Integrative Care for Golden Retrievers
Shereen D. Farber, Ph.D., OTR, FAOTA

Don’t Step On Your Old Golden!

Part 1
Introduction:   Several incidents relating to veteran dogs have occurred recently mandating a temporary topic change from canine nutrition to geriatric care concerns.  We have been blessed with longevity among our Goldens.  As our dogs mature, my husband Mark and I usually adapt our interactions to the dogs’ responses. For example, we use a normal, well-modulated voice to summon the young dogs and a voice with greater volume to call our hard-of-hearing older dogs.  Last week, Mark lifted a large upholstered chair to re-locate it, temporarily obstructing his view.   He had seen Timmy, our 13 year old Golden, lying on the floor, right in the way, but assumed the dog would move as he usually did.    I watched the action happen in slow motion but was unable to stop the accident.   As Mark approached the dog’s location while carrying the heavy chair, Timmy tried to move, but was not capable of doing so in a timely manner. We had just installed a new wood laminate floor and Tim was still learning to negotiate his movement on the slick surface.  Also, his motor planning ability had diminished with aging more than Mark had realized. Older dogs take longer to adjust to change and   have more difficulty rapidly re-positioning their bodies in space than do younger dogs. As Mark tripped over Tim, my husband and the chair came crashing down, both man and chair missing Timmy but breaking the chair leg. I was so relieved that Mark and Tim were unharmed.  After all, chairs can be replaced. People and dogs cannot.
A friend brought a second incident to my attention. A Golden owner had purchased one of those over-sized tennis balls for her 14-year-old. Her dog had loved the game of catch and fetch but as he got older, his vision worsened and he could not see the regular-sized tennis ball well enough to catch it.  She had thought that the dog would be better able to catch the larger ball but did not realize how much heavier it was.  In addition, the dog had dropped his new large ball in a bowl of water while stopping to get a drink so the ball was drenched. She threw the wet ball telling her dog to catch it. Instead, the ball hit the dog in the mouth knocking a tooth loose.
These incidents made me realize that many of us age right along with our Goldens and make us forget that they may need some special considerations. This column will present heath care and management ideas geriatric goldens that are primarily common sense and are the result of brainstorming with friends who have older dogs.  If one concept presented gives a reader one new idea, it might prevent an accident or improve the quality of our older Goldens’ lives.

Watch this page for the next installment!!

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