What I do for Skai in his senior years
Not long ago, one of my readers called me irresponsible for suggesting that older dogs need regular exercise. I was surprised by the response. After a brief investigation, I discovered that it was the reader’s vet who discouraged her from exercising her senior. He simply believed that older dogs should not exercise because their joints wear out faster and become less mobile. When I heard this, I knew I had to write an article about exercise, injuries and mobility for older dogs.
The truth is, our dogs don’t have to be immobile and decrepit by the time they become seniors. Many of my current patients are now seniors and I see them doing better than I ever imagined. When my previous dog, Skai, was eleven years old, he continued to enjoy everything he did when he was younger. The purpose of this article is to help your dog do the same.
ALIGN HEALING WITH NATURE
For many years I have chosen one core principle in healing. Whatever the problem, I try to learn from nature.
For example, if you look at the way nature keeps water clean, it is quite ingenious. Water flows over rocks and boulders to become cleaner through oxygenation, it flows through the ground to be filtered, it is purified and processed using beneficial bacteria and when it enters the ocean, surf and sand provide more purification. The entire cycle ends (and begins) with evaporation and rain. The byproduct of this amazing process is better cleaning of everything that comes into contact with water. This is what I call inspiration for healing!
CLEANSING + DETOX
What seems clean is dirtier than dirt…
My twenty-year-old niece, who studies in Vancouver and lived with us for a few months, taught me a very good lesson. Most people are not aware that chemical cosmetics, perfumes and cleaning products make us sick and tired. I suggest that you leave out all chemicals in your home and read labels carefully. You don’t need a doctor to tell you that if a bottle has a warning label or a skull and crossbones on it, you shouldn’t have it with you. In a deep sense, the more often you use these chemical cleaners, the dirtier the cleaned surface is in terms of harmful, toxic chemicals.
HERE IS YOUR CHECKLIST FOR DETOXING YOUR DOG
FOOD – To get the job done, you may have to let go of a few preconceived ideas about dog food Accept that there are no processed kibble or canned foods that can replace a healthy raw or cooked diet with vegetables and raw bones.
If you don’t think you can afford raw or cooked natural foods, I encourage you to sit down, look at your budget, assess your priorities and make a plan. It might mean getting a better-paying job or giving up your daily Starbucks habit. Be kind to yourself in this process, but be careful not to just make excuses.
- THE LIVER is to the body what surf and sand are to the oceans. It cleans and purifies your dog’s body. I suggest you do a liver cleanse once every six months for dogs over two years old.
- THE DIGESTIVE TRACT To be healthy, your dog must be in top shape. Feeding processed foods can be compared to pouring sewage and chemicals into a stream or river.
- Chemicals and synthetic preservatives
- Processed food
- Grains of any kind, because in nature no dog would graze on wheat or corn
- Milk because no wild mammals consume it under natural conditions and it irritates the intestines
Cleansing is just the first step to good mobility and healthy joints.
Everyone knows that a car cannot run without fuel, a computer cannot start without electricity and a flower cannot bloom without the right nutrients. However, many people seem to forget this when it comes to nutrition. They do not see the direct connection between disease and deficiencies in essential minerals and amino acids, while at the same time vitamins and omega oils are supplemented more often.
One of the most common misconceptions is that supplements can be produced synthetically or supplied in the form of ‘crushed rock’. The truth is that real food cannot be manufactured from coal or crude oil, as most synthetic vitamins are. In my view, a substitute for chemical supplements is a rather failed imitation of nature’s mastery.
The next step to keeping your dog healthy and mobile is to recognize injuries and treat them without using pharmaceutical drugs. Falls, slips and slides often lead to unnoticed injuries that can culminate in chronic muscle spasms and weaknesses that affect various muscle groups, internal organs and glands that receive energy from the injured spinal segment.
If your dog is lame, it is easy to recognize an injury. But it’s easy to mistake a back trauma that reflects in the leg for a simpler leg injury. In addition, many dogs show no visible signs of injury at all until they grow older, when untreated trauma surfaces after years of inactivity.
To detect more subtle injuries early, I recommend running your hands along the spine a few times a week and pressing with your thumbs to detect any pain, heat, inflammation, or tenderness.
