Celebrating Old Dogs: What Is Old?

Each November, we celebrate one more time our old dogs during their “official” month. But when is your dog considered old? We love our senior citizen dogs for the special joy they bring every day. But once a year, we celebrate old dogs during November Adopt A Senior Pet Month.

I’ve already posted about celebrating old cats. It’s time to give equal time to old dogs. I’ve written about how to care for an elderly dog before, but this post addresses how to know when your canine friends become old dogs.

I’ve updated some of the information from when it first published back when my Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty were still around.

old dogs

Magic was just over eleven years old when he passed away last year, and my first GSD lived to thirteen and a half. One is middle-aged and the other considered geriatric, and a lot of it has to do with the size of the pet. When our furry friends reach a “certain age” it becomes much more important to stay on top of changes, and just keep ’em comfy during their golden years.

My first GSD (below) launched my pet-writing career. He waited until we got home from work, and died with us beside him, on Halloween night. I still miss him.

old dogs

How Old are Old Dogs?

What is considered “old?” There are individual differences between pets, just as there are for people. While one person may act, look and feel “old” at fifty-five, another fifty-five-year-old remains active with a youthful attitude and appearance. Aging is influenced by a combination of genetics, environment, and health care over a lifetime. The oldest dog on record was an Australian Cattle Dog who lived for twenty-nine years and five months.

A good definition of old age for an animal is the last 25 percent of her life. However, we can’t accurately predict what an individual pet’s lifespan will be, so pinpointing when old age begins is tough. Ask the breeder about the lifespan of your pet’s parents and grandparents. That’s a good predictor of how long you could expect your cat or dog to live. Mixed-ancestry pets are more difficult to predict, but you can make a few generalities.

old dog

How to Predict Old Dogs Lifespan

In the past fifty years, the average lifespan of small dogs like the Maltese above, has tripled. They used to live to be only six or seven years old, but today it’s not unusual for your Chihuahua to live into late teens or early twenties. With an average potential lifespan of fifteen to seventeen years, the onset of old age—when a little dog becomes “senior”—would be about age eleven to thirteen.

Even large-breed dogs, which age more quickly, commonly reach ten to thirteen years of age—double the lifespan of the past few decades. They would, therefore, be considered old starting at about seven years.

Giant breed dogs (those weighing over eighty pounds or so) tend to age more quickly than smaller pets. Great Danes, for example, are considered “senior” at age five, and typically live only seven to nine years. There are exceptions, of course, with some very large dogs living healthy, happy lives well into their teens. Though he’s no longer a puppy, Bravo (below) weighs just over 100 pounds (he lost 20 pounds when he lost his leg to cancer). As a “giant” breed, we tried to keep him happy and healthy as long as possible. Although his chemo treatment slowed his disease we cherished every day as a win!

bullmastiff puppy

Old Dogs & Youthful Doggedness?

So you have an old fogey doggy–how do you keep him youthful? What happens when that go-go-go puppy attitude turns into a yen for snoozing the day away? Dogs can become frustrated when their youthful abilities fade away and they’re no longer able to leap tall buildings–or onto sofas–with a single bound, or chase the Frisbee and catch it without effort.

old dogs

I have one word for you: ACCOMMODATION.

Enrich the dog’s environment and make accommodations for his new skill set. Agility dogs can still perform all those tricks of fetch and vault, just lower the bar a bit. For blind dogs, put a bell inside the ball or scent with liverwurst so his nose knows where to find it. For deaf dogs, you can use hand signals and replace the clicker with a flashlight beam flicking on and off.

I have a boatload of more tips and advice in the book Complete Care for Your Aging Dog.

What about your old dogs–what games do they love? Have you made accommodations for their aging abilities? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. NOTE: Bling, Bitches & Blood sometimes shares affiliate links to products that may help you with your pets, but we only share what we feel is appropriate.

Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Dog Allergies & Soothing Itchy Dogs

Spring is the SNEEZE season for humans, complete with runny eyes and sinus issues.(Learn about dealing with pet allergies here).  For dog allergies, itchy skin is the more common sign of discomfort. And it can hit in the fall, too. Just ask my Bravo-Dawg, now trying to balance with only three legs to scratch his itchies.

Bravo (and the other furries) get monthly parasite preventive meds, so it surprised us when he began incessantly scratching and chewing last week. We live on 13 acres, and we speculated the long grass in the field led to irritations and bug bites. But even after mowing, his itchiness continued with head and back scabs, and foot licking. Benadryl helped, but after Bravo’s cancer journey and chemo treatments, we wanted to be careful with giving him anything.

