Caring for your senior dog
Just as with humans, our senior dogs suffer from age related problems and senility. The problem is however, is that they cannot always show us what is wrong.
Common health problems in senior dogs
- Deteriorating eyesight and hearing
- Kidney disease
- Weight gain/loss
- Dental problems
How do I know if my dog is in pain
There are certain breeds like German Shepherd Dogs, who are extremely stoic and will often hide their pain, so it is important to look for signs of discomfort and agitation. Senior dogs with arthritis, can be sensitive to touch and resent normal handling.
Sudden snappiness or aggressive behaviour is a sure sign that your dog is feeling out of sorts, or hiding away instead of coming to greet you. Changes in their eating pattern, excessive drinking and sleeping throughout the day are all indications that your dog is unwell.
Our eleven year old German Shepherd is now heavily panting, even though is had no exercise and is noticeably stiff when he awakes from a nap.
When to get treatment
Senior dogs do not have the reserves of a younger dog, hence time is crucial. It is far better to err on the side of caution and get your dog checked out as soon as you can.
You may also want to take more frequent trips to the vet, based on your dogs symptoms and be careful to administer the correct dosage of medication when prescribed.
Adjust their living conditions
For senior dogs with joint problems such as hip dysplasia or joint issues, you may want to consider giving your dog a ramp, to enable them easier access to the stairs or your car. Keep their foot and water bowls within easy reach and provide non slip mats on wooden floorboards or slippery floors. Heat pads can relieve a senior dogs achy joints, but check them regularly, to ensure that they are not too hot and follow the instructions carefully.
It is extremely difficult to see your once playful puppy turn into a senior dog with health problems and know that their time with you may be limited. They may have their ailments but they still feel as much love and loyalty as they did in their younger years.
The final goodbye
Sudden death is a rarity and it is more likely that they will give clues that they are nearing the end of their lives. There is a strong possibility that you may be faced with a heart wrenching decision about when to say your final goodbye.
Dogs that have been ill for sometime may fall peacefully to sleep, but it is more likely that their quality of life will diminish rapidly, forcing you to make a painful decision. It is important to remember that the rapid advances in veterinary technology may prolong your dogs life, but it is not always in their best interest to do so.
Your last loving act may be that of euthanasia, setting your dog free from their pain and suffering. Only you know what decision to take. When you see the suffering in your dogs eyes and their inability to cope with the smallest things, like eating and drinking and when their quality of life has completely diminished.
The final breath
Having your dog put to sleep is the most difficult decision you will make for your dog and I would implore you to stay with him until his very last breath. Try to stay calm, remain strong and if possible, hold them until they quietly slip away.
Take time to grieve
Just like losing a human family member, you must take the time to grieve. The loss of your pet can have a severe impact on your health so consider counselling or a support group. Dogs are with us through tears and our happiness and often are there when our family are not and their passing can leave a huge void in our lives. Acknowledge your grief, since it is an essential part of your healing. Take as long as you need and cry when you feel the need.
Bringing a Rescue Dog Home
There is nothing quite so rewarding as rehoming a shelter dog and with thousands in rescue centres up and down the country, not only are you offering them a loving home, but you are also making room for another dog who is equally deserving.
Rescue centres are under resourced and often overcrowded and some shelters only have a limited time before euthanasia is considered. Older dogs and those will health issues are often overlooked and it is they that are most likely put to sleep if homes cannot be found.
What to consider before adopting
Taking on any dog is a huge commitment and taking on a rescue dog can be a little more challenging.
The majority of dogs end up in rescue through no fault of their own. Breakdown of marriages, moving overseas, ill health of their owners or in some cases, they just may not go with the furniture. Yes it can be as heartbreaking as that!, but in some cases dogs can have been left alone for long periods of time and have therefore developed some issues, but nothing can cannot be overcome.
Things to consider
If you live in rented accommodation, you should first check the terms and conditions of your lease.
- Does your landlord allow pets
- Is your home pet friendly
- Do you have an adequate exercise area
- Are you at work each day and if so, can you afford the expense of a dog walker each day
- Vet fees. Veterinary care can be expensive, but necessary when your pet(s) become ill
A good rescue center will undertake a home visit to check that your house is a suitable environment and you will need to consider that some dogs may not have been house trained meaning that your carpets may become soiled and your furniture may be at risk until they are fully trained.
Which rescue centre to choose
There are rescue centres up and down the country, but it is important to choose the right one.