You can also compare the two sides for any differences. I highly recommend practicing this on a few dogs to see and feel the difference. If you notice any problems, consult a chiropractor, physiotherapist, massage therapist or osteopath. Unfortunately, Unless your vet has a special interest in this area, it is unlikely that he or she has taken any courses in this area. It’s only starting to show up in the most progressive veterinary colleges.
If nothing else, I hope you remember this: dogs are primarily built for trotting and walking, with the exception of short, intense sprints to chase prey. Modern dogs, on the other hand, often suffer injuries from inappropriate exercise, such as prolonged ball retrieval, jumping up, chasing Frisbees or swimming too much. Have you ever seen a coyote chase 60 squirrels in 30 minutes?
COLLAR INJURIES ARE MAJOR
Prong and shock collars cause many serious problems, but choke and regular collars are also unsuitable for most dogs. If you don’t believe me, put your dog’s collar around your neck, attach a leash and pull away! If a retractable leash is used, it adds an extra tug when a dog reaches the end of the leash.
The paradox is that many people seem to be stubbornly resistant when it comes to collars. They often interpret suggestions as criticism of their personal choice, forgetting that this is about the well-being of their dog. It only takes one tug to cause damage that can last a lifetime.
People who read my articles on this topic often send me emails describing the damage their dogs have suffered from collars: forefoot licking due to abnormal sensation caused by neck trauma, laryngeal paralysis, thyroid dysfunction, and in some cases even cancer.
It’s not so easy to see these connections when you observe one or even just a few dogs. However, they have become very clear to me after seeing thousands of patients. It has taken me many years to find the right harness for my patients.
ARTHRITIS VS MUSCLE AND BACK INJURY
I have seen countless older dogs diagnosed with arthritis when in reality they were stiff and tight due to injured and inflamed muscles. When an average dog groomer sees their dog slowing down, they almost automatically assume the dog has arthritis (joint inflammation). Such dogs are walked less rather than treated and this is a slippery slope, especially if there is nutritional deficiency and toxins. They’ll be stiff old dogs.
TREATMENT SPECIFIC TO JOINT AND MUSCLE INJURIES
Now you know that the best way to prevent and treat injuries is to feed your dog naturally, add good supplements and treat injuries with the help of an experienced doctor. There are a few things you can skip and add.
Ideally, DO NOT USE medications such as Metacam, Rimadyl and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They slow down the healing process and eventually lead to more serious injuries after a short period of improvement. Never use medications such as corticosteroids, as they have a very negative effect on the body.
REPLACE THESE MEDICINES with anti-inflammatory and joint-building supplements based on turmeric and mussels.
You may be wondering what ego has to do with healing. I see the human ego as one of the most common reasons why treatments fail. Ego sometimes causes people to prefer to be right rather than healthy.
Ego not only endangers patients and animal caretakers, it also causes problems in the medical world, where arrogance and fear of not knowing sometimes stagnate progress and the advancement of knowledge. To me, a good practitioner must be willing to say I don’t know, and then relentlessly search for answers.
THE SAFEST EXPERIMENT YOU CAN EVER DO
When I tell people that Skai was born in 2001 and they see him playing and running on trails, they find it hard to believe me. The photo of an old dog does not match Skai’s appearance and I see the same thing in the majority of my patients.
This is what we do
- Two walks of 45 to 60 minutes per day
- 20 minutes of cardio running once a week (slow rollers or a bike ride)
- Once a week a city street walk to rest
- Regular chiro, physio and osteopathy treatments
- Regularly comb, stretch and massage
- No prescription drugs
- No processed food
- No bread or grain
- No dairy products (they can cause stiffness and joint inflammation)
- Homeopathy if necessary
- Natural supplements
- Learn new tricks such as stretching, weaving, finding toys
- Quiet times
Did you notice that last bit? Coherence. Yes, consistency is especially important when we’re feeling lazy, unwell, stressed or too busy to stay on track. I know that if you find the right rhythm and follow the guidelines above, your dog will most likely live additional years of a happy and healthy life.
I sometimes find it interesting to see that there are so many people who are willing to pay anything to get extra years with their dog, but expect someone else to keep their dog healthy. Your job is to avoid being one of them. A good vet can be a guide, but a guide is of no use if the traveler refuses to travel. I wish you a safe and happy journey.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM