taking a break to roll around in the grass.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Crunch Time: Treat Your Dog with Carrots at Meal Time

It might not seem natural to feed a dog vegetables, but don't tell that to my canine compadre.

Replacing some of his more "empty calorie" biscuit treats with organic baby carrots has been exactly what the doctor ordered when it came to finding ways to bringing his weight down, without affecting the volume of his meals. I've tried just reducing the amount of food I put in his bowl and can tell you from experience that Rusty knows exactly how much kibble by count and weight that he's expecting. If I'm coming up short in either his morning or afternoon meals, he's sure to lead me back to his bowl, stare at it, and then look back to me to let me know that I'm not getting away with anything.

I need to provide a disclaimer that the first time that I tried to introduce carrots as a treat, it was unsuccessful. The baby carrot that I presented as a treat was snapped up, but before the chewing began, he put it down at my feet.

How did I change his mind?

I started eating raw carrots a bit more regularly myself. Before you could say "Rusty See, Rusty Do" he was waiting by the refrigerator for me to get a few carrots for him at snack time.

Like anything we eat, we learned that too much of anything isn't good for you. At 80+ lbs we found out that more than five baby carrots a day will soften his stool a bit. Each dog's metabolism is different, so your mileage may vary on this point, but I'd recommend starting with one a day and working your way up from there slowly. The point isn't to replace your dog's food with vegetables of any kind, but more to help reduce calories and add a bit of crunchy fiber to the mix.

To get Rusty's weight down, I'm replacing some of his food with a like volume of baby carrots several days per week. On those off days I may give him 2-3 as a treat instead of a more higher calorie treat. It's only been a couple of weeks, so it's hard to gauge progress, but he does have a bit more bounce in his step and his limp (as slight as it was) is gone.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Makes a Great Doggie Foster Parent with Rescue Powerhouse, Ann Pollock

Never heard of doggie fosters?

Don't understand the role that they play in saving so many of the dogs in the rescue system each year?

Not sure if you know if you have what it takes to be a foster parent to a dog in need?

Look no further. Ann Pollock from the Chihuahua Rescue of San Diego breaks it all down for you here in one of our best interviews ever*:

Chihuahua Rescue of San Diego at a Rescue Event at Petco
SP: Fosters seem to be one of the most important parts of any successful rescue group. Where do you find your foster parents?
AP: We have a very devoted foster coordinator who is recruiting constantly. With ads on Craig’s List, FaceBook, and word of mouth she has been able to double the amount of dogs we have been able help over the last two years. We also have partnered with Furry Fosters, a new group of young energetic people who know that foster homes are an important part of savings more animals.


SP: What makes for good dog foster parents that represent your rescue?
AP: People who care for these dogs along with their own, don’t mind if they have an accident, don’t expect perfection and are able to bring these dogs out of their shells. They are also people who know that having the dog be visible to the public at events is an important part of the rescue. They drive them to the events, they sit and talk with potential adopters and people just curious about what is happening. They help make a good impression to the public and are maintaining our reputation of a good, honest rescue here in San Diego.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Front Lines in the Battle of the Bulge

I write about diets for older dogs now and again because I've been through getting an older dog in shape before to help improve his quality of life. A five pound gain on a 50 pound dog was more than enough for me to get my act in gear and implement some new habits to get my last senior (the Mighty Boo Boo) in shape.

Now I've gone and done it again. I've been lazy. I've been quick with the treats when presented with some new cute behavior. We've been diligent with our regular exercise routine, but sometimes when we're feeling social, we might not be as actively engaged in exercise our legs as much as our jaws (and sniffers.)

Rusty, a senior akita/shepherd needs a diet.
"I'm not fat. I'm just big-boned."
At 83 lbs., Rusty has put on two pounds in the last 6 months. I found this out when I took him in for a regular check up and to look into a slight limp that he's developed.

It was too early to tell if the limp was anything serious (and since the vet visit, it's already starting to dissipate), but it got me thinking that we better start walking the talk. Our goal is to get him to 75 lbs. We recognize that this will take months, but little by little, we need to start chipping away immediately.