Reputable shelters will:
- Give each dog a health check before being collected
- Be neutered or spayed
- Evaluate your circumstances and suitability
- Match you to a suitable dog
- Provide guidance and support if required
The decision to take on any dog should be considered carefully and the whole family should be in agreement. By rehoming a rescue dog you are taking on their history and they must be given time to adjust.
Dog ownership in an enormous responsibility. You are also offering the dog a second change at happiness and deserve to be rehomed in an environment where they will be loved and cared for and they will reward you a thousand fold.
Summer is a wonderful time to be out and about for your pets and here’s some summer safety tips for your pets, when the temperature rises.
Symptoms of overheating in pets
These can include excessive panting and difficulty breathing. Pets with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are extremely susceptible to overheating as they struggle to pant effectively, so these types of dogs and the elderly should be kept cool whenever possible.
Always ensure that water bowls are topped up with fresh clean water and hutches are either brought in out of the hot sun or moved to the shade.
Swimming Pools & Salt Water
Do not leave pets unsupervised around a swimming pool – contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are good swimmers and do not forget to remove the chlorine/salt from their fur, so rinse well after a swim.
Just like us, dogs and cats require protection too and sunscreen is especially important for dogs/cats with white/thin fur.
Pet owners should remember to avoid any sunscreen that contains para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), since this can be toxic if ingested. Quite simply, never use sunscreen with zinc oxide on your pet.
If you are unsure what products to use, please contact your vets who will be only too happy to advise.
Have you ever sat inside your vehicle on a summer day in the searing heat, with the windows and doors closed? Try it! I doubt you will last for five minutes with feeling unwell, so PLEASE do not leave your dogs to swelter.
Dogs should never be walked in hot temperatures, so avoid the hottest times of the day.
Make sure your walks are done in shaded areas and take plenty of water with you.
Don’t forget that even the UK has snakes, most of which are harmless. However, Adders are poisonous and should be avoided where possible.
Adders are primarily found in heathland, dune grasslands and other naturally grassy areas, so do not allow your dog off leash in these areas.
Try to keep to designated trails and if your dog does get bitten, seek immediate veterinary attention.
Ticks are a common problem during the warm summer months, so check your dog regularly, especially when walking through wooded areas.
A good groom following walks, checking for any lumps and bumps. If one is found, they can be a bit tricky to remove, so twisting them off with a tick remover should do the trick, making sure that its head does not get stuck to your dog. If you are unsure, contact your vet for advice.
When the sun is at its hottest, surfaces such as sand and paving get extremely hot. Not can it only burn your pet’s paws, it can also increase body temperature. If it is too hot for bare feet, it is also too hot for your pet’s paws.
Hopefully, these tips will help both you and your pets to stay safe and enjoyable summer.
A Pet Sitter’s Diary
So peaceful. And then …. the baby alarm sounded. Moses the poodle pup (4 months old) had started to stir. I dashed from the bed throwing my dressing gown around my shoulders as I ran into the kitchen and opened the cage door to extract the most adorable puppy ever born. As I picked him up he started to pee, and continued to pee down my dressing gown until I reached the back door and then he stopped!
It was so difficult to put him down onto the cold garden slabs. He was adorable and like a living teddy bear. His pleasure at seeing me was so touching but his pleasure at suddenly seeing his partially sighted brother was indescribable. Poor Magic was subjected to repeated attacks from this little ball of ginger fur, huge eyes and a never-ending licking tongue.
The days were filled with regular play times in order to tire out the puppy and lots of cuddles for Magic so he wouldn’t feel left out. Moses slept regularly in his cage as he needed his sleep for his development. Watching Moses was a constant job when he was out of the cage as any lack of movement in his legs usually meant he wanted “out” but didn’t quite get the message to wait. Making sure Magic was cuddled and soothed and placated was also a necessity.
Walks were an experience. Magic being elderly was slow and meticulous in his smelling of every corner and paving slab. Moses, on the other hand, spent most of the walk standing on his two back legs and waving his front paws trying to win the attention of all passing walkers. Which he did.
This pet sit was such a pleasure. During the week I noticed Moses’s improvement in toilet training and routine.
Three months later and the gorgeous poodles are even more gorgeous. Magic is still partially blind but may be considered a suitable candidate for eye surgery very soon. Moses is now seven months old, still as adorable and a lot cheekier. Night time cage is no longer needed and both dogs like to lie on their own blanket, on the floor, at the base of my bed. Their gentle snoring is actually comforting and soothing.
Walks were determined by Moses whose furry face, huge brown eyes and wet nose would suddenly appear over the edge of the bed. Whilst putting on Moses’ harness and Magic’s lead, Moses would grab the lead and excitedly pull Magic towards to door to hurry things along. Magic put up with a great deal of bullying from Moses but the playfulness will decrease in time. Or will it?
