Getting Old Ain’t for Sissies

With many thanks to Quin’s grandmother for the titular phrase!

Well, Lily and Cash are getting older. Lily has a little bit of hip dysplasia and a lot of arthritis (she’s one supplement and, recently, pain killers/anti-inflammatories). Cash is in remarkably good shape, except for the added weight from helping himself to dog food. We’re working on that!

One of the books I’m reading for myself is called “Younger Next Year” by an MD and a lawyer who thought the information needed to be out in the world. There are several editions, and I can’t say it’s the most perfect book out there, but it is based on medical information, and it steers clear of the fad diets and whatnot, which I appreciate! The main message of the book is this: exercise an hour, six days a week, to help your body stay young. A brisk walk is good enough. It goes into a lot more detail about why, but that’s the basic premise.

Here’s why I mentioning it: the things they talk about have to do with being mammals, not always being human. Lily’s been sliding downhill slowly and I thought, “You know what? She’s a mammal, too.” So Lily and I (and Cash because I want him to stay in good shape) are now embarking on a get-younger lifetime regime.

Lily’s arthritis and dysplasia mean that her hips are sore and weak. To help with the weakness, I bought some anti-slip spray by Bio-Groom. [link] From what I can tell from the reviews and my own experiments, it seems to work well for dogs who have just a bit of slipping and weakness; too much, and it doesn’t make a great difference. I make sure to spray it on her pads and toe pads as well, and then pet her for thirty seconds while it dries. I re-applied every few days, and after a while I stopped using it; she stopped slipping.

I took her walking. Lily likes walking, but she gets bored walking the same thing all the time. I hadn’t realized this until I was distressed that she lagged so much, and then one day I took her jogging down a trail… and I’ll be damned if she couldn’t suddenly keep up! Now we walk or jog daily, and she’s gotten far more agile, much stronger, and happier. She’s playing again, and romping with other dogs.

I wasn’t sure, at first, if she was going to be strong enough to walk and jog, so I also looked up strength training exercises. Some things you can do include standing your dog on stairs (if they’re facing upstairs it works their hips, if facing downstairs their shoulders), practicing sit/down/stand/sit (puppy push ups and doggie squats!), and massage helps as well. Dogs are like us: some like a firmer massage, others a softer one. Start with the big muscles alongside the spine, and the ones on the shoulders and thighs. If your dog is pulling away, ease up!

Stretching helps, too. With your dog standing, very gently take a front leg and stretch it forward, stopping when you feel resistance. If at any point they pull their leg away with determination, let them! Give treats and praise throughout, because let’s face it, stretching is odd. You an also bring the front leg back (carefully), and then do the same thing with the back legs. Don’t do anything sideways without talking to your vet.

Finally, I made sure that Lily had enough Lily-time. It’s easy to ignore her and Cash; they have excellent manners, good confidence, and don’t ask or need my time like the younger Doc or any dogs I’m boarding. I started letting Lily on the couch for snuggles, and I make sure that I give Cash snuggles, too, though he’d rather I pet him while he lays on the floor.

We’re all feeling better for the exercise, and Lily is back on the 30-year plan: to live until I’m old!

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