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5 tips to help keep senior dogs healthy and happy

5 tips to help keep senior dogs healthy and happy

Senior dogs can stay active and healthy as they age.  Although there are definitely genetic components to aging, here 5 tips to help your dog to stay healthy and happy during their senior years. Please click on the links for even more information!

  1.   Keep her physically active.  Walks can become several short jaunts at her own pace instead of one long hike.   You might find she still likes to zip around a bit off leash, so go to the dog park when there aren’t a bunch of young dogs there.  Play a little fetch if she likes to play fetch.  Besides walking, older dogs can benefit from doggy exercises like a sit/stand sequence, and mild pedestal exercises. Exercises like these help to keep the hip joints active and limber, so your dog can stand up more easily.
  2. Help her to stay mentally active with interactive games, tricks, and even puzzle toys and chew toys.  Staying mentally active helps to keep dementia at bay.  Your old dog might not be up to going for a run anymore, but she will certainly appreciate any chance to show off her mad skills at “high-five”.  Check out theses activities from Petful.com
  3. Keep her from gaining too much weight.  Excess weight is really hard on the joints and organs like the heart.  There are many senior diets available that are lower calorie and protein than the ones made for all life stages.  You may find that switching to one of these diets helps to keep the pounds from adding up to excess.  If your dog is on a raw or home cooked diet, adjust the ingredients as necessary by adding more fresh vegetables.
  4. Keep toenails trimmed.  Some senior dogs become sensitive about nail trims.  If this is the case with yours, your veterinarian can very likely assist with this.
  5. Take her to visit the veterinarian.  A veterinarian can give her a thorough check and make sure bumps and lumps aren’t cancerous tumors.  Your vet might prescribe a non steroidal anti inflammatory (like Metacam)to help your dog feel more comfortable.  More vets are prescribing CBD oil for dogs, which is proving to be effective for many of the ailments caused by the aging process.
Hormones and dog aggression

Hormones and dog aggression

What makes some dogs calm and chill, while other

Pitbulldogs flip out when they are in the presence  of dogs, people or other perceived threats in their environment?  Scientists all over the world are unravelling more and more mysteries of dog behaviour.  As a dog nerd, I was excited to find out that  recent research  at University of Arizona led by Evan MacLean linked the presence of two different hormones in the blood to behavioural changes.

 

MacLean and his collaborators looked specifically at oxytocin and vasopressin — hormones that are also found in humans — and found that they may play an important role in shaping dogs’ social behavior.

Why is this important to us dog owners? Well, Oxytocin (the love hormone) is found in higher levels in non-reactive dogs, in this case service dogs with no history of aggression.  Aggressive reactivity is found in dogs with elevated Vasopressin levels.

 

 

Blood levels of Oxytocin can be increased through bonding, food rewards and other positive experiences. In order to help aggressive dogs get on the right track with behaviour, veterinary scientists may soon be exploring ways to suppress the vasopressin system, so it doesn’t create as much of that hormone. But for most dogs, vasopressin can reduced, and oxytocin increased, simply by positive interactions with people.

“Previous work shows dog-human friendly interactions can create a release in oxytocin in dogs, and when dogs interact with people, we see that their vasopressin levels go down over time,” MacLean said. “These are bidirectional effects. It’s not just that when we’re petting a dog, the dog is having this hormonal response — we’re having it, too.”

Combative, dominance oriented approaches to treating dog behaviour simply don’t work unless it is repeated constantly over the life of the dog.  What a miserable way to live for both dog and human.

 

Evan Maclean’s studies of Oxytocin levels in dogs with aggressive behaviour will hopefully help to dispel some common mythology surrounding dog behaviour and training.  When we get dogs to calm down by using compassionate and kind training methods that include game based, bonding exercises, we can actually affect the levels of the hormones that cause bonding and aggression.  How cool is that anyway?

Democracy in Wild Dogs

Democracy in Wild Dogs

A pack of African wild dogs shares an impala.
Credit: Megan Claase

From the “Smarter Than You Think” files:

So, what if I told you that wild dogs are democratic, taking votes on group activities?  No, don’t leave yet! There really is scientific evidence according to an international study done on wild dogs in Botswana.  The study recorded 68 social rallies from 5 different dog packs Dr Neil Jordan, who headed the study says African wild dogs exhibit highly energetic greeting ceremonies called social rallies after rest periods, before they move off together again.  During the rally, the dogs start sneezing.  If there are enough sneezes, the pack goes off hunting and exploring.  If there are not enough sneezes from the majority of dogs, the dogs go back to sleep for a while.

The dominant pair influences the way the pack votes.  If these two didn’t sneeze, then more votes will be required before the pack goes out hunting.

Study first author Reena Walker, of Brown University in the US: “We found that when the dominant male and female were involved in the rally, the pack only had to sneeze a few times before they would move off.  However, if the dominant pair were not engaged, more sneezes were needed — approximately 10 — before the pack would move off”

It gets even more complex:  Each dog’s vote appears to have a unique value in the voting process. Some dogs required more sneezes for their vote to count.  Something to think about next time your excited dog sneezes at you!

Reference:

Sneeze to leave: African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) use variable quorum thresholds facilitated by sneezes in collective decisions;  Reena H. WalkerAndrew J. KingJ. Weldon McNuttNeil R. Jordan; .