My meals were taken in the kitchen whilst the dogs were eating. This worked very well as they didn’t hurry their food in order to follow me around the house.
Evenings were spent sitting on the sofa with a poodle lying across each foot…
Pet sitting is an adorable hobby and job. Why on earth didn’t I do it sooner?
There are many theories as to why cats and dogs eat grass, the most common being that it is medicinal to help them vomit. However, statistics show that less than 25% of cats and dogs that eat grass are actually sick!
Most cat and dog owners have regularly witnessed them eating grass, especially in the summertime, although it is much more common in dogs than cats, here are a few theories as to why are canine and feline friends chomp on the green stuff:
There does not appear to be any nutritional value.
Cats can regurgitate when they eat grass since they lack the enzymes which break down vegetation. This could be a way of eliminating indigestible matter from their stomachs.
It is thought that grass could act as a laxative, helping your cat with regular bowel movements.
While researchers find that grass eating is relatively common in cats and dogs, it is rarely associated to illness. However, it is extremely important that dog and cat owners are particularly careful about using pesticides or fertilisers on or near your garden plants since they can be extremely toxic.
To conclude, research has found that grass eating is extremely common that usually occurs in healthy animals and is not necessarily associated with illness or dietary deficiency.
So, these are just a few reasons why our feline and canine friends may eat grass, but there is another. Perhaps they both just enjoy the taste!
Do you love pets?
If you are an animal lover with at least fifteen years caring for domestic pets, live-in pet sitting could be the ideal job for you!
In order to join our award-winning team, you need to answer yes to the following:
- Do you have at least fifteen years’ experience caring for domestic pets. This can include caring for your own?
- Are you a non-smoker?
- Do you have your own transport and a clean driving license?
- Are you active, since most of your assignments will include exercising dogs on a regular basis?
- Are you honest, trustworthy and reliable?
- Do you have pets of your own? they cannot accompany you on assignment)
- Are you willing to travel and free of family commitments?
- Are you level headed and able to cope in an emergency?
- Are you willing to provide a police disclosure?
- Are you a resident in the U.K and do you have a permanent U.K. address?
If you have answered yes to all the above questions, we would love to hear from you.
Nina’s Nannies for Pets have a team of mature, responsible people working either alone, or as a couple. Our priority is first and foremost the care and welfare of clients pets and maintaining home security.
Duties will include:
- Maintaining home security at all times
- Not exceeding three hours away from the client’s property (dog walking duties are not included in your three-hour leisure time)
- Coping with emergencies as and when they arise
- Administering medication when required
- Keeping the pet’s routine
- Watering client’s tubs, hanging baskets (although heavy gardening is not part of your job description)
- Lots of tender loving care to the pets in your charge
We are unable to consider people who already have work commitments, or pets of their own, since they cannot accompany sitters on assignments. For full details please visit Become a pet sitter
So you have taken the decision to welcome a pet into your family for the first time, so what pet is best for you? Little four-year-old Peter is desperate for that beautiful fluffy bunny he fell in love with in the pet store window, while five year old Mandy has been pleading for a little kitten just like her friend Abigail’s. Decisions, decisions, what do you do?
Pet ownership is extremely rewarding and I have long been of the opinion, that animal welfare should be part of the school curriculum, but back to the question in hand.
Please do NOT buy or adopt on impulse and do your research before welcoming any animal into your home.
At Nina’s Nannies for Pets, we are keen advocates of #adoptdontshop and would always suggest visiting your local animal shelter. Pet stores are biased to selling their animals and in my opinion, are not best placed to offer the advice required, such as dietary requirements, socialisation and the correct feeding. In my capacity as a pet sitter, I have seen countless Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and small furries (with the exception of Syrian Hamsters), being sold separately. This is heartbreaking given that those mentioned are community animals and should never live alone.
Over the eighteen years I have been in business, I have shuddered at the inappropriate housing of some animals in our charge, such as tiny Rabbit hutches with little space for them to maneuver, Chickens kept in tiny pods which are completely inadequate, even for the pets for which they were intended and Ducks with just a bowl of water in a small garden.
When buying or adopting any pet, this should be a thought out, will prepared process. If in doubt ask a pet professional such as a vet, or visit the Blue Cross/RSPCA website, which are awash with information about all manner of pets.
Consider your home circumstances.
- What size is your garden?
- Do you work all day?
- Finances-can you afford the expense of owning a pet?