  1. Reduction in non-food treats - One bully stick per week. He'll also get a sweet potato treat (I have a couple different go-to brands that I'll highlight in another post), and one Greenie's Joint Care stick. No table scraps. (Was that a moan a just heard in the background?)
  2. Food-treat replacement - A handful of food will be left back to be used as treats to reward those funny behaviors that I know and love (and want to encourage.)
  3. Replace (some) food with healthy filler - A handful of food will be replaced with an equal amount of chopped carrots and blueberries. 
  4. Exercise regimen - Reestablish good exercise habits and walk the entire route we're planning unless my canine comrade gets tired or his limp (more of a bob) returns. Actively seek out hills and slight grades in the path to make sure his muscles are getting a good workout without putting undue strain on his joints.  
There are plenty of times that we may add in an extra short walk before turning in or on weekend.

For his current joint issues I changed over to Dasuquin without MSM due to my regular supplier not carrying the MSM version anymore. Luckily I've since been able to find a source that does supply this joint supplement (glucosamine, chondroitin, AND MSM) and have a fresh supply on the way. He's also on Rimadyl under my veterinarian's guidance to help take the edge off. 

It's not going to be easy, but we know what the stakes are and are willing to go the distance.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bark Out Loud Super Nova

Archie - a lab mix, loses over 20 lbs, but finds his forever home
Archie (with the help of his foster mom) dropped over 20 lbs. AND found his forever home this week! 

Lots of movement this week for many of the SeniorPooch Adoptions Alumni if you read the last post.

This week also marked the launch of unAdoptablePets.com, a sister site to SeniorPooch.com. I've met a lot of great people and animals through SeniorPooch.com. Older dogs are just part of the population of less adoptable pets that are ignored every year because they don't quite fit the mold that most people expect. SeniorPooch.com will go on. I'll continue posting three times a week over here and content from this blog may make guest appearances over on the new site. unAdoptablePets.com will feature a broader variety of very worthy pets and work to debunk the myths that scare people away from adopting them.  It's an exciting time and I hope you'll take the opportunity to check out the site.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Old Dogs on the Move

It's been a busy couple of weeks here with several SeniorPooch Adoptions alumni making their move:


Sasha was sprung from the San Diego North County shelter by The Dog Squad's Sue Barbato, who describes her as a "dream dog." You can contact Sue about Sasha at: sue@thedogsquad.org.









Archie the senior lab was adopted after dropping over 20 lbs of extra weight. Kudos to his foster family for caring enough to put in the effort to help Archie.








Maple gets a change of scenery. After a year of being at the shelter, Maple is being transferred to another shelter out of state. I'll keep you posted when I found out where. Maple came out to several adoption events I volunteered at she was always a sweetheart. My introduction to her was sitting beside her and her handler with a dog I was watching. After taking a treat from me, she came over and used my leg as a pillow. I wish her nothing but the best.





And then there is Amy. Amy's two time foster-mom, Penny Adams passed away last week. At 21 there wasn't a lot of hope that Amy would find a forever home. Happily a kind shelter volunteer recognized Amy as a kindred spirit and took her in. I can't imagine a happier ending than this and tribute to Penny, whose selfless rescue work has saved so many animals over the years.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Chow Time Power Moves for Your Overweight Dog

As the owner of an older dog I constantly keep an eye on his weight to make sure that there's no undue pressure being placed on his aging bones and joints.

