- Our senior dogs may suffer from Canine Dementia where your dog may become disoriented, confused and as a result become very frustrated. There are signs such as confusion, forgetfulness, wandering aimlessly through the home and getting lost in corners and not responding when you call his or her name.
- You should bring this up to your vet as there are medications available that can be of assistance in restoring your dog's brain functions.
Should you notice your dog showing any of the signs below you should consult with your vet:
- Any abnormal swelling
- Decrease in appetite
- Weight Loss
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- Bleeding from any part of the body
- Offensive odour
- Sores that do not heal
- Persistent lameness or stiffness
- Any difficulty breathing, defecating or urinating
- Notice pain when running or walking
- Swelling of the lymph nodes at neck area
- Bumps or swelling under skin
- Film growing over or on the eyes
- Increased thirst and urination
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Refusal to eat
- Decreased urine output
- Confusion and disorientation
- Loss of muscle mass particularly in the rear area
- Dragging of the toes at the rear legs
- Uncomfortable when touched at certain areas on body
- Lethargy and tired more then usual
- Eye moving quickly from one side to the other or up and down
- You should consult your vet for any visible signs that you know are out of the ordinary including those above.
- Holistic medicine is becoming more and more appealing and may be integrated with the more conventional medications available to treat and medicate many pet health conditions or illnesses.
- We all know that medical care for our dear pets may be costly. There is pet health insurance available which I did get for Max when he was approximately 8 years of age. As with most insurance providers they usually will not cover any pre-existing conditions. The Company that I chose even paid a percentage of Max’s medication as well as coverage for other procedures such as x rays.
- One very important factor in any life is how much life was in those years. Prepare yourself for your friend’s old age. Although your dog may not be as active or willing to play as much, your dog will want to be with you even more, will want to do things including his or her job and will still enjoy outings with you.
- Give your senior the reassurance that he or she is okay and that you still value him or her. The rewards you will receive for the extra time and care that you give your senior dog will be a closeness and devotion that only an old senior dog can give to you and your family.
Don’t let your loyal partner face these times alone. I have even heard of people who are unable to cope with their dogs senior issues and have gave them up to rescues and so forth.
- Max was relatively good ( for the circumstances ) for a few months after he started taking the Cartrofin medication but by January he could not get up to walk from the kitchen and he now had lost his bladder and bowel control. The loss of his urine control was not consistent, very sporadic and usually this would be due to another urinary infection. Once cleared with antibiotics he would be okay until the next infection. Needless to say Max’s arthritis did not get better and was not going to.
- Dr. Doug told me about Stem Cell treatment where they operate and take some fat tissue from the dog and inject this fatty tissue into the joints.
- Max was in his 13th year and I was really contemplating this procedure although my human loved ones disagreed with me. I explained this procedure to Donna and her comments were “and then what”. Max stayed on the Cartrofin, Metacam and I gave him Tramadol here and there.
- What really wrenched my heart was that he was always so bright and alert.
He would still carry his balls and toy tires around and have them near when he needed to lie down. Instead of throwing the ball for him I would roll the ball towards him and he could catch the ball this way. We managed to take Max outside every day. Even if he just walked around the yard sniffing and we always spent time with him outside to keep him company, at times for hours.
We were fortunate that year that the winter was mild and when it was cooler we had a propane heater going to make our time more comfortable.
- It was important to keep him moving every day. I have chosen to share this part or chapter of my life with Max to maybe help you or someone you know that is going through a similar situation as mine was. Perhaps you may discover that the doll might work at night for your precious senior or that adding broth (low or no salt) to your friend’s water will help him drink fluids. The carpet that we placed on our total main level of our house really helped as well.
- Sometimes those later senior years take a little more care. I also used to give Max a sponge bath every night around his rear end due to his incontinence. I used a bucket with warm water and an anti bacterial liquid soap with a face cloth. He really appreciated this and he used to lick my face when I was done to thank me.
- If you think you had a bond before there is nothing comparable to the bond that you develop as the caregiver to your dear friend.
- Every German Shepherd’s weight should be managed for many reasons and especially health. Since I cooked special recipes for Max for most of his life, weight was not to much of a concern. However, once he was not as active primarily due to his arthritis, on occasion he would show a widening in the waist.
