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Embrace the Senior Moments

The ups and downs of life as a senior dog

We'd all love to be forever young but unfortunately life has other ideas and as I approach my 14th birthday, I face a few challenges that I and my humans must adapt to.

As with humans, not all dogs age in the same way but here is my journey over the last couple of years and how my humans are still making my life the best it can possibly be.

Let's start with the big one. HEALTH!

There are some issues we dogs will face that simply come with old age, some that are breed specific and some that are just plain bad luck.

In 2021, I was diagnosed with MVD (Mitral Valve Disease) commonly referred to as heart murmur. This is a progressive disease with no cure so I have to take a pill every day which slows down the progression. Fortunately it is tasty so I'm happy to take it.

My humans were happy to hear that on this drug, I should live another 3 to 4 years and my condition is regularly monitored by my vet.

A common side effect of long term medication is that it can affect the liver so that also has to be regularly monitored and in 2022, my vet discovered a growth on my liver. My humans decided not to put me through any invasive treatment to discover if it was malignant but I had to start taking another pill every day. This one is not so tasty so has to be hidden in my food.

After years of very few vet visits, I found myself being poked and prodded almost every month for one reason or another.

In Summer 2023, I started limping and excessively licking one front paw so back to the vets I went.

Lots of old people get arthritis and dogs suffer too as our bones get older but traditional pain relief for this condition would put an extra strain on my liver so I was put on a drug called Librela which is given as a monthly injection and targets pain without affecting the liver and kidneys.

Thankfully it has worked for me so now I visit the vet at least once a month!! It's a good job I like him and he has a good supply of treats.

Alongside the medication, my humans decided to try complementary treatments such as supplements - YuMove, Fish Oil etc and also canine massage.

Luckily our friend Lucy is a Galen Myotherapist so she visited me regularly for a couple of years to help with my joints and muscles as I got older. Unfortunately as my heart condition progressed, I was advised by the vet not to continue with this.

There are a number of complementary treatments a senior dog can explore such as physio, light therapy, hydrotherapy. Please get your humans to research well and find a reputable practitioner.

Notes from my human on the health topic:

Obviously we did not hesitate to get Archie on all the meds and treatments he needs but it does pose some challenges. Apart from the obvious one, an increase in costs, we also have to make sure he always has a good supply and that he takes them at the right time.
With another dog in the home, we have to ensure that Nacho doesn't take them by mistake e.g if we drop one or if Archie leaves one behind.
These concerns are elevated when we go away and someone else is responsible for his care.

Now for my favourite topic. FOOD and TREATS.

My reputation precedes me so you all know I'm greedy and will eat almost anything (I've always drawn the line at anything green). But as I get older, my constitution is not as hardy as it once was so the humans had to look at getting me on a suitable senior diet and one that is heart and liver healthy.

The humans have always been careful about what we eat and in my (almost) 14 years on earth, the dog food industry has changed massively.

Like humans, when we are younger we don't mind the occasional naughty treat or we shrug off having something that doesn't have the best ingredients as long as we don't have it often.

As we get older, we need to be more careful what we eat and the human has to put on her glasses and read all the ingredients on every packet of treats and food before she gives it to me!

Notes from the human on food and treats:

I have always found food to be an absolute minefield. There is so much choice on the market and so many varying opinions from experts on what is best for our dogs. We all just want to do our best for our pets so it's a constant worry that we are not feeding them anything that will be detrimental to their health.

Once they get older and start having health problems, it becomes even more important and I spent hours and hours researching the best food for Archie's senior years. And don't forget, the best stuff is usually also the most expensive!

You may be used to seeing me sitting in pubs and restaurants but that's just a small part of my life and I have always enjoyed big walks and outdoor adventures.

I may be a senior with arthritis but I still want to GET OUT FOR EXERCISE. It just means slowing down a bit and doing a bit less. When I turn 14 in April, I will be the equivalent of a 72 year-old human and you don't see many of them chasing squirrels for hours!

I'm also going a bit deaf so don't always hear the humans calling me when I get a bit confused and start following the wrong people.

Not long after Nacho arrived the humans thought it would be a good idea to get me a stroller because the youngster would need more exercise and I didn't want to be left out even if I couldn't keep up! As you can see, I do sometimes have to share it with the squirt.

