Daley, my Chocolate Labrador Retriever with many nicknames, inspires this blog.
The man in the brown suit’s main concerns were sniffing, snoozing and hunting for tennis balls until shortly before his 13th birthday when his back legs started to give out on him. So began our crash course in dealing with Degenerative Myelopathy, a spinal cord disease that targets older dogs and for which there is no standard treatment or cure.
I think the senior years are really the coolest stretch of a dog’s life but it’s not always an easy time. Whether it’s negotiating with a disease like Degenerative Myelopathy or responding to usual ailments, maintaining balanced health and quality of life for your dog in his later years can be tricky.
You have to ask questions to get answers so I recommend learning as much as you can about senior canine health and lifestyle issues. I’m a journalist so asking questions comes naturally to me but until Degenerative Myelopathy appeared in my dog, I mostly prescribed to the reactive method of canine health care — something goes wrong, you make a trip to the vet and she fixes the problem. Veterinarians are used to this method as well. But age complicates matters and the fact that dogs are so good at masking their pain can really work against an older dog’s health and quality of life.
In order to be proactive, you have to think differently about your dog’s health care once he becomes a senior. You’re not only going to have to ask questions but sometimes you’re going to have to find the answers yourself. My own pool of educators includes health professionals, research studies, books, blogs, friends and other senior dog caregivers. Daley’s Dog Years is my effort to share what I’ve learned and to add to your potential resources.
A great veterinarian and care team is crucial to your dog’s well-being; yet at the end of each day it’s you that your senior dog looks to for support. I consider this blog an ongoing note of encouragement to everyone who is supporting a senior.
As a bonus, Daley’s Dog Years is also a way for me to express my appreciation for older dogs and to spread the word: Seniors rule!