Airedale Terrier Association
your pet ages:
sensory capability (loss of hearing, sight, smell, etc.)
dysfunction (who are you?, who am I?, what am I doing here??!!)
tolerance for temperature extremes, exercise, environmental change
need for urination and/or defecation
(diminished appetite, or, rarely, increased appetite)
(housebreaking problems, "leaking" or "dribbling")
(more time spent sleeping, less active or play time)
life in three-quarters time--slower to rise, longer time scaling stairs,
rising, stiffness in gait, generalized "lameness"
of warts, lumps, bumps, etc. (what one vet refers to as "the subcutaneous
adornments of aging"!)
behaviors--intolerance for sudden movement, loud noises, being left, environmental
stomach"--bouts of vomiting, diarrhea
susceptibility to viruses/infections and,
resiliency or ability to combat them
and graying coat
(NOTE: Many of the normal
vestiges of aging in dogs and humans are both degenerative and progressive...and
there is little we can do to ameliorate them except for accommodating to our
pets' needs...making them as comfortable as possible and modifying their environment
accordingly. Some "health issues" associated with the aging process are life-threatening--but
many of them are "treatable"! (Please see RX for
R-Dales!) The section below applies to the "critically ill pet" as
well as the aging pet!))
a Competent Veterinarian!
A competent veterinarian isn't always the one just around the corner from
you or the one that's open later at night or on weekends than the others!
Most veterinarians are
GPs (general practitioners); they are trained in attending to your
pet's basic health care needs! However, they may lack specialized training
in fields such as internal medicine, oncology, orthopedics, immunology, etc.;
and they may not hold endorsements for specialized procedures such as endoscopy,
ultrasound, laser surgery, etc.!
Some veterinarians have
undergone additional training to "develop or hone" these skills! Check your
vet's credentials! (see www.avma.org for a list of specialty colleges and
practitioners)! Choose your pet's vet wisely! (Please see: A Veterinary
a veterinarian who is "Age Friendly"! Many veterinarians
consider an old dog a dying dog! A friend of mine took an eleven year-old
blind terrier to a veterinarian who said, "Put him down...he's old, he's blind,
he'll get aggressive, and he'll bite!" Same practice, same terrier, several
weeks later, different vet, recommended nutritional supplements, environmental
interventions, etc.! That same terrier lived another two and a half years,
never bit anyone, and died of kidney failure at 13 1/2 years old!
vet who loves "OOFAs" (an OOFA is an Old Fogey)
and is willing to work with you to safeguard your pet's health and prolong
Your Commitment! An aging or "critically ill" pet may become both
"inconvenient" and "costly"! Are you willing to provide necessary veterinary
care and a supportive environment for the remainder of this pet's life?
(This is a question that any pet owner must consider...and, unfortunately,
one which no one but the pet owner and his/her pet can answer!!) *
see: "Letting Go"!)
you have a pet that has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness,
please see "The Critical Care Pet"!
you are willing to pursue options for your aging pet, despite his/her special
needs, please continue............
see the same veterinarian! Older pets sometimes
become "unwanted" notches on veterinarians' bed posts...they don't want to
lose them; sometimes, they don't want to treat them; sometimes,
they don't even want to see them! (If your pet's vet refuses to take
or return your phone calls, or tells you ANY vet can "treat" your pet,
or in any other way avoids intervening in your pet's behalf, assume
your pet, in that vet's eyes, suffers from DDS--Dead Dog Syndrome!)
important that your pet see the SAME veterinarian to ensure continuity in
your pet's care and treatment and to monitor changes in your pet's health
status! A vet who loves OOFAs (older pets) will
do all they can do to insure the longevity of your pet--they will be familiar
with the health history of your pet, they will be able to "observe" significant
changes in your pet's condition that perhaps you don't see on a day-to-day
basis, they will be able to offer an educated and calculated opinion concerning
your pet's health status, and they will be able to access your pet's health
a vet who will stand by you and your aging pet!!!!!
get a second opinion! There is no one who cares
more about your pet than you do! Don't expect veterinarians to press their
limits in finding "cures" or "answers" to your pet's health problems--especially
if they're old or have life-threatening illnesses! These are the dogs that
suffer from DDS! If your pet's vet is reluctant, resistant, or hostile
to the idea of a second opinion or a referral to a specialist or a school
of veterinary medicine, assume your pet's vet isn't interested in your pet's
health....and act accordingly!!!! FIRE HIM OR HER!!!!!
weigh the prognosis! Vets are sometimes reluctant to refer if they
are trying to spare you the agony and expense of pursuing treatment options
for a "non-curable', "non-treatable" pet! Weigh the diagnosis/prognosis
accordingly--see "The Critical Care Pet"!
You must be PROACTIVE concerning your pet's health! But you must also
be REALISTIC! Research and learn (Please check "LINKS"
for links to health-related sites!) YOU are the best defense your pet has!!!!
a record! It's important that you have an accurate
record of your pet's health history in case you need to take your pet elsewhere--an
after-hours emergency clinic, a specialist, or a school of veterinary medicine!
Vets are notoriously poor at record-keeping so make sure that you update "My
Pet's Health Checklist and My Pet's
Health History" everytime you visit your vet! Be Vigilante!!!!
Insist that you receive copies of any diagnostic procedures and results
of any "tests" conducted on your pet! You, after all, PAID FOR THEM!! Accurate
records are invaluable in providing effective veterinary care for your pet!!
living creature has limits! Dylan Thomas' ode to
his dying father: "Rage, rage against the dying of the light! Do not go
gentle into that good night!" I pray those I love DO go "gentle
into that good night"--it is inevitable! There is a time to let go...and this
is a decision you and your pet must make! (Please see Letting Go! if
you've lost or are losing a pet)! It brings to mind a poster: "if you love
something, let it go; if it returns to you, it's yours!"
then, I chuckle...an Airedale is never "owned" though many consider it "possessed"!!!
Your Geriatric Pet*:
to annual CBCs
to annual blood chemistries
to annual urinalyses
VACCINATE** (Please check out recommended vaccination protocols)
ANESTHETIZE except for "emergency" procedures
OVER-MEDICATE except for "life-threatening" emergencies, necessary interventions,
or preexisting conditions (always check on "contraindications"--when a drug
shouldn't be given and "side effects" for any drug prescribed for your pet,
aging or not!)
alternatives to traditional therapies!
best care you can provide for your pet, aging or not, is your own evaluation
of your pet's health status coupled with accurate diagnostic procedures and
timely and effective treatment interventions!
YOUR GERIATRIC PET...
pets are more sensitive to temperature extremes; make sure that they have
a warm, soft place to sleep when it's cool; a cool, soft place to lie down
when it's warm! Do not leave them outside "in the elements" if it's extremely
hot or cold for any extended period of time! (monitor wind chill factors
in the winter and heat indices in the summer)!
sure your older pet's coat reflects the season and temperature!Leave it
longer in the winter months for insulation; shorter in the summer months
pets often have thinning coats! In the summer months this may predispose
them to sunburn; in the winter months to frostbite! You can add a "protective"
layer to their coats by "dressing" them! In the summer, lightweight, light-colored
tee shirts work wonderfully well!Use a diaper pin to gather excess materials
on top of their backs! In the winter, old sweatshirts can be modified to
accommodate their needs! Cut the sleeves off 3 to 5 inches below the armpit
and gather excess material above the back with a diaper pin!
pets often have diminished eyesight! Keep obstructions out of their way;
do not "rearrange" objects in their living quarters or the environment to
which they're accustomed, unless absolutely necessary to protect them. (It
may be helpful to attach bells or chimes to doors or provide other auditory
stimuli to assist visually-impaired pets in finding their way "home!")
pets may also suffer hearing loss! Visual stimuli should introduced to your
older pet as soon as possible. For example, flashing outdoor lights on and
off as you call them in at night can be invaluable when your pet can no
longer hear you "calling"! Tracking them in daylight is far easier than
finding them at twilight!
signals can be equally effective for hearing-impaired pets if you can attract
their attention--i.e., if they respond to visual--sight or olfactory--smell
change your aging pet's environment without "acquainting" your pet with
the change! (I recently fenced off a potentially hazardous slope for an
aging pet with marginal visual (can't see it) and diminished auditory (can't
hear you) capabilities! He immediately and repeatedly ran into the fence
he couldn't "see", felt/edged his way along its perimeter, "saw" the
flashing night light, found his way home and now knows the perimeter!
change for an elderly pet is an anxiety-provoking experience!Make sure
you're there to coax and guide your pet through!!!! Remember, aging pets
with visual, auditory, and/or olfactory deficits can and do adapt!!!!
pets often become arthritic! Cement, tile, wood, vinyl or any other "smooth"
surfaced flooring may be very difficult for them to navigate! Inexpensive
rubber-backed carpets or bath rugs placed strategically on these surfaces
can help your pet more easily "rise" and navigate its territory. Many pet
suppliers offer products ("Shaw's Paw Wax", etc.,) to give your pet added
traction on slippery surfaces!
in older pets is common! Arthritic joints can be massaged; moist, warm heat
is helpful as is cushioned bedding! (Please check: Links
for on-line catalogs (suppliers) many of which offer "geriatric" bedding
are a number of medications on the market boasting "rejuvenation" of aging
joints! But be sure to check out the contraindications (when you shouldn't
use them) and potential side effects (what else your pet may get if you
do) before trying them! (Please see: Medical Miracles...or
Prescriptions for Problems!?
to keep your aging pets nails trimmed and the hair between the pads of their
paws clipped to insure they have the best "traction" possible!
as many "sharp" corners or "pointed" objects from your aging pet's environment
as possible--these are hazards that your pet may no longer be able to "see"
or "sense"! You can "duct tape" sharp corners with impact-absorbing foam
to "blunt" edges, etc.
that your older pet has ready access to both food and water, unhindered
by younger pets, the elements (e.g., frozen water), obstructions, or barriers.
your pet's intake and output (what they ingest and what they eliminate!)
Significant INCREASES , DECREASES, or CHANGES in intake and output may signal
pets often have difficulty "bending" to eat or drink! You can elevate their
food and water by placing their bowls on a bench, overturned bucket, etc.,
or buying or constructing "diners" expressly designed for this purpose!
If you feed your dog in a crate or run, buy bowls (clamp or hook-on style)
which enable YOU to attach them where they're most accessible for your pet--and
change them as needed!
pets may become incontinent! Many pet suppliers offer "doggie diapers" for
this condition! Alternatively, consider beds/bedding for your incontinent
pet which are machine washable or elevate your pet and allow urine to siphon
through the bedding! Be prepared to change your pet's bedding frequently!
Incontinence is a medical condition which, in some instances, can be treated
with medication! Please consult your veterinarian!
to the routines to which your pet is accustomed! Always feed them at the
same time, take them out the same doors, etc.! Change of any kind is very
difficult for an aging pet to accommodate!
important that your older pet get regular exercise...but don't overdo! The
aging pet you used to jog with two miles per day may find "shorter" jaunts
or walks, broken into several "outings" more manageable!
let your aging pet "run" with the kids--human or canine; their diminished
mobility, eyesight, and sense of balance may not afford them the opportunity
to get out of the way of rambunctious children or younger pets nor to withstand
the trauma of the "bumper car" mentality of younger animals or children
demoralize or stress your aging pet by throwing the ball or frisbee further
than your older dog can comfortably "retrieve"!
less strenuous "play sessions" with your aging pet! The "play behavior"
of adolescence becomes the "please behavior" of maturity! The importance
to your pet, adolescent or adult, is the completion of a task to "please"
YOU and earn rewards (attention, affection, etc.)! Be CREATIVE!!!!
is as important, if not more so, to your aging pet as exercise! The "Letting
sleeping dogs lie" philosophy may deprive your pet of the attention he/she
craves! Take the time to be with your aging pet; sitting in the warm autumn
sun on the lawn with you, lying by your side as you watch television, going
for a ride, or simply being WITH you as you go about your daily routine
are important "sharing" activities for your aging pet! Attend to their
emotional as well as their physical health!!!