- I would put him on a variety of fish, lots of vegetables, brown rice, pasta or potatoes always adding his supplements and vitamins. This worked really well and I succeeded several times within approximately 4 to 6 weeks or less to have Max at least 10 pounds lighter.
- Weight is a very important factor contributing to joint issues and heart disease. Being overweight can cause a lot of stress on the heart and most definitely puts to much strain on the joints.
- The best medicine as they say is preventative or early diagnosis. That is why you should have a really good relationship with your vet. This is important; you need to be able to let him or her know any changes in your good friend’s habits.
I write down what I see and take my list to the vet, this way I do not walk out of his office and find that I have got side tracked and forgot to tell him something important.
- While brushing or petting your German Shepherd check for any lumps or bumps, do a quick ear and eye exam looking for any abnormalities. Check his or her teeth and gum line and inspect for any swelling in this area that could mean an abscess or other infection.
- Since your German Shepherd is in his or her senior years and probably a little less active their nails will grow a lot longer and will need more trimming. Trimmed nails will also aid in their mobility.
I checked Max’s nails and paws and I thought that he had a wound between his toes. It looked split. I bathed it and applied an ointment for several days and bandaged.
Since this process softened the paw area I discovered that he had a horn growing between his toes and that horn was what I thought was a rip.
The horn fell out and of course I took it to Dr. Doug who explained that they can grow this tissue or horn between their toes and was of no importance. I thought later that this may have been a contributor to his mobility; I would think that it would be uncomfortable at the very least. So check between those toes.
I have an issue with my neck and I know how important a proper mattress is to have a good sleep and be comfortable. The same applies to our German Shepherds and all other pets.
- He or she needs Exercise and activity that is slower now of course. Depending on how advanced the arthritis is you have to be the judge of how much activity your old friend can comfortably manage.
- When Max was quite arthritic I would bravely take him on a walk and when I wanted to turn back for home Mr. Stubborn (Max) would lie down until I proceeded in the other direction. My only worry was we were going farther then I really wanted to go based on his physical condition and I was worried how would I get him home if we went to far.
- Even though Max was neutered as I expressed earlier we never really had a weight issue. Keeping your dog’s weight in check is one of the most important factors in maintaining comfort for your senior. If you depend on the commercial foods, there are many formulas out there today for our senior dogs. You may add Omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon oil or flax oil, and glucosamine and chondroitin to their diet as well since all of these supplements are good and recommended for and to aid in preventing osteoarthritis disease.
- There are certain medications such as Medicam, Tramadol and Rimadyl which may be prescribed by a Vet to help with your dog’s arthritic pain. The pharmaceutical companies are introducing new drugs all the time. My vet was always concerned about the type of drug he prescribed for Max since he did not want to prescribe a drug that would change his mood or personality to much. Talk to your vet about this.
- Check if Water therapy is available in your area. Water is one of the best ways for your friend to exercise with arthritic joints due to the buoyancy which puts little stress on the joints. The water pool allows your dog to use his or her muscles without putting pressure and stress on the damaged and painful joints. One of my dreams is to open an indoor swimming pool for dogs to receive year round therapy. I will probably need to win a Lotto, but dreams are free.
- Many diseases often hide symptoms until they have reached advanced proportions such as kidney disease or failure. Once symptoms are visible many times 98 percent of the kidney is not functioning. This is where the blood panels and screening are good predictors of the health of the kidney, liver and pancreas.
- Hypothyroidism should be tested by a T4 blood test and will measure the level of thyroid hormone in your dog’s system. Hypothyroidism is quite common in senior dogs.
- Urinalysis is provided and evaluates how the kidneys are concentrating urine. This also shows the levels of by-products from the liver, kidney and pancreas and in turn informs your vet on the health of these organs. Should you notice that your friend is excessively drinking water and urinating this could be a sign that the kidneys are failing especially if the urine is clear, odorless and sometimes your pet will have no appetite. Other signs of weakened kidneys may include fatigue, vomiting, weight loss and general lethargy.
- Kidney disease may attack without much warning and when the signs are visible to you a high percent of the kidney functions may be weakened. However, many dogs and cats can live with a low percent of kidney function with treatment. I always get alarmed if one of my pets are not eating since this can be a sign that he or she should see the Vet as soon as possible.
