Belle, whose full name is La Belle Petite Fe, is a 15 year old dachshund. Like most dachshunds, she is full of spunk!
Her owner has always been aware of the particular problems that can affect this breed. So, when Belle was still a young dog and needed x-rays for a different reason, they paid close attention to her back and found a narrowed disc space. At the time, Belle had no symptoms, so her owner monitored her carefully.
As a 9 year old senior, Belle began to show signs of back problems. Her back end would wobble as she walked, she would refuse to use stairs, and even cry at times. Being vigilant, her owner started treating these painful flare-ups. What works best for her is three prescriptions and an alternative treatment: Rimadyl (anti-inflammatory), Gabapentin (for nerve pain), and methocarbamol (muscle relaxer). She also uses cold laser therapy as a non-invasive aid in reducing imflammation and helping pain control. Over time, her flare-ups started getting closer together, so she now takes Rimadyl daily. All of these things help Belle’s pain and mobility, so she can continue to be involved in family life just like a middle aged pup!
Keep in mind that the most important thing Belle’s mom has done for her is keep her weight under control!! Back problems in long backed dogs will be far worse (as will most other problems) in an overweight dog. We cannot stress enough the importance of a healthy weight!
An important part of handling a long backed dog (or any dog) is to carry them appropriately. So many people pick up a little dog under their armpits like they would a human baby. But our furry babies back’s are oriented differently. It is important to support their whole back without letting it bend.
Many dogs struggle with mobility issues as they age. Medium to large sized dogs benefit from things like ramps. Here is another long backed dog being taught to use a ramp to get into the car. Thanks to “Finn” for his help in demonstrating!
Aside from her back, Belle has developed other senior issues. Let’s explore by category and find out what her owner is doing to help her.
This is another issue known to be worse in dachshunds. Belle has severe periodontal disease for which she has had several dental procedures. Unfortunately, she lives with a chronic ulcerated canine tooth for which no remedies have been successful. Mom keeps an eye on it and softens her food for her.
“Dementia” can affect dogs, too. Symptoms include breaks in house training, excessive barking, irritability and disorientation/confusion. When Belle was 12, she began to have more accidents in the house. Recently, she has been started on a new product called Senilife. With ingredients like antioxidants, it is a more natural medication. Amazingly, Belle’s accidents were reduced by 50-75% within a week of starting Senilife! Her owner has also noticed she is more playful!
Along with some cognitive decline, Belle can no longer see or hear as well. Her family adjusted by keeping everything in the house in the same place. This is very important for vision impaired pets so they can continue to find their way around. Belle’s family has a fenced in yard, or she would have to be on a leash at all times. She cannot always hear when called, so is much more likely to wander off. The other dogs in the home help too, because she follows their leads. At night, mom and dad carefully place Belle in their bed for the night. If that was not the case, a nightlight is a good option. For nap time, Belle has an orthopedic bed which can help with daily aches and pains. It is not uncommon for our geriatric fur friends to get callouses on elbows from needing an extra oomph to get up. Beds such as the orthopedic models can help minimize these.
As you can see, it is important to understand the problems a specific breed of dog may be more likely to encounter. Her owner knew to watch for back problems and dental problems, and due to her diligence, Belle has excellent quality of life as a geriatric pup.
“La Belle Petite Fe” is lucky to have a conscientious family, so she can trot right into her geriatric years feeling the best that she can!
Written by Angel Blenker, CVT and Karen Russell
Angel has been a certified veterinary technician since 2004. Oakview has been lucky enough to have her since 2006. Her passions include nutrition, alternative therapies, and client education.
For the past 28 years, Karen has worked with animals in a variety of settings, most recently as a receptionist at Oakview. In her six years there, she has continued to be passionate about veterinary medicine, client education, and recently, digital marketing.