Rescue Journal

carol on aging

Carol  ·  Jul. 15, 2013

Sheila suggested I write some caring for geriatric posts on the facebook site for folks. I don't know how to post on there and not too into learning either. so I think I could post some stuff on here and if it is of any value, someone can link it to facebook if they want.

here we go...

Aging Dogs

Dogs live in the moment. What is going to happen in 5 minutes or 5 days or 5 weeks is not their concern. This is the one real benefit to them in living with humans. We can use our common sense and know how to protect them in their future.

Dogs are aging to greater years then they ever have before. At SAINTS we have small dogs living to almost 20, and even have (had) large dogs live into their very late teens. But the truth of the matter is, even tho the dogs are living longer, their bodies are still wearing out. Al, Manny, and Maude by living until 17, 18 and 19 years old, were the human equivalent of over one hundred. 16 year old dogs depending on size are well into their 80's and 90's.

We need to think about this and really understand what it means.

We humans who love our dogs so passionately sometimes forget what aging means. We would never expect our 90 yr old granny to take a long hike or run with us. The problem with dogs is they do not know they are 90 so they will go along with us where ever we decide, even if it is a bad idea. We believe they love those long hikes so well that to deny them would be unkind.

When I was in my 20's and 30's, I loved downhill skiing. Now I am in my 50's and pretty arthritic, it would be stupid to try to go back to the slopes. Even if I didn't break something, for the next week or so I would not be moving too well. Living is hard on the body, and aging bodies feel the pain of previous living pretty damn well.

I am forever counseling our folks to not let the old dogs over do it. Just getting them in and out of our vehicles can hurt them. Long, slow walks are still very far away from home. We have had volunteers here that I had to let go, they just could not comprehend that it was not safe to walk our old dogs for miles down the road. "The dogs like it," they say. Well of course they do because dogs live only for today. But when tomorrow comes and we wore them out, over stretched their arthritic joints and atrophied muscles, when we stressed their hearts and their lungs,,who pays the price for that hour of fun? They do of course.

Crash loves going down to the bottom field and chasing Buddy around. But Crash is a crippled moron, he simply can't do that anymore so he has to stay up at the house. Is Crash pining away because he can't go down and chase Buddy? Absolutely not, he just waits for Buddy to come home and then follows him around the house or the yard, barking his head off like he always does. And at the end of the day and the next day too, Crash can still walk.

I watch people with old dogs, throwing balls and encouraging their old dogs to jump and run. Look how joyful they are, well that joy may not last.
I think they are actually encouraging their dogs to suffer a major injury from which they might not recover. We can still play ball with our old dogs, but they don't have to run hard or jump high. They will still enjoy a scaled down version that won't hurt them. It is the ball and us together that they love, it is not the sprained back or torn knee, or hurt hip that is fun.

If we look at our 14, 15, 16, 17 year old dogs and think about how their age compares with humans. We realize that they do need extra concern and care to keep them healthy and well. They are not going to figure it out on their own. They need us to think ahead.

The other thing we can do for our aging dogs is actually admit they are aging. This means they need things like glucosamine, and cartrophen then regular doses of anti-inflammatories and finally even opiates for pain control. Don't wait until the dog is so crippled with arthritis that even the most in denial person can't ignore it anymore. Keep those joints healthy and comfortably moving by being proactive and helping them before its too late and the damage is done.

Dogs do not grow old over night. It is an insidious process. We know this, we only have to look at ourselves to feel age creeping up. Our job is to help our dogs age comfortably by understanding the aging process and taking steps to minimize the effects.

If we want our dogs to age well then we have to help them. Find the things that they like to do and help them do them in a safe and comfortable way. And when the time comes to slow things down a bit, don't feel like you are taking something they love away. Replace it with something else just as fun or exciting that won't cause them undue stress or pain.

Dogs live in the moment, but we want them to happily live for many tomorrows. All we have to do is think about it and come up with a plan to help them to continue to live really well..even when they are ancient and grey.

photo crash-1.jpg



Thanks for the very timely reminder Carol. All of my animals are seniors now and short walks are all they want. That and dinner and a snooze afterwards. I fondly remember having to push a stroller along the beach with Bobby, my 25 pound Shih Tzu, in it because he wanted so desperately to come come for walks with the younger gang but couldn't manage more than a short walk. Brings back memories.


i am not familiar with the food brand options down in the states but our crystal cats really seem to like the canned MediCal CD feline food. all of our bladder cats get a series of 4 weekly cartrophen injections, then a couple of monthly ones and finally a maintenence schedule of an injection every three months. the cartrophen promotes a thick mucousal lining of the bladder which decreases inflammation and protects the tissues.

not sure if that is much help to you. the only other alternative is to try a high fish content canned food with a good water content and keep him off dry food altogether.