- Our aging Shepherd’s are also more vulnerable to cancer. There are many types of cancer. Cancer cells reproduce themselves uncontrollably regardless of the body’s need for new cells. When these abnormal cells group together they form tumours. Non cancerous tumours are called benign tumours and usually not dangerous to your friend’s health.
- However, Malignant tumours are cancerous and they aggressively invade the surrounding tissue and at the same time destroy and replace the body’s normal cells. When the cancer spreads to other regions of the body by way of the blood or lymphatic channels this is called metastasize. When the cancer metastasizes this results in the cancer spreading and invading other parts of the body and the cycle continues. There are many tests and imaging technology available at your Vet’s Clinic to evaluate tumours and determine a proper diagnosis and treatment. This is something you and your family should discuss with your Vet and you may want to find some support groups who will share their experience and give you time to share yours.
- Of course whatever treatment or path you and your family take always remember to take the best course for what is best for your dear friend.
We had a lot of good years with our senior German Shepherds and in Max’s case I would say that the last 4 to 6 months were the most challenging.
- There are many great orthopedic beds for your dog on the market today. Max had one for years and when his arthritis started to worsen I put about 3 to 4 more comforters on top along with his towels and of course he always had his own pillows. He seemed real comfortable in his bed.
- This kit is simple to use at home, you catch some urine and then with a dropper squeeze a small amount onto the reagent strips included in the kit, wait a minute and then read the strip. Of course this test is not to be used to replace your Vet but if you observe any irregularities in your pet’s habits or behaviour it may aid you and your vet to catch small problems before they become large problems. I first purchased this kit when one of my cats died at a very young age from kidney disease.
- I would now not be without one in my first aid items at home. Dr. Doug still took his own urine test to confirm and every time proved that my test was correct. Antibiotics seemed to clear up these infections that came from I do not know where. Maybe age and maybe there was something else going on. I have this kit in the Shopping / Specific Illness Support Tab of this site, if you wanted more info or wanted to buy one, it is called The Pet Check up.
- Once Max started to have difficulty with his swaying back legs and so forth, I purchased large carpets to completely cover our floors since the main floor is hardwood and ceramic tile which is very slippery for your Senior German Shepherd and this really aided Max in getting around. We also had an area outside where we sat with Max and my Husband put carpet there as well since it was winter.
- Occasionally I would wrap a heating pad around Max’s hip area after he came in from outside to help and add some comfort for him with the arthritis.
- On November the 1st, 2011 I telephoned Dr. Doug once again to tell him that Max could not get up the stairs. Dr. Doug who was always understanding and patient with me was a little more firm this time. He expressed that some let their dogs pass when they cannot go up the stairs, when they are incontinent, when they do not eat etc.
In my heart I knew that Dr. Doug was trying to express to me that one day soon I would have to let go. Max was still so bright and alert, he still had his vision and hearing and he still had a perfect appetite and his blood work was consistently “perfect” as Dr. Doug would say.
- So, Dr. Doug and I decided to add Cartrofin injections to Max’s medications.
- Every 7 days I gave Max Cartrofin injected into his neck area just under the skin. I had previous practice with injections since one of my cats needed insulin shots daily. Max did not even know when I gave him the Cartrofin shots.
- There was an improvement after his first shot, Max was getting up better and his walking had improved.
- In November my notes read that Max was outside playing and catching snow. The next day Max is not doing so good and is falling down.
This is how it is. Just like a roller coaster, one day good and the next day not so good. For whatever reason, Max started to not drink water so I added different broths or Clamato juice which Max always loved. This made his water much more appetizing to him and pleased me since he drank it all up. I told Dr. Doug about Max not wanting to drink water and he did not think that this was too much of an issue since Max continued to have a great appetite.
- In the Fall Dr.Doug performed an X-ray on Max and upon reading the X-ray he explained that Max did in fact have Arthritis. We received Metacam (liquid form) to be given every day with food.
- Metacam relieves pain in dogs with arthritis also referred to as osteoarthritis. If you wish you can find more information about this drug by pasting Metacam for dogs on your search engine. I have found that many senior dogs receive this medication and it has proven to be quite safe and is also prescribed for us humans.
