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D'Elle

Pampering and healthy things for older border collie

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My Kit is nearly 15 and a half now. She is doing really well, as best I can tell. Clearly she has developed some rear end weakness over the past few years, and has had substantial muscle loss in her thighs which again has happened slowly over time.

 

But she still has the strength to tug, even if not as strongly as she used to. She used to be more amazingly strong than you would believe a 44 pound dog possibly could be, and while her strength is only a fraction of that now, it's still not bad. She has a little trouble getting up the steps to come into the house, and sometimes refuses her meal.

Over all, I would say she is doing pretty well, and she seems happy. She has always been such a good dog.

I really love her.

 

I just wonder what you folks have done to pamper your old dogs, and what advice you have for good-health things I could do for her. I know I can't really control how things go but sure would like to keep her with me as long as I can.

Thanks.

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Massage and adequan. Those are two things I will remember to use in the future for my dogs. Health checks with a vet that actually listens to you and doesn't see you as a dollar sign. A good grooming to keep her clean since it's harder for them to do so. Nice quality time doing what they love. A good paw massage is always the most relaxing thing for my golden who is technically not a senior, but regardless, loves them.

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Oh and feed them what they love as often as possible. That was our trick when Nikko refused food. We bought loads of good quality canned food and used those when he wasn't too into his usual food. May not have been the best diet, but in the end, their happiness matters too. When my grandfather died by grandma regretted not letting him eat certain things that would have made him happy.

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I get my old dog to stand up gently on her hind legs, leaning her front paws on me, regularly. I hope that it'll stave off the dreaded hind end weakness.

 

I also bring her out everywhere. I mean, everywhere. She gets tucked into a backpack and I bring her around shopping. We go to the pet shop where she is allowed to poke boxes to ask for things (though she is not allowed to reach out and take them).

 

We go to the park. We sit together under a tree while she sniffs the breeze. She goes on the train and comes with me to historic places. She goes to friend's houses and sits in the corner just chilling with her people. We all do picnics together.

 

Not sure about her hearing status but my girl went deaf and it made a huge difference that she already had hand signals.

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I do tend to let them do more of what they enjoy and am less demanding. Food, treats, one-on-one time, health care - they don't ask a lot, and it takes so little to make them happy.

 

Not wanting to eat: If it gets more serious, talk to your vet about trying mirtazipine. Once Ritz (sheltie-mix rescue) pretty much gave up on food when she was 17, the vet suggested trying mirtazipine. If it is going to work, you will see an effect within 24-48 hours so you don't have to buy a lot of tabs. Even so, it is quite an inexpensive medication.

 

Comfy bed: Another dog I had benefited from a Kuranda bed - basically a bed 'frame' that is elevated about 4-5 inches from the floor. I put a thick dog pad bed on top for cushioning. The extra height made it easier for him to lie down and get up.

 

If Kit likes to watch anything (people, birds, mountains), bring him somewhere he can sit and chill out and watch. We live on a hill, and Ritz used to love going out in the yard and looking down the hill. She would sit there for as long as we let her. I don't know what was going on in her mind, but when I let her outside, she would do her business and then go find her spot to sit and watch. I could go and walk the other dogs for 10 or 15 minutes, and she would still be sitting and looking down the hill when I came back. I have noticed that now that Torque is older (almost 10), he is beginning to go and sit and look down the hill.

 

And as an oldster, anything she did that she thought was pretty good, was celebrated with pets or food.

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I've been fortunate to have 4 of my five dogs make a gentle ride into old age. The 'upgrades' to their care were gradual, it's kinda hard for me to pull up specifics.

 

What others have said about doing more of their favorite things is basically what I've done. Gibbs will be 10 in October, and I notice that he's slower and is content with shorter walks. He still loves trick training, 'adaptive' agility classes, and nose work, so we do at least one of those activities, usually 2 about 5 days a week. I hide his morning kong for him to find, for example. Days that I forget to do that I get a little bit of a disappointed look. He's liking being petted/groomed a bit more than he did earlier ~ particularly this one style. I put my hands on either side of his rib cage and rub fast and pretty firm. He'll stand there wagging his tail. When I stop, he gives this little wiggle, turns around, and 'assumes the position' again, looking up at me with a grin.

 

He also loves his walks with his dogwalkers, and gets those when I'm working long days.

 

Ahhhh, older dogs. Such sweet memories.

 

Ruth and Gibbs

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Ahhhh, older dogs. Such sweet memories.

 

Ruth and Gibbs

 

 

yeah.

 

My Jester really didn't change at all, was a driven and high energy dog right to the end. It still makes my heart hurt to think of his last days when he had all the same drive he ever had, but his body had broken down and he could no longer see, could not get up on his own even to pee, and if he tried to walk he fell down. It seemed all wrong to me to kill a dog who still had such a drive to live and to run. I know that technically I did the right thing making that decision, but it was terrible.