Yesterday, the vet diagnosed allergies–as if Bravo didn’t have enough challenges! Dr. Clay noted he’s at the age when allergies can develop (about 1 in 3 dogs suffer). He also noted that Benadryl is one of the safest and effective meds, and recommended we up the dose (dogs get a much higher dose than people). He weighs 101 lbs, so Bravo gets up to 100 mgs three times a day–and the itch has abated. But what about other kinds of allergies?

dog allergies

dog allergies

I’ve been told by some veterinarians that West Highland White Terriers “put their kids through college…” because of the allergy issues the breed is prone to. Image Copr. Amy Shojai

It’s less common, but runny eyes also may develop–and of course, my Magical-Dawg has to be one of these unusual cases. His eyes began watering back in January, and combined with his acral lick foot itchies, he was miserable. Thankfully, he doesn’t suffer from the all-over itchy skin, hair loss, and worse that our first shepherd suffered. But here in North Texas (and other parts of the country), it’s helpful to understand dog allergies and how to soothe our itchy dogs.

This is simply an overview of the kinds of allergies. For more details, you’ll want your veterinarian to diagnose your dog, and explain what’s needed to help your pet. You can also find more details about pet allergies in my DOG FACTS book.

DOG ALLERGIES CAUSES & CURES

Pets suffer from the same kinds of allergies that people do. Food allergies (probably the least common in dogs) happen when dogs react to certain proteins in the food. Major culprits are meats like beef or chicken–and even lamb, if the dog has eaten it before and become “sensitized.” It can be complicated.

Food Allergies

How do you cure dog food allergies? Well, you don’t…but you can manage them. The first step is diagnosing exactly WHAT causes the reaction and only a veterinarian can do that. See, commercial foods contain a smorgasbord of ingredients, some in tiny amounts, and while you MAY find one your dog tolerates more than others, switching around can be hit-or-miss. It also may confuse things when you’ve then exposed the dog to bunches more potential culprits and reduced the “safe” alternatives that he’s never before tasted.

Flea Allergies

Flea allergy is the most common of all. Dogs (and cats) sensitive to the flea saliva can itch all over after a single bite from one of these tiny vampires. Flea allergy also is one of the most easily managed, usually through one of the modern safe flea prevention products. I use Revolution (from the vet) on Magical-Dawg because it takes care of heartworms, fleas and a number of internal parasites, too.

dog allergies

Fleas are more than itchy aggravations and spread tapeworms as well as cause skin disease.

Inhaled Allergies

Atopy–or inhaled allergies–can be due to pollens, molds, and even dander. Hay fever in people that makes us sneeze instead causes itching in pets. That’s what our first shepherd developed. After we moved from the Ohio Valley region (and its airborne fungus and other “schtuff”) and were in Texas, his health drastically improved.

Could a dog be allergic to himself, or to the cat? Theoretically, that’s possible! But more typically it’s the springtime/summer allergens that drive pets nuts. Wintertime when the furnace comes on for the first time can stir up household dust and set them off again.

Atopy can be the toughest control. It’s seasonal so the signs can lessen during the winter. Dogs absorb grass and dust allergens through the toe webbing in their foot pads, so simply rinsing off poochie feet after the dog’s been outside can help enormously. Also, dogs (and cats) are furry dust mops that collect and carry allergens in their coat–so rinsing ’em off weekly also helps.

Get all the dog allergy facts!

Natural Cures for Dog Allergies

There’s a difference between HOLISTIC veterinary medicine and HOMEOPATHY (click this link for some details). For example, omega-3 fatty acids are a holistic/natural treatment that aid skin health and also have some anti-itch properties–so does bathing the pet in an oatmeal-based anti-itch shampoo. A flea comb to get rid of fleas is about as natural as you can get! Homeopathic medications attempt to “wake up” the pet’s own body to deal with and manage the health challenge.

Some dogs benefit from allergy medications like antihistamines. Magic’s runny eyes resolved once we began giving him Benadryl, recommended by our veterinarian. Please check with your pet’s practitioner for proper dosage and what’s safe for your fur kids. And for atopic dogs, simply rinsing them off with water (even just their paws) can help.

Here are some videos that offer some more comments and discussion (yes, they’re a couple year’s old!). There’s also info on OTC treatments for pets. For folks reading the blog, what has worked for your itchy dog? Any further tips you can share? Do tell!

