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Living With A Geriatric Dog

Terrier cuddling human.
Peach starting to trust me, enjoying a cuddle.

I hope you enjoyed my previous blogs and learnt a bit about our other dog, Bear, and what it's like living with a blind dog. In this 'episode', I'll talk a bit about how we cope with caring for a very senior dog.

So, Peach Fuzz is around 17 years old now, and we've only had him for 2 years. People always say how good I am for taking in such an elderly dog, but I do love the oldies and their personalities! Poor old Peach was stuck in the kennels I used to work at for around 4-5 months in the end, as his previous owner wasn't well. Their family knew they wouldn't cope with Peach, so signed him over so the kennel owner could find him a new home. I'd met him a couple of times but he was a completely different dog back then, very anxious and wasn't suited for kennel life as he doesn't cope well with loud noises, so really needed to get into a home environment. I took him home for a trial, and he ended up staying!

Photo of terrier taking treat.
A photo from a photoshoot we did with Peach.

Being old, he couldn't hold his bladder or bowels overnight, so was in a bit of a state, despite the dog groomer's great efforts in cleaning him up! His hair was terribly overgrown, but he wasn't comfortable with the groomer tending to that, and it's the type of coat which needs to be hand stripped. I managed to do this over the course of about a week or so, taking my time, and doing it when Peach was settled and comfortable. Once I'd got his old coat out, he no longer smelt terrible, looked so fresh, and like a completely different dog! People often ask me if he's a puppy now, I think because he's got such a beautiful face and eyes!

Terrier with overgrown hair.
Peach when he was in kennels!

It took a while for Peach to learn to trust us. We're not too sure about what type of care, handling, and training he'd had in his past life, but he was nervous about being touched. We gave him plenty of space and time, and positively reinforced him for checking in with us, but being careful not to push him. He trusts us now that he's bonded with us, and absolutely loves to snuggle up in the mornings and evenings, and loves to be near in general.

With age, comes various health conditions. One of the things we did early on was get Peach's bloods checked, to see how his overall health was, and if he needed to go on any medication to support him in his final years. The results showed his liver and kidney function weren't the best. He desperately needed a dental, however, with his age and health, we couldn't risk putting him under an anaesthetic, so he had a course of antibiotics to clear up an infection, and he copes ok-it's one of the things we'll have to monitor ongoing. He went on some medication and supplements to support his kidney and liver health, and periodically recheck his bloods, and, to our surprise, the levels have actually improved! One of the levels has gone into the normal range, and the other was about 5 times the normal level, whereas now it's just 1!

Terrier dog in garden.
Peach soon after being groomed.

There's not a huge amount we could do for Peach now, health wise, so it's a case of monitoring his quality of life, which , at the moment, is good, and using meds to support him. Recently, he's also had some red light therapy, which can help with inflammation, pain relief, etc, which hopefully made his old hips feel a bit better.

He's got a case of the old doggy dementia, I believe, as is constantly shouting for food, so we break his meals up into smaller portions, and use various enrichment bowls, puzzle feeders, and toys, so he gets to work for it, which he seems to enjoy.

Dog eating from bowl.
Peach eating a meal from an enrichment slow feeder bowl.

Some other general adaptations we've made for the dogs include:

  • Thinking about the flooring, ensuring it's fairly grippy for them, as their legs may not work as well as they once did, and using mats/rugs/runners where needed.

  • Keeping them warm, using appropriate coats, blankets, heatpads, etc.

  • Keeping them mentally enriched, when walking and other physical stimulation may not be as easy, using food foraging, enrichment toys and bowls, etc. Peach's eyes and ears aren't too great these days, but his nose is impeccable at finding food!

  • Ensuring they haven't got any high or awkward steps.

So, that very briefly summarises how Peach came about, and how we generally care for him. If anyone has any questions, please don't hesitate to pop us an email!

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