 

But Kit, who was always a sweet loving dog, has just become even more sweet and loving with me, and more playful -- in an old-dog way - with the small dogs, who both seem to love her. Such a good and kind dog. She brings out the best in me, because she is so gentle it makes me be also.

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It's the worst seeing them think "why is it so difficult to do this?" That was the worst part for me with Nikko. Poor guy. He always put on a face for me like "I'm fine! Really!" He told me when he was ready. So cliche, but true. Man I miss that dog. His ashes are right next to me.

 

Anyways, Kit is so beautiful! You are so lucky to have such amazing dogs. They are lucky to have you as well. :)

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For me, the main thing is letting them eat what they want (if they get to the point of being picky)--within reason obviously. A couple of my oldsters really preferred Purina One, and by the time they're 14-16, my attitude becomes, "Who cares? If they like it and will eat it, then make it happen." It's not as if feeding them something that's not the best is going to kill them over the long term at that point.

 

I also watch closely for any signs of weakness or pain associated with arthritis or other old age issues. I think it's critical to keep the oldsters as comfortable as possible so they can actually enjoy life as much as possible and so I will readily consult with the vet to make sure that the old ones are as pain free as possible. On a similar note, I've used natural remedies like cumin or cinnamon to help with inflammatory issues. I pretty much look at the individual dog and try things until I hit on the thing(s) that works.

 

For rear-end weakness I have had great luck with Ruffwear webmaster harnesses. Both Jill (dysplastic) and Kat (FCE and vestibular) wore the harness 24/7 (for the most part) the last year of their lives. It made it easy for me to help them if they were struggling to get up, needed help up or down stairs or over obstacles, or with similar issues.

 

Depending on your situation, helping them go gracefully through their geriatric years may mean doing things like adding runners to help them get traction if you have hardwood or tile floors, buying special orthopedic beds, building ramps (I built a ramp for Boy when he was old, it transported it when I moved. It came in handy for Jill, Willow, and Kat later on.)

 

For dogs who get restless at night, melatonin or benadryl can help them sleep. A raised food bowl can be a tremendous help to a dog who's become arthritic. Also, several of my older dogs seemed to have issues with nausea-related anorexia in the morning, so although I was generally a once-a-day feeder, I would add a second small meal and also give a dose of 10 mg of famotidine (Pepcid) at night, which seemed to help with morning anorexia.

 

A lot is just trial and error, knowing your dog well, and adjusting to his/her needs as you see things changing or becoming more difficult for them.

 

ETA: I have also used acupuncture and other services from a rehab/alternative vet to help make my oldsters more comfortable.

 

J.

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Thanks for all of the suggestions, Julie.

 

One thing that concerns me is that she started refusing her breakfast quite often a few months ago and now virtually never eats breakfast at all. I give her more at dinner to make up for it, and most of the time she does eat at dinner, but I don't know if eating once a day is good for her or not.

 

So I debate with myself: should I just stop offering her breakfast at all, and give her twice as much for dinner, or should I keep trying other things for breakfast? She will always eat scrambled eggs for breakfast, but is that healthy for her?

 

Your suggestion of feeding her whatever she wants even if it is not the best food makes me wonder if I should just go get some regular canned dog food and try that.

I do buy some canned, the better kind, and use it as a topper, but what I buy is too expensive just to feed it as a whole meal. The cheaper brands all seem to have byproducts in them and that makes me hesitate.

 

She gets boiled hamburger and rice on all her meals; usually it comprises 25 to 50% of the meal. I could, I suppose try giving her even more of it and less kibble but I wanted to keep giving her kibble to try to keep things balanced. The kibble has added nutrients in it.

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I second Julie's suggestion of Pepcid at night. If she has tummy troubles at all, the build up of gastric acids overnight can lead to a 'yuck' feeling in the morning.

 

Generic Pepcid is pretty inexpensive, and a few days of it will let you know if that's the problem.

 

Good luck!

 

Ruth and Gibbs

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D'Elle,

I'd try the pepcid before wholesale changing of food or stopping breakfast. She may be at a point where she's just going to occasionally refuse breakfast, but the pepcid really may make a difference. And if you haven't tried different kibble, give that a try. I also used premium canned food to mix with the kibble, but I couldn't afford to feed straight canned. She may find a different kibble more palatable. I'd probably go with smaller bags because then if she eats for a while and refuses you're not wasting a bunch. Heck, try Purina One (Vibrant Maturity). If it meets her general nutritional needs, then I wouldn't worry about the actual makeup of the food (e.g., if there's corn or other grains). I really do feel that when they get to be that age (especially over 15) every day you get is a blessing and you're not likely to shorten their lifespan no matter what you do.... (I know that some dogs live to be 16 or 17, but I think getting past 15 is pretty darn elderly for a border collie. My Willow had a serious heart murmur and lived to be nearly 17,and was pretty spry, all things considered, until suddenly she wasn't. My point is that I don't think you can really hurt her no matter what you do at this point, unless you just go totally crazy with bad foods or the like.)