 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

How To Give Pets As Gifts

Giving pets as gifts prompts discussions every time the subject comes up. Since this is the giving season, it seemed timely to repost this annual topic. Learn how to gift pets–and please share your experiences in the comments!

puppy with ribbon

Pictures courtesy of Deposit Photos

The professionals used to say that the holidays were a TERRIBLE time to get a new pet–that impulse adoptions could leave the cat or dog without a home after the cute-holiday-thrills wore off. More recently, though, the ASPCA conducted some surveys and discovered that when done properly, these adoptions can be lasting, loving adoptions. So I had to re-think my advice.

Holidays tend to be hectic times when normal routines go out the window. Whether a baby, adult or senior rescue cat or dog, new animals need the stability of knowing what to expect. In fact, some holiday schedules may allow you to be home more during this time to help the new kitty or pooch adjust.

Holiday pets take more work, true. But just think: you’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting cat or dog, a fur-kid hungry for a loving, permanent home. Happy holidays, indeed!

Everyone who adores puppies and kittens wants to share the furry love affair but not everyone is ready to receive puppies as gifts. Maybe the recipient will appreciate your thoughtfulness. But don’t gamble with a pet’s life.

Sure, Grandma is lonely and needs a wagging lap-warmer to keep her company. But she may have other plans, such as visits to the grandkids. Will the new kitten climb the Christmas tree and land in kitty jail? A puppy that eats Aunt Ethel’s hat collection will cost you favorite nephew status. A busy new parent may want a pup or kitten for their kids, but have other demands that take priority.

small cute kittenGiving Puppies and Kittens As Gifts

Before you put a bow around his neck, ask yourself these questions. Will the new owner have the time, ability, and funds to care for the dog or cat over the next 10 to 20 years? Is their space better suited for a Chihuahua, Persian or Great Dane? Do they already have a fenced yard? Will Uncle Jim’s knees keep up when hunting with that Pointer pup? Does your mom really want to chase Junior Cat off the mantel every day?

Children delight in pets as gifts but living things can’t be shoved under the bed and forgotten when the latest must-have-kid-gadget has more appeal. Remember—even if Fluffy is for the kids, the ADULT ultimately holds responsibility for the well-being of the pet. Will the child’s parents have the time to spend on one-on-one attention a new pet needs, and deserves? Be sure that the recipient truly wants and is ready for a puppy or kitten.

pet proof holidays to keep pets safe

Be sure to PET PROOF your decorations for the new baby!

I Want A Puppy/Kitten!

What if the kids, your spouse, Aunt Ethel, or a best friend have made it clear they want a furry wonder, are prepared for the responsibility and feel ready RIGHT NOW for a furry loved one in their life? You’re sure, and so are they. What can you do?

The time, the place, the person, and the pet must be right for love to bloom into a lifetime commitment. The selection should be made by the person who will live with, care for, and hopefully fall in love with the baby for the next decade or more. You still want the recipient to make this important choice, so give them that gift. Here’s 6 tips for giving pets as gifts.

6 Steps for Giving Pets As Gifts

  • Plot With Professionals. Contact the professional breeder, shelter, and/or rescue organization and explain the situation. Ask them to conspire with you—arrange to pay a deposit, or fund the purchase FOR the recipient, with the puppy or kitten to be chosen later. Perhaps also pre-pay puppy clicker training classes for the new family member, or fund the cost of the kitten’s first veterinary visit.
  • Avoid Puppy Mills. Those cute babies sold in some retail environments are born and raised in horrendous conditions. The ASPCA urges you to know what you’re getting, and pledge to avoid supporting that awful system.
  • Go Shopping. Create a “puppy or kitty care package” for the big day. Fill a puppy bed with treats, food, training and grooming equipment, and lots—lots!—of appropriate toys. Don’t forget to include a book or two about the pet’s breed, training or behavior tips, or other fun information.
  • Get Creative. Why not make a “gift certificate” that details this special surprise, and have that ready to present on the big day. Perhaps it could be packaged inside a pet carrier, or in an envelope attached to the collar of a stuffed St. Bernard or Siamese Cat toy.
  • Take Your Time. Holidays can be hectic when normal routines go out the window. New puppies and kittens–even newbie adult pets–need the stability of knowing what to expect. But you can “gift” with the certificate on the special day, and the recipient can choose the best time to bring the pet home. Hopefully you also have the fun of accompanying the person later, when they choose their own furry wonder.
  • Keep Them Safe. Be sure to “pet proof” your holidays. Check out the great ASPCA infographic, below, for more tips.