In order to decide the above, you should consider your reasons for wanting a pet. If it is primarily for your children, I would look to the small furies such as rabbits, guinea pigs or another hutch/cage dwelling creature. My particular favorite are fancy rats. Of all the little furries, fancy rats are by far the most intelligent. They are extremely affectionate little creatures and far happier if kept in pairs.
As with all pets, please consider adopting, but if you really want a pair of young rats ensure that you go to a reputable breeder.
If you are looking for a more energetic companion, then of course a dog would be ideal. However, if you work all day and require a more independent addition to your household a cat would be a purrfect fit. Again, there are dogs and cats of all ages and sizes in rescue centers up and down the country, but if it is a pure bred that you desire, PLEASE, ensure that you chose a reputable breeder and remember to:
- Never buy from a pet store or answer an advert in the local paper. These are often the window for puppy mills and should be avoided at all cost.
- Remember that the Kennel Club provides details of accredited breeders with registered puppies for sale and look on their website for contact details.
- A good breeder with be happy to welcome you to their home, where you can see mum interacting with their puppies.
- Ask the breeder for the KC registration certificate and worming information. A good breeder will ask their own questions and their premises will be clean and the dogs happy.
A good breeder will always do the following:
- Health test their breeding stock
- Take excellent care of their dogs
- Provide information and follow up care for those people buying their puppies
- Offer a lifetime of support to those who buy their puppies
- A good and considerate breeder, will have no more than three litter from a female in her lifetime and steer clear of any breeder who has different breeds of dog.
If you are still unsure, contact The Kennel Club who will be only too pleased to help.
I would strongly advise that your children are totally committed to caring for pet, since forcing a child into pet ownership will not teach them responsibility and you should be prepared to do all the caring yourselves.
Animals should be for life and not just an impulse buy.
Apart from the initial cost of buying your pet, be it from a store, breeder or shelter, pets are a huge financial commitment.
They have dietary requirements, suitable housing, grooming, holiday care and most importantly, health care.
Insurance is vital to the well-being of your pet and some can live for many years. The average lifespan of a cat is around 12 – 14 years and we have cared for some who have reached 20 and above!
Rabbits, mice, gerbils and rabbits make wonderful pets, but they need to be handled regularly. Rats especially, make wonderful companions for small children, since if socialized they are extremely interactive and affectionate, in fact I liken them to little canines in a rodent form.
All furies require regular cleaning and for some children this can be monotonous once the novelty of pet ownership has worn off. In this case, parents must be prepared to carry out these duties and where possible encourage children to continue with their routines.
Rabbits in particular can fall prey to the dreaded fly strike, a truly gruesome condition which occurs when flies lay their eggs on the rabbits rear ends. It is therefore imperative that their living quarters are kept clean and they are checked daily, especially during the summer months.
The above are the most popular choice of pets, with thousands of families welcoming them into our homes.
The majority of dogs are both loyal and affectionate, forming close bonds with their owners.
When choosing a dog, you should insure that he/she is the right breed, type for your family, which is why it is so important that you research your breed before making your decision.
Puppies and kittens need a lot of training and socialisation and may not be appropriate for young children. Adopting a calm friendly adult dog/cat however, who has been temperament assessed, may be a far better companion for your family.
As with all pet/child introductions, it is so important that you help your child to see the world through their eyes. Children would react if they were poked or prodded unexpectedly, so you should explain that animals must be treated with respect and kindness.
So have you done your research? If so, which pet did you get and did you adopt?
We all know that dogs and cats are happiest and healthiest kept indoors, but even cats who have access to outside require protection from extreme weather conditions such as cold, wind and extreme heat. With the temperatures set to plummet this week, it is time to spare a thought for all those animals who are kept outdoors.
Although snow may be a great source of fun for the family, you should always be prepared for the hazards it may bring, especially for our outdoor pets, so here are a few tips for keeping them safe during the cold winter weather.
Doggie do’s and don’ts during the winter months.
- Short haired dogs such as Greyhounds and Chihuahuas can be really sensitive to cold weather and benefit greatly from wearing coats during exercise.
- Pavements are usually salted during snow fall, so remember to wash pads and feet since it can be an irritant.
- NEVER exercise off lead near rivers or lakes. They can become frozen and although the majority of dogs are strong swimmers, prevention is better than cure!
- Be mindful of slippery conditions. The elderly should refrain from putting themselves and their dog at risk. You can always entertain them inside until conditions improve.
- Wearing bright or reflective clothing is advisable for both dog and owner to be seen by motorists, during dark winter evenings.
- If your dog is under active during the winter months do not forget to cut back on his calories. Extra weight can cause health problems so please do not kill with kindness!
