Since San Francisco’s Muttville Senior Dog Rescue began in 2007, over 5,700 senior dogs — all of whom are at least seven years old — have been saved. I am sure a few younger pups with well-made fake IDs have snuck in over the years. Some dogs have been as old as 18 when they found a new home, which is a testament to our motto, “It’s never too late for a new beginning.”
Our goal is to ensure our mutts are living their best lives. Unlike humans, dogs do not dwell over the loss of their younger, more nimble selves. If they are feeling good and having fun, it does not matter that they cannot race across the beach anymore. All you have to do is make sure they are feeling good. We’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to give your senior mutt comfort and pleasure in old age:
1. Help the slip-sliding
If you have wooden floors, chances are your senior has more trouble getting around than he used to. Use yoga mats, which are effective as runners, around the house. They make it super easy to get around and come in a variety of lengths, materials, thicknesses, colors, and styles.
2. Help the hind-end
Among a dog’s legs, the hind pair usually weaken first, so your senior’s hind end might start to droop. It also means the old pooch will have a tough time getting upstairs. A dog-support harness with a handle solves this. It is basically a regular harness with what looks like a luggage handle attached to the top. There are both small-dog and big-dog versions. You will be amazed at how much your old dog will be able to do with a little lift.
3. Keep exploring and taking outings
While your dog may not be able to run across the beach, she still enjoys lying next to the waves and feeling the sun. Take your dog to their happy places, and let them set the pace. Even if your dog has lost sight and hearing, the feel of a favorite place will be a soothing treat.
One of the largest issues folks inquire about with regards to senior dogs is incontinence. Peeing in the house is not fun. If it becomes an accident here or there, you can deal with it. If it is an ongoing inconvenience, however, try doggie diapers. For males, a band of cloth closed with Velcro easily attaches to a human incontinence pad. Just cut it to the right size or buy a bellyband online. Females need something that is closed at the back to allow the tail through. There are diapers available for that purpose. We call them godsends.
5. Getting that pill down
Dubbed a “rollatini,” Muttville’s Jane takes a very thin slice of beef and rolls up the pill in it. Crunchy peanut butter is good, too, because Georgia, her poodle, cannot decipher between a peanut chunk and a pill. Muttville’s Patty, who believed nothing worked on Molly, repeatedly tried “Easy Cheese” aerosol cheese and could eventually sneak the pill in. Muttville’s Hannah uses pill pockets, cream cheese, peanut butter, and liverwurst.
Remember, stay senior dog-centric, because it is all about what your dog enjoys. Your senior will tell you whether an activity is too taxing. If she slows down, slow down. If he stops, stop. Just go with the flow and make it fun. Happy trails!
Sherri Franklin is the founder of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco, Muttville.org.
Each month, this column is written by a different trainer or dog professional. If you’d like to contribute, contact Editor@BayWoof.com.
Main article photo by: Wavetop-istock