When you do it right, gifting with a pet can be magic. You’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting fur-kid.

Have you ever given–or received–a pet as a gift? How did you prepare? What was the result? Please share! I’d love to hear your experiences.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

aspca puppies infograph

It’s National Holistic Pet Day! But What Is Holistic Pet Care?

There are many questions about what is holistic pet care. Is it the same thing as what your regular vet offers? There are many names for offering traditional medicine for pets. Some call it alternative medicine or natural healing. But are there specific definitions, and is holistic pet care a good choice for your cats and dogs? August 30 is National Holistic Pet Day, so it’s a good time to revisit asking these questions.

PupInGreen-D-Garding

This gorgeous pup has fun in the “natural” undergrowth…but poison mushrooms are natural, too! Image Copr. D. Garding/Flickr

WHAT IS HOLISTIC PET CARE?

Is natural veterinary medicine that different than a conventional approach? Many pet products companies have joined the “natural” revolution but is this because they truly feel that’s better for our cats and dogs–or is it simply a marketing ploy? And how can pet parents decide what’s best for their cats and dogs, and see through all the hand-waving hype?

I write about holistic care in both of my CAT FACTS and DOG FACTS books but never would have done so before researching a much earlier work. New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats is available in all print & Ebook formats, including hardcover.

You can even get the audio version for FREE with a trial membership to Audible at this link.

holistic pet

NATURAL HEALING FOR DOGS & CATS

Before researching the book New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats, I really didn’t know a lot–or think very much of–the “natural” wave of pet care since I’m a prove-it-to-me-with-science kind of person. But after interviewing dozens and dozens of scientific-type researchers and veterinarians who embraced some or all of these new-but-old-fashioned modalities (more than 70 for the book!), I not only learned a lot but began to respect the alternative viewpoint.

As with any trend, though, there are those who take advantage and dish up quackery alongside the quality options, so it’s still very much up to us to “vet” our pet care. The same is true for conventional medicine, too. There’s a reason they call it the PRACTICE of medicine–it is as much an art as a science, and what’s the best choice for my animal companions may be the wrong one for yours.

Conventional vs Holistic Pet Care: What’s the Difference?

Veterinarians provide the latest in terms of advanced diagnostic technology, cutting-edge drugs and surgery but many pet parents—and veterinarians—also embrace holistic medicine they feel is more natural. While traditional “western” medicine can’t be beat for addressing first aid and emergencies like broken legs and acute or critical health issues, holistic approaches may work better to prevent and treat chronic health challenges.

Here’s a broad example that compares “conventional” treatment to a holistic medicine approach. In mainstream western medicine, a drug can be given to stop the puppy’s diarrhea. But that’s like putting a cork in a bottle and may stop the symptoms without getting rid of the cause, so when the drug wears off the diarrhea returns. Instead, holistic practitioners seek to treat the patient as well as the symptom. Mainstream veterinary medicine does that, too, of course, but the approach is a bit different.

What Is Alternative Medicine?

The word holistic refers to a whole-body approach that addresses the health of the pet’s physical and emotional being. Alternative simply means “in addition to” and not specifically “instead of” other modalities. Learn about homeopathy in this post.

Rather than treating the “symptom” of disease, the holistic practitioner looks at the entire animal: diet, exercise, behavior, emotions, and even the environment. Conventional “western” medicine tends to focus on the disease, while holistic medicine focuses on the patient.

Other terms are used to describe holistic medicine, including “natural” and “alternative.” My favorite term, though, is “integrated medicine” because that means the best of all worlds—a combined approach of conventional partnered with holistic for the ideal help for your dog and cat.

Why A Natural Medicine Approach?

Holistic veterinarians would rather try to prevent problems like hip dysplasia and to support the body’s immune system to fight allergies rather than scramble to fix problems after they happen. They believe once chronic problems develop they continue to get worse even with ongoing conventional treatment.

This frustration with conventional western veterinary care inspired them to look for other options. Holistic or “natural” alternatives for many became the answer. Once they started to look, veterinarians found and began experimenting with therapies like herbal remedies, flower essences and homeopathy. They looked at natural medicines and treatments that had been used in human medicine for decades or even centuries.

