How To Get The Most From Your Senior Dog’s Vet Appointment

As our dogs age, their health needs and problems change, too. As your dog approaches his senior years, vet visits are likely to change as a result. Each vet visit is an opportunity to find out how your dog’s health is doing and how you can help him live for many more healthy, happy years. It does take a little bit of preparation, but we’re here to help you get the most from your senior dog’s vet appointment.

When you make the appointment, ask if you should do or bring anything.

You may be asked to bring a urine or fecal sample, or you may be asked to fast your dog for 12 hours before the appointment. They should tell you these things when you make the appointment, but people get busy and may forget, so be sure to ask before you hang up the phone so you don’t wind up needing to come back at a later date or time with the things you need.

Bring medical records and medication, supplement, and vitamin information

This is especially important when you’re seeing a new vet, but it never hurts to bring this information to every appointment. If you have added or changed any supplements or vitamins in your dog’s routine, your vet will need that information.

Know your dog’s diet

Be prepared to answer questions about what, how much, and how often you feed your dog. Your vet may suggest changing your dog’s food to a senior formula, for example, or if your dog is overweight they may suggest that you feed less of what you’re currently feeding.

Bring a mat or a blanket

If your dog has aching, arthritic joints, lying on cold linoleum while you’re waiting to be seen can be painful. Consider bringing a mat or a blanket for him to lie on instead.

Keep your dog leashed while waiting

Even if your dog is calm and friendly at the vet, not every dog is the same. Keeping every dog on a leash helps prevent problems in the waiting room.

Be prepared to answer and ask questions.

Your vet will likely ask you lots of questions about your dog’s recent behavior, and you should be prepared to ask plenty of questions also. A vet appointment shouldn’t be just about examining your dog – it should include a long talk about the current state of his health, how it may change, what changes to look for, and how to keep him healthy as long as possible. Here are some questions you should consider asking at your senior dog’s vet visit.

At what age is my dog considered “senior”?

The old wisdom was that one dog year equaled 7 human years, but that isn’t entirely accurate. A dog is considered “senior” in the last quarter of their life. Since different sizes and breeds of dogs have different average lifespans, the age your dog is considered a senior will vary. Large and giant breeds can be considered senior as young as 6 years old, while toy breeds might not be considered senior until they’re 12. Ask your vet at what age he would consider your dog a senior since senior dogs have different health requirements than adult dogs.

Is there a difference between a senior dog health check and an adult health check?

As your dog ages, your vet may want to order more or different testing for your dog when you come in for appointments. Ask him what to expect going forward.

What health risks are common in senior dogs?

Just like humans, dogs are prone to many health problems as they age. Half of all dogs over the age of 10 will be diagnosed with cancer. Diabetes, kidney, and heart problems are also conditions that can manifest in senior dogs. Your vet may know of diseases that are more common in your breed of dog and what symptoms you should be on the lookout for.

How often should my dog come in?

While many adult dogs are fine with just one vet visit per year, your vet may recommend that your senior dog starts coming in twice a year. If your dog has a chronic health problem, he may need to come in even more frequently than that.

How is my dog’s weight?

Obesity is a big problem in our pets these days, with nearly half the dogs in this country considered overweight. Carrying around a few extra pounds can increase strain on arthritic joints and increase your dog’s likelihood of developing certain diseases, so it’s crucial to know how your dog’s weight is. Also, some diseases can cause weight gain or loss, so it’s important to have a baseline weight on your dog for your vet to notice any fluctuations.

How are my dog’s hips?

Many large and giant breeds are prone to hip dysplasia. The earlier you can catch it, the better you can manage it. If your vet doesn’t specifically check your dog’s hips, ask him to check them out.

Does my dog have arthritis?

As with people, arthritis is a common problem with aging dogs. The pain of arthritis can be managed with things like supplements, medication, and orthopedic dog beds, but you won’t be able to manage your dog’s pain if you aren’t aware that he’s experiencing any.

Is our exercise routine OK?

If your dog is overweight, he may need more exercise. If your dog is slowing down due to arthritis or hip dysplasia, he may need less or gentler exercise.

How is my dog’s diet?

Your vet may recommend that you change your dog’s diet as he ages. Senior dogs may have different nutritional needs than younger dogs, especially if they’re dealing with any chronic illnesses.

Does my dog need supplements?

Based on your dog’s overall health, your vet may recommend supplements such as an omega-3, glucosamine and chondroitin, or a probiotic. Ask your vet about the pros and cons of each supplement before deciding what’s best for your dog.

Do you need a blood, urine, or fecal sample?

Each of these tests will show something different, and your vet may or may not want to run various tests to help determine your dog’s overall health level.

What vaccinations does my dog need, and how often?