 

For years I fed once a day, but I think it might be easier on the oldsters to feed them smaller meals more often, so I'd definitely try to stay at twice a day. That said, if she's eating kibble at night, then I think you could get by with just feeding her whatever yummy thing she might want in the morning. But I agree with staying with at least some kibble because it should be nutritionally balanced.

 

The one food that always tempted my oldest/sickest dogs was rotisserie chicken. Maybe try that as a food topper? Mine also love things like cottage cheese, canned mackeral, and canned salmon. Some people say that sprinking the food with Parmesan cheese works. Another option is to try something like satin balls (Google for a recipe) or just try plain people oatmeal with added goodies in the morning. All of my dogs have loved oatmeal. You could also try digestive enzymes/probiotics (I use Naturvet brand on a couple of my dogs now). But really, I would give the pepcid a try first and then go forward from there.

 

I don't know if eggs every day would be a problem--I tend to feed my guard dogs eggs daily because we have tons of them here from the chickens. No one seems to have had any ill effects yet! Just beware of using too much fat when cooking them.

 

J.

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I too have used pepcid or tagamet 30 min before a meal, some vets have a preference which to use. I also have fed boiled or cooked in a crock pot chicken, grilled chicken breast, liver, sweet potatoes, pasta,cottage cheese, eggs, carrot, beans... Some dogs eat when fed on/in something else like paper plate. Don't know why but it makes a difference. Sometimes warming it up a bit makes a difference. I think they eat better if I cut everything up small so they do not have to chew as much. I also tend to add a bit of water thinking they do not drink as much either.

 

Pretty much whatever they eat is offered two or three times a day.

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Just eggs for breakfast is fine. When my golden was a puppy, she got her regular food, a dollop of yogurt, and a fried egg every morning. If it gets something in her, why not? And we went the canned food route when my guy wouldn't eat as much. You can also mix it with her regular food, heat it up a bit, and let it meld together.

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I honestly can't remember all the different foods I offered Tilly during her last year when her appetite was off. ;) Someone, I think it may have been here on the Boards, suggested canned ravioli. She did like that for a while, and I've also used it for a very picky senior toy poodle I was pet sitting, too, who ate it when she wouldn't eat anything else. That dog also loved baked sweet potatoes.

 

If Kit will eat an egg for breakfast, by all means let her have it. Eggs are very nutritious and with the shells are a very nearly perfect and complete food. Shells from farm eggs (meaning not purchased in a supermarket) are best because they haven't been coated with something to keep the eggs fresh longer, but at her age I don't think I'd even worry about that too much. You can just blitz it in a blender (wouldn't recommend a food processor unless you don't mind it sanding the plastic bowl).

 

I know you're cherishing the time you still have with her, so I won't remind you to do that. :)

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Thanks so much for the suggestions, everyone; especially all the ideas Julie mentioned. I assume that Pepcid can be bought OTC? I will look for some and try giving it to her at night.

 

I guess whatever she will eat is what I will feed her, as you all say. She is thin, but is not emaciated. She looks very thin in her hindquarters, but that is due to muscle loss. Her ribs and backbone have an appropriate level of flesh. As I say, definitely thin but I am not worried that she is starving. Last time I weighed her, maybe two months ago, she was 44 pounds, which is only 4 or 5 pounds under what she was at her peak. I am pretty sure she was never over 50.

 

She will eat something at every meal, even if often not what I think is enough, but only if I give her the right thing for that meal. The problem is finding what that is each time, because it changes all the time, and the waste that occurs if I have to try three or four things before she eats. Of course, my smaller dogs can get what she doesn't eat at the next meal, but sometimes there's too much and if kibble has been soaked in something else or a topper I won't keep it past the next mealtime.

 

thanks for the oatmeal suggestion.....I had forgotten that she will always polish off any leftover from my own breakfast, so I will try giving her some of that for breakfast. :-)

 

And, yes, I do cherish her. I can't believe that she is this old already. She came to me when she was already six, and I wish I had had her all her life. She's such a lovely dog.

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Just want to report that the Pepcid at night does seem to be having a positive effect.

 

Also helps if I don't give breakfast first thing upon getting up, but wait an hour or so. the other dogs are dismayed by this latter, but the combination seems to be getting breakfast into Kit on a regular basis.

 

thanks again for that suggestion. Very helpful.

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