They found out treatments like massage and acupuncture not only worked in people but equally well in pets. Some of these treatments raise eyebrows, such as sticking needles into your puppy to help relieve pain until scientists proved acupuncture can relieve pain and nausea and even help boost the immune system. Holistic vets have found that garden herbs and Grandma’s home remedies work as well or better than many modern drugs. They often contain the exact same ingredients, but don’t cause the side effects.

You Don’t Have to Choose: Use Integrative Veterinary Medicine

An integrated approach offers your pets the ideal care specific to his needs. Alternative/holistic veterinary medicine works great alongside much of mainstream medicine.

Conventional medicine can’t be beat when it comes to diagnosing problems, so X-rays or blood analysis can reveal a tumor or fracture before the veterinary chiropractor provides a treatment. If your puppy chews through an electrical cord and stops breathing, acupuncture resuscitation can start his heartbeat again until you can reach conventional trauma medicine help. Homeopathy can’t perform surgery, but may help a traumatized pet survive surgery and heal more quickly afterward.

Evaluating Claims

Be sure to evaluate the claims of different holistic treatments before rushing into therapy. Sadly, when the term “natural” became very popular, some companies simply slapped on the label to increase sales. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe or effective—poisonous mushrooms and venomous snake bite is natural, too.

It’s difficult sometimes to figure out odd-sounding therapies that work from quackery, so ask questions and do your research. Look for studies that back up the claims of a treatment’s effectiveness. Your holistic vet will provide proven science when it’s available. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies alternative care options for people and many of these apply to pets as well. Veterinary journals also publish studies and measure the effects of different techniques.

When a technique or product is very new there may not be scientific studies available. Because some of these therapies are “natural” there’s not much money to be made and so costly evaluations may not be embraced by drug companies. In these cases, testimonials from other pet owners and veterinarians may provide convincing “anecdotal” evidence. Just take some claims with a grain of salt depending on who makes the claims—someone with a monetary gain could be suspect. But other puppy owners and animal health professionals able to recognize true health improvements are more credible.

Choosing A Credible Holistic Veterinarian

When choosing a holistic veterinarian, look for doctors that have training in natural and alternative treatments. Professional veterinary associations or holistic organizations offer study and accreditation. Some of these organizations include:

Do you use natural, holistic or otherwise “alternative” veterinary options with your pets? Do tell! And if you decide to get the newly released NATURAL HEALING pet care book, please post a review and let me know what you think!


I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give-aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Catnapped? Shadow to the Rescue!

Hide_Seek(2)Catnapped? Shadow to the rescue, in HIDE AND SEEK. And then YOU to the rescue for this pet writer. Wow…

I want to THANK YOU (yes, I mean YOU!) for adopting my debut thriller LOST AND FOUND back in 2012 when it first released, and again this past week when all the Ebook formats dropped to free.

Yes, free. It’s still free, and will remain free for the foreseeable future. 🙂  I announced this last week in this post (with the other links to the book), and as a result, this week the book ranking EXPLODED!

#1 Thrillers, #1 Suspense, #1 All Free Books

Why would I make the book FREE? I want more readers to discover the book and possibly read and enjoy the series. A book needs to be read…But I had no idea the book would take off like this. UPDATE: It’s 11:00 pm on Tuesday night and still holding at #2 Thrillers, #1 Suspense and #7 Free…absolutely amazing.

It would not have happened without YOU becoming a cheerleader, adopting and sharing the book. You have made this pet writer’s dreams come true. I am truly blessed.

By the way, you can get a SAMPLE of the free book by texting the word THRILLS to 44222.

So…I asked my editor and we agreed to put HIDE AND SEEK (Book #2) on sale for $2.99.

I think the sale goes away the end of the week, so don’t wait! You can get it on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBookstore and others. And yes, you can share with whoever loves edge-of-the-seat pet-centric stories. I know you particularly love Shadow…but to answer reader requests (yes, I always listen to you!), HIDE AND SEEK has more Macy-Cat in the story (along with assorted mayhem).

This is a “kitty in jeopardy” story (well, September and other pets, too), but you know me…the pets always come out ahead.

A mysterious contagion will shatter countless lives unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing cat . . . in 24 hours.

Again…THANK YOU! And please take advantage, and get your sale copy of HIDE AND SEEK.

I’ll be at the OWFI Writers Conference this weekend signing print copies of all three thrillers (as well as the Cat Facts and Dog Facts books). If you’re there, please introduce yourself, I’d love to connect.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Please note that I earn a small percentage from affiliate links to books or other products which are mentioned from time to time in my posts. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!