Hi Carol,
This is a bit off topic as it is about cats, but I need your help and insight and experience.
One of my cats used to belong to one of my neighbors. His family moved to Houston, took their other three cats with them and left him here to fend for himself living in a drainage ditch. We cheerfully took him in and he is my snug-bug cat. I am a side-sleeper and he tucks in under my chin every night and I go to sleep telling him he is my "fine cat".
He is about 6 and has been with us for 4 years now. All my cats eat premium food and drink bottled water and get regular vet care. Two years ago he developed Struvite stones which we had removed. Now he is having recurring bouts of calcite crystals, struggling to pee and peeing blood. I had his urine cultured and there is no bacteria present. He won't eat the scrip food with the neutral PH, nor will he eat the canned food (which he'd be lucky to see as the other two cats think it's quite the bomb) so I spent an entire day on the phone with all the food manufacturers to determine which food is closest to PH neutral. The only thing which seems to help him is Osnior, which he can only take for a max of 3 days. I talked to his vet yesterday and he said these cat-bladder things largely remain a mystery and that he has actually had to euth cats because of this. that would absolutely break my heart.
I gathered from your blog that you have a fairly high number of animals with bladder issues and am hopeful that you have discovered some miraculous combo of food and meds which will help me save my sweet little boy. and yes he's neutered.
Thank you,


Thanks for sharing Carol I read all your posts . I am sure young puppies jumping out of trucks& big SUV's for yrs and now struggling to walk ' sometimes sliding on ice covered side roads to get their footing before going for a pack run.
You are so right on as long as they do some thing they love they will live in the moment . they are part of our lives old or young' thanks for this wonderfull blog. Polly'


Lenore, I loved what you said. As a volunteer, it is so nice to know that our visitors recognize and acknowledge our aging furry friends. I have two aging dogs ( one from saints), and I get where our are coming from. 2 blocks can be too much, so we do one and they get carried upstairs....we call it airlift lo

shelagh f

my old guy always looks unhappy when we only go for
a short walk, especially in this heat, I remind him,
we have to get back too.
And he hates to get carried, because he can't breath
if you squish his chest. He still thinks he can do
it, but I always leave him wanting more.


Thank you for this. We're making our almost 15-year-old dachshund comfy these days. He has Cushings, and probably a pituitary tumor. We're not getting him tested for that because We have no intention of putting him through radiation, the only therapy available. He's taking Vetoryl for the Cushings, but hard though it will be to let him go when it's time, we will. It's so easy to put dogs through things when it's really for us, if we're honest enough to admit it. So he doesn't get dragged out for walks, because it stresses him physically, even though he might enjoy it for the moment.

Grant Hayter-Menzies

Carol, this advice is both beautiful and down to earth - music that everyone with a dog needs to hear. Thank you!



Very well said! So sorry I missed Sunday bedtime. Got sick again. Iv. Bs.


all dogs age differently..big dogs faster than small dogs. dogs like black buddy after a brutal life, become ancient at a mere 10 yrs old. it depends on genetics, and lifestyle and underlying disease, and how good of care and nutrition that they received. sometimes it depends on luck, severely injured dogs who sustained fractured spines in their youth like parapalegic max and chance, just don't live as long...being parapalegic is hard on the heart. diabetics don't live as long and cancer can hit anyone and age dogs fast. and it depends how happy they are...joyful dogs live longer than those who are sad, constantly worried, hopeless or depressed.

but you look for subtle signs....slower to get up, a change in behavior, reluctant to lay down or circling and circling for a long time, before laying down, a change in weight or gait, slow or reluctant to sit ( some aging dogs do not like to sit, it is hard on the hips) any loss of interest or increase in anxiety...sometimes the signs are so subtle..unless you are watching, they are hard to see.

but an average indicator is the age of the dog...12/13/14/15 depending on size...they are getting up there. time to pay attention to the little things. most vet clinics have age charts to compare human and canine aging depending on is a good place to start.

Lenore Henry

Well said Carol. Ever since our first visit to SAINTS, my husband and I were having a hard time coming to terms with our rescue Lab, Bailey's aging. He is 13 years old now, alot greyer and has arthritis in his back legs which is eased with his monthly shot of cartrophen. We saw dear Black Buddy, with his arthritis and all that he had endured in his life, living and loving in the moment, albeit for the short time he had at SAINTS, sweet Tess who so lovingly nudges up to everyone for a pat when her legs are almost giving out to name just a few and we realize how important it is to listen to what our animals are telling us as they age. We wish our Bailey could run and chase a ball like he used to, climb the stairs at night to sleep beside our bed as he had always done but the reality now is that he is cannot and we compromise by taking him on leisurely strolls, on his terms, sniffing every inch of grass that he wants. Unfortunately he had a fall on the stairs and no longer can make it up at night so we make sure he has the best couch in the house downstairs to curl up at night on and dream away the hours. Dogs have a marvelous gift of showing us humans how to slow down and enjoy the "now" of every moment we have with them whether they are new pups or our beloved seniors. SAINTS teaches us all that whatever our animal's age or disability, they can still live their later years giving us back love and companionship as they always have - that never changes!

Barb H

So, how do you know when 'old' sets in. Is the 7 years for each human year a good estimate? Just not sure when tapering vigorous activity should start, and I wouldn't want to cause our pooch any undo stress.


Good post. I have two 14 year old dogs and I often forget they are old. At times they seem so puppy-like and want to play. The heat is really sapping their energy, and mine. No more walks in the day until it cools down some.


good post carol. i need to be reminded that my boy buddy is old and cant do too much. i sure would have loved to see him when he was younger and more active. especially in this heat i will not take him out he likes to lay on the cool floor in the house. you are right i can do lots with him that does not involve wrecking his poor legs. at his age really wants to sleep a lot. used to think it was because he was bored but realize it is because he is old. sleeping, eating and burying his head between our legs is all he really care about. lol