neglect your aging pet's nutritional needs! (Senior foods tend to be low
protein and high fat proportionately, i.e., 14% protein; 12% fat is common--which
is a much higher ratio of fat to protein than most foods! Though
high fat and/or low protein diets may be advantageous for some conditions,
current research indicates that aging pets need as much or more protein
as younger dogs!) Senior foods may not provide your pet with adequate
change your aging pet's diet unless absolutely necessary! It is far more
difficult for an aging pet to adapt to a new diet than it is for a younger
one. If your older pet has trouble "chewing" dry kibble, grind it in a blender
and add sufficient moisture (distilled water, esbilac, or pedialyte) to
make a gruel they can more easily ingest!
having trouble getting your aging pet to eat, don't go "gourmet"! Offering
tasty but troublesome "treats" may cause severe gastrointestinal upsets
and potentially life-threatening complications such as pancreatitis!
instead, basing your geriatric pet's "modified" diet on foods your pet normally
eats: i.e., if your pet has been fed a "lamb and rice" kibble, consider
using lamb baby food or ground lamb and brown rice as an appetite enhancer
mixed with ground kibble!
include a vitamin-mineral supplement with any "altered" diet!
emergency, as a short-term strategy only, you can force not only fluids
but also food with your aging or critically ill pet by reducing the food
to a powder with a blender and adding sufficient moisture to make it a gruel;
fill a syringe (without the needle--you can purchase from farm or veterinary
supply stores or your local pharmacy) with the gruel and insert the syringe
at the back of the mouth, behind the molars (lift the lips and make sure
the tip of the syringe is above the tongue, and slowly express the syringe)!
and forcing fluids is only recommended if your pet has a "treatable" or
"curable" health problem or you are "maintaining" your pet until such a
determination can be made! It is not intended nor recommended as a long-term
nutritional supplements for your aging pet! Many of these contain antioxidants
and glucosamines or chondroitin-sulfates to ameliorate the effects of aging
and the wear and tear on sensitive joints.
over-supplement! Some vitamins and minerals in excess can be toxic! Always
consult your veterinarian before adding supplements to your pet's diet and
be sure to divulge ALL of the supplements (some pet foods now contain antioxidants,
chondroitin sulfates, and glucosamines) you're adding to your pet's diet!
your aging pet groomed! Many pets are resistant to grooming so it's important
to establish a regular grooming protocol early on!
YOU EVER TURN YOUR CLIPPERS ON, check for growths or warts--you might inadvertently
clip them off or gauge them in your grooming attempts!
pets may have looser stools, bouts of diarrhea, or become incontinent! Attempting
to remove caked residues from your pet's derriere may be particularly traumatic--failure
to do so may lead to more serious health problems such as blockages or infections!
Be sure to keep the "privates" clipped! (If you have the misfortune of having
slipped in this duty, apply moist paper towels or "baby wipes" to soften
and gently remove the residue--this may take several attempts; then bathe
or spray the affected area; finally remove any remaining "residue" with
clippers or scissors and bathe again!)
an older pet may be traumatic! Consider, instead, "sponge baths" with a
self-rinsing product (such as Bio-Groom's "Super Blue Plus") or, alternatively,
"misting" your pet with a dilute solution of Listerine (this has antiseptic
qualities, as well) or vinegar (which cuts through oils) and water, then
toweling, brushing or combing through your pet's coat!
or grind nails regularly--long nails on an aging pet reduce "traction" and
contribute to the risk of falls or accidents!
problems are common in older pets! Regular brushing and plaque-reducing
chew toys or treats may be helpful. However, if these fail, keep in mind
that the risk of anesthesia for a routine "dental" for your aging pet is
potentially life-threatening! Ask your vet, instead, about adding an antibiotic
that can penetrate bone (i.e., Anti-robe/Clindamycin) to your pet's regimen.
to any procedure which requires anesthesia for an older pet be sure to do
a blood chemistry to ensure that your aging pet can tolerate the effects
of anesthesia (a blood chemistry measures such things as kidney and liver
function--if either of these is compromised, anesthesia becomes more dangerous/life-threatening
for your aging pet)!
forms of anesthesia are "safer" for older pets (e.g., isofluorane, etc.)
than others! Check out the "safety" of any anesthesia for your pet! There
are some promising "new" (propofol) anesthesias with greater "safety" for
your aging pet.
your pet ages, expect metabolic, physical, and psychological changes...