On the one hand, senior dogs have weaker immune systems and may need extra protection against certain illnesses. On the other hand, they may already have a lifetime’s worth of immunity from getting vaccinations every year, and the risk of administering additional vaccines (beyond rabies, which is usually mandatory) may outweigh the benefit.

How are his teeth and ears?

80% of dogs over the age of 4 show some level of periodontal disease. Having bad teeth can affect more than just his mouth – bacteria from inflamed gums can enter your dog’s bloodstream and affect his organs, including his heart. Your dog may need a dental cleaning under anesthesia to help remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria to help maintain his oral and overall health. On the other hand, the risk of anesthesia becomes greater as your dog ages, so your vet may not recommend a full cleaning under anesthesia.

Mild to moderate ear infections can go unnoticed by owners, but they can be uncomfortable for your dog, so make sure your vet takes a minute to peek inside his ears to check them out.

Is it normal for him to be slowing down?

Age itself is not a disease. If your dog is slowing down, it is likely a symptom of something else, such as arthritis or hip dysplasia. Ask your vet what might be causing your dog to slow down and what you can do about it.

Does my dog have tumors?

Tumors can hide in the craziest places that a pet owner may not notice. Some cancers are quite treatable if caught early, so ask your vet to check your dog thoroughly for tumors while you’re there.

Is it a good idea to add a new pet?

You may think your dog would love to have a friend to keep him company as he ages, but he may develop hearing loss, pain, or other factors that will make your dog less receptive to a new addition. Ask your vet if he thinks your dog would benefit or suffer from a new pet in the household.

How can I improve my dog’s quality of life?

Your vet may have plenty of suggestions on how to improve, or at least maintain, your dog’s overall quality of health.

(H/T: Caring For a Senior Dog, Petcha, Pet Care Rx)

Why does my dog smell like corn chips?

dog on bed

If your dog has never smelled like corn chips then that probably sounds like a completely ridiculous question. She’s finally lost it. But I would bet my bottom dollar that at least half of you thought “YES! Why does my dog smell like corn chips?!”

I have to confess that I secretly kind of like it. My dog is at his most Dorito-y when he first wakes up, and I love our cheesy morning cuddles.

Unfortunately for many dogs that weird smell that I’ve come to love is actually a symptom of an imbalance in the body and it may be causing them significant discomfort. If it’s coupled with  reddish brown discolouration around the paws, armpits, eyes, ears and mouth, then I’m afraid you have a yeasty dog. Probably also a very itchy dog. Poor poppet.

This is an incredibly common ailment among animals fed processed commercial pet foods because these foods literally feed the problem. All dogs produce yeast and it lives in and on the body in even the healthiest of animals. Similar to how there are good bacteria and bad bacteria, yeast is not inherently bad and it makes up a part of your dog’s natural flora. But if things start to go a little off kilter, yeast can get a big too big for its boots and before you know it you have a full blown yeast infection on your hands. If you’ve been unfortunate enough, you may have experienced this personally yourself. It’s not nice (ladies, am I right?).

The reason processed foods contribute to yeast overgrowths in our pets is because they are generally very high in starch. Yes, even the grain free ones. It’s not possible to make a dried dog food without starch. You could end up with a big bag of powder. So while grain free dog foods do often contain higher quality ingredients with less allergens (like wheat), they are usually still around 50% carbohydrates, AKA… you guessed it. Starch. During digestion all of this starch is broken down into sugars. Yeast feeds on sugar.

Feeding your dog a carbohydrate rich, dehydrated and highly processed diet is the fastest way to upset their gut microbiome so that the balance of good and bad bacteria is askew and yeast is given the opportunity to thrive. My number one recommendation to resolve this issue is, of course, to transition them to an animal nutritionist approved homemade fresh diet, which will almost always resolve the problem naturally. If you’re not quite ready for that, I would begin with my free 7 Days to Fresh Food Toolkit, which will give you my top tips for introducing probiotic rich, gut healing fresh nutrients to your dog’s diet.

Arrivederci, nacho-feet.

The post Why does my dog smell like corn chips? appeared first on Clare Kearney // Canine Nutritionist.

Squeezing the Juice – For Your Dog

vegetable-juice-dogs

The single factor that stands between me and glowing skin, a svelte figure and weekly juice cleanses is that my juicer is so bloody annoying to clean. Honestly. I love fresh vegetable juice. It makes me feel like I’ve just had ten coffees and done a yoga retreat. It’s probably mostly psychological, but I love it nonetheless. I used to really struggle with the amount of waste it produced and as much as I told myself I would make dehydrated vegetable pulp crackers, we both know that never happened. Although I did once make raw carrot cakes and they were delicious. But now that I have a dog-come-garbage disposal, I no longer have this issue.

Raw vegetable pulp from my juicer is my absolute favourite way to feed plant matter to my dog. It ticks all my boxes: it’s raw, it’s processed in a way that means he obtains maximum nutrient benefits from it, it’s low in sugar, he gets a variety of different nutrients from different sources, it utilises waste and of course he loves it.

