Healthcare Tips for Senior Dogs: Fostering Senior Shelter Dog CX - Part 2
Fellow volunteer, Jennica has been dedicated to helping shelter dogs in Singapore for years, especially the dogs at SOSD Singapore and OSCAS (Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter). Last year during the circuit breaker, Jennica and her husband decided to foster CX, a lovable senior dog from OSCAS who they have been actively helping with her health issues. Besides CX, they have their own senior dog Helix (who they adopted and brought over from the US) and then another two Singapore Specials, mid-aged Goofy and young Senna. We had a chat with her about looking after her seniors.
LD: We are so happy to see CX in your loving care at your home. What was CX's health situation when you took her in at your home to care for?
JL: CX started "knuckling" which basically means when she walked she was flipping her back foot over and walking on the top of her foot because she couldn't feel the foot. It was gradual at first, but then it started happening a lot during her walks at OSCAS. When Circuit Breaker (CB: term used in Singapore for the lockdown in 2020) was announced my husband and I decided that she should come and live with us so she could have constant care and supervision.
LD: What are some of the steps you've had to take to help her with pain management and losing weight?
JL: CX LOVES her food and has always been one of the "larger" dogs at OSCAS. To help keep weight off her bad foot/leg the vet recommended she go on Royal Canine Satiety, which gives her all the nutrients she needs without all the extra calories. We also give her some boiled chicken and veggies and she still does get some of her favourite treats, we just cut them in tiny pieces so she thinks she is getting as much as the other dogs. For pain, we have given her Gabapentin and Rimadyl. She also gets a monthly Pentosan shot, which helps with her joints.
LD: You were doing Hydrotherapy with CX even when she was at the shelter. How has this helped over time?
When CX first started knuckling we were very lucky that Daniel Boey sponsored hydrotherapy sessions at HydroPaws Plus for her through the sale of his books. We took her every week for about 3 months, but sadly besides having fun and getting some exercise, her condition didn't improve a great deal.
LD: CX also had some acupuncture done when she was at the shelter. How did this help, and have you tried any other therapy with her?
JL: Dr. Priya from Ark Veterinary Rehabilitation kindly came to OSCAS and did acupuncture and some muscle stimulation with CX. She also recommended a "no knuckling" brace that was sent from the US. After CB, Dr. Priya would come to my house and work with CX, until we all agreed that her condition wasn't improving even with all the therapy and it was most likely neurological. Now that we tried various treatment options, we have moved to looking at keeping CX comfortable and manage her mobility and health as much as possible.
LD: You have dogs of different ages and energy levels at home. Any tips on how to help the dogs get along with each other and respect CX's health issues?
We are a bit nuts and about one month before we took in CX, we took in a puppy that was going to be returned to OSCAS. So in total, we have four dogs ranging in age from one year to 12 years old, with an average age of about 8 years. I have a pretty amicable group of dogs, so they easily accepted CX. When she first arrived we did keep her separate from the others if they weren't supervised and always monitored when there was food around; but after a brief time, we were one big happy family. We do still need to watch our puppy Senna around CX, because she is a bit high energy for her and sometimes tries to steal her food (that is a big no-no).
LD: To make CX's life more comfortable you invested in a wheelchair. How did you go about this, (cost involved) and find it beneficial for CX? Any tips on how to help your senior dog get used to an assisted wheelchair?
JL: I was very lucky as there was a wheelchair at OSCAS that wasn’t being used, so I brought it home for CX. I had Dr. Priya and Michael from Happy Wheels for Furkids come over and make sure the wheelchair was the right fit for CX and it was! Since CX is very food motivated we just would hold treats in front of her and she learned to walk toward us in the wheelchair. She is definitely not speedy in the wheelchair and won’t typically walk far unless treats are involved, but it does help strengthen her leg muscles without putting weight on her bad foot/leg. We also bought CX a trolley so she can ride to the park down the street, she likes this better than the wheelchair.
LD: For anyone looking to adopt a senior dog, what are your top tips on ensuring your new family member leads a healthy, comfortable, and relatively pain-free silver years?
JL: I would definitely see Dr. Priya and have her assess your dog for any painful areas. She then can recommend a therapy plan for your dog’s specific problems. Dogs are very good at masking pain, so it is always good to get a professional opinion.
LD: As your own dog Helix is also a senior with health issues, what measures have you taken at home for him, which would help any senior dog in a home?
JL: Helix is a big dog and has very bad joints and hips. For both CX and Helix we have put huge exercise mats down on the floor in the house where we don’t have rugs and even created a path outside so they don’t slip on the floors. We also found these removable carpet pieces for our stairs on Amazon, which have made a huge difference for Helix getting up and down the stairs.
Thank you for your time and insights, Jennica, and those are four lucky doggies to be under you and your family's care!
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