What can you do when your old dog is putting on the pounds (not due to a medical condition) and you've cut down their caloric intake?
  1. Mix in the veggies - In particular, crunchy ones like carrots. They serve double duty acting as filler and adding fiber to your dog's diet.
  2. More smaller meals - Cutting your dog's daily food allowance in two and feeding once in the morning and once a few hours before their afternoon walk allows them to digest each meal easier and helps to keep their metabolism up, which in turn, burns more calories. 
  3. Just add H2O - This is not about replacing food with water. It is all about getting your canine roommate to slow down while they're eating. Changing up their diet, in particular by making meals smaller, may cause the dog to eat faster. Add 1/4 - 1/2 parts water to 1 part food to make some gravy out of that dry food. I find that when dogs eat too fast they're more prone to spitting up their food. I, as I'm sure my pup, feel that it's a lot easier on both of us with chow going through his system in one direction.
  4. Reduction in treats - Easily, the toughest to do (at least for me.) The way that I've been able to handle it is to figure out what treats I'm giving my very, very good dog all week and cut the amount in half. I'll then take a handful of dry food out of his daily allowance and hand feed him him that during the day. The additional benefit here is I'm managing my dog's diet and spending extra bonding time using his regular food as a training aid.
Just like any diet that you undertake as a human, consistency is key in helping eliminate your dog's extra LBs. 



Friday, October 5, 2012

Bark Out Loud - A Moment of Slience Edition


I'm sad to report that Penny Adams passed away this week. Penny was an early supporter of SeniorPooch.com, not so much because we were taking animal advocacy in new places, but because we both got it. "It" being the recognition that all animals deserve respect.

There were several times when folks came to me looking to help find a home for a homeless pet in Southern California and Penny was either someone that I could turn to for advice (which she gave freely and without hesitation) or her name was on the lips of folks that I reached out to (ie, "I don't know, but there is someone who might. Her name is Penny Adams.")

I'm not entirely sure how long she was rescuing animals other than folks who have been doing it for over 20 years knew Penny as a mentor in their early days. A great example of the trust that folks had in her is the dog pictured above, Amy.  Penny adopted Amy out at the age of 3, some eighteen years ago. When Amy's owner could no longer take care of her, there was no question from Penny, whether she would take her back or not.

Amy and Penny's other rescues that were with her are looking for homes, temporary or permanent. I'll try to post more information as it becomes available, but if you're a rescue or can put up a dog (even a small one) for a week or two, let me know and I'll find a way to get the message to the right people.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Join Me in a Moment of ZZZZZZZ: The Appreciation of Sleep

It's 2 AM and the puppy is crying. It needs to go out again.

No surprise. It already slept much of the day and you did get it all wound up before hitting the sack. So now what?

The simple answer is, take that dog outside. You don't want to have any accidents in the house.

Now consider how the older dog handles the same situation:

  • Wiser - Already knows your schedule.
  • Slower (by just a bit) - If you're nearby even in bed, they're going to be happy to just be around you.
  • House-trained - Your mileage may vary, but almost certainly they're going to have their act together better than a puppy when it comes to knowing when it needs to go out and how that fits into your schedule.
  • More Relaxed - Older usually translates into more easily tired by moderate exercise and therefore more ready to take the night off when you are.

Older dogs still need enough exercise to keep their muscle tone up making their appreciation for some quality rest and relaxation an important benefit. My advice is to look forward to sharing this perk so you can get up and do it all over again with them tomorrow.

Thanks for the Labrador Retriever Rescue for the original thoughts on this topic.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Big Love for The Senior Doberman Project

Small dogs are cute, but big dogs need love too.

Enter The Senior Doberman Project (SDP).

Brought to us by the folks at Special Needs Dobermans and The Doberman Digest, SDP focuses on putting senior dobermans in need to the forefront to help get them adopted or at least sponsored.

The SDP is not a rescue, but connects dogs in need, regardless of their rescue situation with folks that know and love this fun-loving, loyal breed. Their website does a first rate job at profiling the dogs in need which allows readers to understand what type of dog they might be getting (looks and personality) should they be interested.

Each heart-felt story of these elegant creatures makes the case on a very personal level.

If you're a rescue who knows of a dobie in need, SDP makes it extremely easy to register with them to bring your dog(s) more visibility. They're connected to rescues throughout the US, and appear to be open to connecting with more.

If you're a doberman lover and are looking for a new room mate, or know nothing about doberman's other than they're that big scary dog at the end of the street, I'd encourage you to check out the older pups at SDP. I think it'll change your perspective on the breed.