I’ve discussed it many times previously (like here + here) but dogs don’t produce the necessary enzymes to effectively digest plant matter, because it is not a food they are designed to digest. This is the number one issue with processed pet foods. There are many, but being biologically inappropriate is definitely up near the top. They also have the ability to synthesise vitamins C + K, so theoretically they don’t have a lot of need for things like carrots and leafy greens, especially if they are eating a varied, species appropriate diet.

Theoretically.

But this is reality and times they are a changin’. Realistically, the way we go about agricultural farming nowadays, what we feed our livestock, the nutrient depletion of our soil, the environmental toxin load of our daily lives – all of these things impact our pets and their ability to heal themselves from the inside. This is a major factor in why I advocate for the addition of whole food supplements in a homemade canine diet, and vegetables are one of the most easily accessible, nutritious and well tolerated choices. They improve digestion, boost the immune system and fill nutrient gaps that are commonly present in a homemade diet.

Now I know you’re probably thinking that vegetable juice pulp is just what’s left over after I’ve extracted all of the nutrients for myself, but bear with me. Generally I will set aside some of the juice to recombine with the pulp so my dog is also getting some of the concentrated nutrients, but reducing the amount of juice he receives allows me to manage his sugar intake. I also often mix this juice + pulp into another nutritious food he loves, like unsweetened probiotic yogurt, a whole organic egg, or a serving of homemade bone broth. This turns the humble vegetable juice pulp into a veritable doggie multivitamin.

My favourite juice recipe for both of us is as follows (give or take):

1 beetroot

4 carrots

4 stalks of celery

a cucumber

1 apple

a good knob of ginger

Finish with squeeze of lemon juice

veggie-juice-dogs

If you want to learn how you can start introducing other fresh foods to your dog’s diet today, download my FREE 7 Days to Fresh Food Toolkit.

The post Squeezing the Juice – For Your Dog appeared first on Clare Kearney // Canine Nutritionist.

Why should I feed plants to my carnivore?

green-cauliflower-leaves

Good question, glad you asked.

There are definitely different schools of thought among “raw feeders” when it comes to feeding plant matter to dogs. If you’re brave enough to tackle the comments sections of raw feeding Facebook groups (braver than I!) you will find many, many people arguing that dogs are carnivores who do not need plant matter and would not have eaten plant matter in the wild. They’ll tell you that wolves do not eat the stomach contents of their prey, as if this is all the evidence you could possibly need to immediately stop giving your dog anything that didn’t once have a face. Put down the carrot, Clare. This issue alone deserves a seperate post unto itself.

At an educated guess, I’d say there are a few reasons wolves don’t eat the stomach contents of their prey. Canines are opportunistic scavengers; they’re not omnivores in the true sense. They will seek out the nutrients in plant matter when they feel they need it, or when other prey is in short supply. Clearly if they are feasting on prey and they have the option of consuming the stomach contents, prey is not in short supply. If they are feasting on prey, plant matter is also not what they are seeking out at that time and nutritionally may not be what they require at that time. A wolf who doesn’t eat the stomach content of their prey, may at a later time eat some grass. And depending on what stage of digestion the stomach contents is at, there may be few nutrients left in it.

It’s also generally accepted that they DO eat the stomach lining and intestinal walls, which contain huge amounts of good bacteria and digestive enzymes. This is why green tripe is considered such a wonder food. But not everyone has access to green tripe, and the human grade meat available to most is stripped of all of this yummy, weird, nutritional goodness. I can’t remember the last time I saw an unwashed rectum at my butcher.

At the end of the day though, aren’t we feeding our dogs a fresh diet because we want them to be as healthy as possible? Why would I follow arbitrary rules regarding what wolves may or may not eat in the wild when I know that the kelpie currently curled up at the foot of my bed can benefit nutritionally from plant matter added to his diet? Yes, he eats around 80% meat, bones, organs, fish and fats. But he also gets fermented dairy and sauerkraut for probiotics, blended green veggies for prebiotics, starchy vegetables for added fibre and stool bulk, smoothies for a quick fix version of all of the aforementioned, tahini for manganese and supergreens powder for trace minerals.

No matter how many people in the comments section of a Facebook group tell you otherwise, pretty much all of the key figures in the field of canine nutrition (your Karen Beckers and Ian Billinghursts of the world) agree that suitable plant matter provides important, often critical, nutritional benefits and should be included in a balanced homemade diet. I’m proud to join their ranks.

To learn how you can start safely introducing plant matter to your dog’s diet today, download my FREE 7 Days to Fresh Food Toolkit.

The post Why should I feed plants to my carnivore? appeared first on Clare Kearney // Canine Nutritionist.