- The Metacam did make a difference to aid in giving Max a more comfortable life. I saw the difference although he still had issues with getting up and climbing stairs.
- His symptoms were all still there but he had more better days at this time then bad. I believe that during the early part of the next year Max started to lose control of his bowels. When he went out in the truck he would have accidents. This was likely due to how excited he still got to go out with his family on our outings. It got to be that every time he went in the truck he would have an accident and this was not the most pleasurable to clean-up for myself and especially my husband who would rather bring the truck home for me to clean.
- Poor Max, his days of going trucking were about over and they were completely over when he could not get his front legs up for us to help him get in. It was just too much for the old guy.
- He also started to become incontinent in the house. He had no control of his bowels and he did not know when he was having a bowel movement.
- Max still had a good appetite, had an excellent attitude and could move around fairly well. I would not have him put to sleep or euthanized him just because he was incontinent. So I would put a set of towels that I only used for this purpose on the top of his bed and usually this made the poo poo fairly easy to clean up. I did have to do laundry daily in those days but this my friends was a labor of love.
- Needless to say Max’s disease was progressing, his back legs would cross over one another, he could not wag his tail, getting up was becoming a real challenge and the stairs to get up and down were becoming a real task for my old boy.
- Dr. Doug to the rescue once again, in the Spring of 2011 Max was given Tramadol to take with the Metacam and the Glucosamine mixes. I will never forget that day. Max looked really relaxed and happy. We all went for a walk that night and regardless of Max's condition he was still excited as ever when we would bring the lease out.
- The addition of the Tramadol really helped Max to relax more and help with the pain that he had. We had a good summer together but sometime in August I believe Max’s bed was urine soaked. I blamed the Tramadol medication, so I gave him less of this drug and he became in control of his urine once again although at this time I was not yet aware of the urinary infections that he was becoming more and more susceptible to .
On October the 28 th, 2011 I was upstairs in my bed and I heard Max attempting to climb the 5 stairs to the bedroom where he had slept most of his life. I heard him whimpering and pacing. I did not know what to do. I laid there for about 10 minutes listening to him. I went to try and help him but I did not succeed either.
Finally my brain turned on and I took his bed downstairs to the kitchen area. Max was so relieved he just sank into his bed and went to sleep. He slept there for several nights after that and then we decided to move the bed into our living room so we could all sit together at night. He seemed to adjust to this well except that every night he expected me to sleep with him in the living room.
While I watched TV at night Max would fall asleep and I would go upstairs to my bed. When Max woke up during the night and I was not there he would bark until I came back.
I contacted Dr. Doug again and gave him at least 50 pages on Degenerative Myleopathy. I was convinced that Max had this awful disease. Dr Doug who was extremely patient and understanding to my anxiety and fear agreed that Max have a prescription of Aminocaproic Acid Capsules until our DNA test came back from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals located in Columbia, Missouri.
Pet Care for your Special Senior
All senior dogs are not alike, just like us some are very old at 70 and others are still dancing into their 80’s and 90’s.
Some of our senior dogs will have special needs and they will require extra care then they once did in their younger years. This is the time that you and I can repay our dear friends for his or her years of loyalty and devotion that they showered your family and mine with.
I was one of the fortunate ones to have those special seniors and during this time of extra care there is
- Our seniors have other health issues and as mentioned earlier through-out this site, our dogs can get almost everything that we humans are susceptible to, at any age. However, as our senior shepherds age they are more prone to being affected by weight gain, gum disease, tooth decay, stiffness, sluggishness, arthritis, heart disease, urinary infections, incontinence, cancer, kidney, liver, vision and hearing ailments.
There is a truly special place in my heart for the senior German Shepherds, not meaning to exclude all other 4 paws .
SENIOR DOGS HEALTH ISSUES, arthritis, max's story & more
another extra special bond that develops between you and your precious family member.I did not only learn a great deal about home cooking and feeding our dogs from my mother but also I learnt not to give up to easily or to early.
- ARTHRITIS and/ or Osteoarthritis are common in German Shepherds and all dogs for that matter.
GERMAN SHEPHERD CANINE
Looking at this photo, I cannot believe how white Max got in his Senior years. However, very grateful that he did get to be Special Senior.
Photo above of Maxx in the living room on his bed.