I took to the stroller immediately and now on our adventures, whenever I look tired (sometimes I lay down in the street to make it really obvious) I take a break in the stroller while Nacho and the humans keep going.

It's also important that I don't get overheated, so I will spend more time in it on sunny days and the humans fit a fan to it!

The photo was taken in 2021, I can no longer stand on my back legs due to my arthritis.

I used to love a good run on the beach. In fact it would be the only time I would ever chase a ball. You humans will know that it's a bit heavy going on the legs to walk on sand so I now find it too much of a strain to walk on soft sand. When we visit the beach, the humans will carry me down to the sea, where the sand is harder.

As you can see, I do still love a dip in the water especially on warm days.

Notes from human on GETTING OUT FOR EXERCISE

We were unsure about getting a stroller at first but it has turned out to be the best thing we ever bought. It means we can stay out all day if necessary and Archie can rest whenever he needs to but can still see what's going on.

Managing 2 dogs with very different levels of energy can be challenging, especially if I'm on my own.

I'm fortunate to have a (retired) dog groomer as a human so have never needed to visit a groomers but our human can tell you that as we dogs get older our tolerance for this decreases.

Having a groom for most breeds means standing for around 2 hours in the bath and then on the grooming table. The groomers also have to do things like lift your legs and keep your head still. These are all things that can be uncomfortable for senior dogs.

Tell your humans to make sure your groomer is aware of any health problems or pain before they are groomed and to ask them to give you regular breaks from standing.

Notes from human on GROOMING:

I've been fortunate to have been spared this cost but I obviously know how expensive it is to keep your dog or dogs well groomed. I also know how difficult a job it is!

If you have a good groomer, they will always want what is best for your dog and won't mind spending a bit of extra time on your senior dog. Please take their advice about what you can do to maintain your dogs coat between grooms to make their job easier and your dog's experience better.

Despite my humans constantly asking me when I'm going to start earning my keep, I still have never contributed to any of these bills they talk about.

I'll leave it to the human to tell you about the rising costs of caring for a senior dog.

When you pick up your puppy, the last thing that crosses your mind is what problems and costs you might be facing in 13 years time. The excitement and joy of welcoming this new member of your family should be enjoyed but as the old saying goes" A Dog is for Life" so it's worth giving this some consideration before you decide to get a dog and which breed.

We are fortunate enough to be in a financial position where we have not had to hesitate to give Archie anything he needs. However, not everyone is in this position and circumstances can change many times over a 15 year period.

Some vet treatments are prohibitively expensive for an average earner and we never wanted to face a dilemma where we had to decide if we could afford treatment for our dogs. That is why we have always had insurance from day 1 and have made sure it's the best possible cover.

Obviously the best possible cover comes at a cost and not all families, especially in the current cost of living crisis, can afford to pay over £200 per month for insurance (our current outgoing for both dogs) and unlike car insurance, pet insurance is not a legal requirement. Archie's has risen gradually from £50 to £150 over the years. It is worth thinking about these and other costs before you get that pup but it can be difficult and confusing, especially if you've never had a dog before.

That's why we recommend you check out Tesco Bank's Our Best Pets-timate to help you when considering getting a new furry friend.

Tesco Bank surveyed 2,000 18+ pet owners and used their responses alongside the most pertinent and newsworthy stats research to create this guide to help pet owners better understand pet insurance and make informed decisions.

Some of the stats they collated from the survey were:

  • 44% said they didn’t have pet insurance, leaving them and their pet at risk of high vet costs.

  • 39% were put off by the cost but over half also said they’d had to pay a one-off vet fee, often higher than insurance.

  • 59% of those with pet insurance said it was worth the money, and helped them avoid hefty vet bills.

  • According to internal Tesco Bank data, the average cost of an unexpected vet bill was £392.90

  • 49% of dog owners and 36% of cat owners have cut how much they spend on their pet due to the rising cost of living.

  • 17% of pet owners admit to not calculating the cost of getting a puppy before becoming an owner.”

Tesco Bank's Our Best Pets-timate guide also provides a useful number of resources including a budget planner, 10 essential tips for first-time pet owners and how to look after your pet on a budget.

I plan on enjoying my retirement by spending more time lounging around in my PJ's! It's a privilege I've earnt by providing the humans with adoration and entertainment for the last 14 years.


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