- Dogs should NEVER be left outside in freezing conditions.
Cat’s survival guide
- The majority of cats like to remain inside during the cold winter months, but if your cat does enjoy snowy conditions ensure that they have access to indoors. If there is no cat flap, keep them inside as cats can suffer from hypothermia and develop frostbite.
- If you are keeping your cats inside, a litter tray should be provided.
- Cat flaps can become blocked in heavy snowfall, so if your cat does venture outside, ensure they are checked and cleared regularly.
- Cats adore warm places and often gravitate to the warmth of a car engine to keep warm. This can cause them to be trapped without food and water so check before making your journey.
- If you really cannot bring your little furies indoors during the cold winter months, hutches should be positioned so that extreme snow/rain cannot get in and covered with an old blanket or sacking. Many of our clients use an old tarpaulin under a hutch to provide extra warmth, but remember when covering with any material, to leave the front clear in order that your pets can still enjoy daylight.
- If a garage is to be their winter home, ensure that they have good ventilation (by a window) and an area that is damp and draft free. Fumes from your car can be fatal so do not use a garage that is used by a car. Out of sight should not mean out of mind, so do not forget them.
- Pets enjoy a thicker coat during the winter months, which can moult with constantly changes in temperature. Please therefore do not bring them inside at night to be put out again during the day. This could also cause stress and further vulnerability to the cold.
- Remember to add extra bedding and change it regularly.
- Water bottles can often freeze over when left outside, so these should also be checked on a regular basis to ensure that your pet(s), can still drink. Insulation sleeves can be purchased from good pet stores and if the water does freeze change for another as defrosted water can cause tummy upsets.
- For those people who think ‘well wild rabbits live outside’, should be mindful that they have underground burrows which are dry and draught free and are able to snuggle up to other bunnies!
- You can line the floor of your hutch with a layer of newspaper and extra hay/straw and you can now purchase a heat pad, but please remember to read and follow the instructions fully before use.
- Hutches should be kept clean throughout the year whatever the weather.
It is worth remembering that rabbits are communal animals and should never be kept alone. Kept in pairs they will be able to enjoy the warmth and comfort of each other, but check the sex of each one before pairing to ensure that you are not over run with their offspring.
Pets rely on us for their well being and safety, especially during harsh weather conditions, but if in any doubt, please contact your veterinary practice who will happily offer advise without charge.
We may still only be in November, but already Christmas trees and decorations are being hauled from the loft and with them come potential dangers to our pets.
Last Christmas, within 24 hours of publishing my vlog about the dangers of chocolate, I found myself and German Shepherd Dog Luika, in the vets at Leighton Buzzard, having his stomach pumped!
Such an embarrassment and a fine example of how quickly and easily dogs can capitalise on our mistakes.
Being a pet sitter, we have frequent visits from happy clients brandishing bottles of wine and boxes of chocolates. All of which we donate to the staff of local rescue centres as a thank you for their hard work throughout the year. Sadly they are all to often forgotten and without their dedication and hard work, pets would never find suitable homes.
On this particular day, my husband had answered the door, to discover a beautifully wrapped parcel on our doorstep. He was late for an appointment and left it on kitchen workshop at the same time as I had answered the phone.
I turned my back for no more than five minutes to discover on my return, a demolished parcel, an empty box of Baileys finest liqueurs and a rather sorry and furtive looking German Shepherd Dog!
I immediately reached for the phone to put our vets on alert, grabbed his lead and made a dash to the car. Luckily it was only a few minutes drive, who immediately administered an injection to induce vomiting.
For those of you who’s dog has never required a vomit inducing drug, I can assure you it is not a pretty sight. The next half an hour was spent watching my poor pouch, throwing up vast quantities of chocolate until the vet was satisfied that his system was completely clear.
With over eighteen years working within the pet care industry and a lifetime of owning pets and offering advice on my blog, I was aghast that this could happen to MY dog! It takes but a few minutes for your pet to find danger and Christmas is a time full of them for our pets.
Every string of tinsel, each Poinsettia and even a Christmas dinner, can hold dangers for our pets. Cats in particular, simply adore the allure of the Christmas tree decorations, so should never be left alone with its temptations and our pet sitters have lost count of the Poinsettia’s that have been relegated to a locked cupboard. Only last year, a client recalled how her prize Pug guzzled the contents of an unattended glass of sherry, which saw him spending Christmas night at the veterinary surgery, followed by a rather hefty vet bill!
The majority of Christmas dangers can be avoided however, so have a wonderful Christmas and remember to keep your pets safe.