These are changes over which your pet has no control!
loss of sight and hearing in aging pets produces "anxiety"! Sudden movements
or loud noises may be "threatening" to your pet! Expect your aging pet
to be less tolerant of children, new situations, loud noises, sudden
movements, and changes in his/her environment! Try to eliminate as many
of these anxiety-provokers as possible from your aging pet's environment.
aging pet who snaps at someone has probably not suddenly become vicious...but
is expressing fear or anxiety due to diminished sensory capabilites...and
should not be punished for this behavior!
aging pet who is no longer continent is not "punishing you" nor being
"bad" but has diminished bladder and/or bowel control!
aging pet who fails to respond to your commands may not be belligerent,
stubborn, or willful, but may have diminished eyesight or hearing!
strength, independence, and hardiness of the Airedale is legendary...I
consider their "golden years" payback time...my opportunity to return
just a fraction of the care, devotion, affection, and protection they
have afforded me!
the benefits of alternative therapies...chiropractic, herbal, massage, and
other "holistic" therapies NOT JUST FOR YOUR AGING PET, BUT FOR ALL OF THEM!!!!
These are complimentary (not contradictory) veterinary interventions
to consider for your pet!
CRITICALLY ILL PET:
diagnosis is CRITICAL to the effective treatment of your pet! Without a confirmed
diagnosis, recommended treatment options including surgical interventions,
may be little more than "sugar pills" or placebos that may not enhance your
pet's health or contribute to its longevity! It is difficult to make reasoned
decisions regarding your pet's health without an accurate diagnosis!
as in human medicine, sometimes a diagnosis is elusive and we treat symptoms
hoping to combat the disease! If at all possible:
Confirm the diagnosis
with a second opinion, preferably from a specialist
Pursue treatment options/surgical
interventions (preferably, from a specialist*)
If there is no "confirmed"
diagnosis, monitor your pet's health frequently:
RX Checklist including:
your pet eating and drinking?
your pet eliminating normally, urine and stools?
your pet "comfortable" (i.e., no symptoms of pain)?
diseases, injuries, drugs could cause this problem?
evidence can you offer that my pet has this disease or illness?
diagnosis CONFIRMED???? Ask for lab results, copies of x-rays, results of
diagnostic procedures, etc.!
is the prognosis (expected long-term outcome) for this disease?
condition considered "curable" or "treatable"? ("Curable" means treatment
can eliminate the disease; "treatable" means intervention can reduce some
of the negative effects of the disease but not eliminate it!)
are the risks to my pet's overall health if "treated"? (What are the potential
"side effects" of treatment? In other words, if I treat my pet for immune-mediated
disease with steroids, what is the chance that my pet will develop Cushing's
disease as a result of the steroid therapy?)
will happen to my pet if I don't intervene or treat? Are there alternative
therapies or drugs which might be considered with fewer, less noxious, side
effects or known contraindications than the recommended protocol?
interventions or treatments have proven most effective?
is the likelihood of a successful outcome from each of the recommended treatments
or interventions for this disease?
is the cost of each treatment/intervention, including routine follow- up!?
(Many practices are now assessing additional fees for such things as suture
removal, bandage changes, x-rays on orthopedic procedures, and routine follow-up,
etc. that have been considered, heretofore, part of the original treatment
protocol, included in the "estimate" for cost of the procedure!!! BE CAREFUL!!!
Many of these "procedures" you can perform yourself; many are unnecessary!!!!!
are the possible side-effects, even if successful, of this treatment?
are the "indicators" that my pet is not responding to this treatment or
that my pet is having adverse reactions to the treatment? And how should
alternative therapies/treatments are available if my pet is not responding
to this particular treatment or protocol?
direct me to resources/additional sources of information where I might be
able to access relevant information about my pet's health problem?
YE SHALL FIND! Don't hesitate to consult as many resources as possible in identifying
and delineating your pet's health problems, possible prognosis, and treatment
options! But beware! Not all of the information
"ye seek" via the Internet is ACCURATE!!!! Please consult the "Site
Map/Archives" re: guidelines for "Evaluating Your Pet's Health via the Internet"!