Make Your Senior Dog Feel at Home

Elderly people often make changes in their homes, such as adding a grab bar in the shower for safety. Your senior dog can also benefit from minor household modifications. An orthopedic bed here or a ramp there will go a long way toward making your senior dog’s life at home pleasant and comfortable.

Older Dogs, New Problems
There’s no specific age when a dog becomes a senior; it varies from breed to breed. But sooner or later, most dogs start showing their age. When that happens, “many dog owners wonder if senior pets have any special needs regarding nutrition, exercise or grooming” says Dr. Amy Schein, a veterinarian at Coral Springs Pet Resort & Medical Center in Coral Springs, Fla. “There are no one-size-fits-all recommendations. However, older dogs are at risk for many of the same problems that affect older people. Many medical conditions can be managed with simple lifestyle or diet adjustments.”

Experts such as Schein say these items can help:

  • Raised food and water bowls make it easier for tall dogs to eat and drink, especially if they have arthritis in their neck or front limbs.

  • Steps or a ramp to help your dog get into the car or onto furniture.

  • Baby gates to keep pets from falling down stairs or entering rooms with slippery floors. This is especially helpful for dogs with neurological issues.
  • Body harnesses instead of neck collars for dogs with arthritic necks or intervertebral disk disease.
  • Skid-resistant throw rugs and rubber puzzle mats for hard floors. These add traction for unsteady legs and create a comfortable napping surface.
  • Orthopedic beds, especially for large-breed dogs that are prone to developing calluses on bony prominences. Some people swear by magnetic beds for dogs that have arthritis.

Look for Signs of Age-related Problems
Growing old isn’t an illness in itself, but it’s not uncommon for older dogs to develop age-related diseases. “Pet owners don’t always recognize early signs of age-related issues in these friends they’ve had for so many years,” says Dr. Corrina Parsons, a veterinarian at Longwood Veterinary Center in Kennett Square, Penn. “Any change in behavior, like a decreased willingness to play, climb stairs or jump on furniture, could be signs of joint pain in the hips, knees or back. Early signs of dementia could include late-night walking, barking or forgetting to go to the bathroom when outside. Many of these diseases can be managed by intensifying the relationship between you, your dog and your veterinarian.”

You can help your aging dog by following this advice:

  • Keep your pet’s weight at a healthy level. Obesity might worsen arthritic conditions and predispose your dog to developing diabetes or other metabolic diseases.
  • Stimulate circulation to its coat and skin with gentle grooming and massaging. This also helps discover new lumps or changes to the skin or coat.
  • Create a comfortable sleeping area on the ground floor if your pet has difficulty climbing stairs to or from your bedroom.
  • Visit your veterinarian for regular physical exams, blood work and urine tests to determine if your senior dog needs a special diet, medicine or treatment.

Jen and John’s Dog House
Lucky are the senior dogs that have devoted owners. Jen Holmquest and John Lawrence are the poster parents for how to care for geriatric dogs. They provide their 13-year-old Labrador Retriever, Merle, and their 11-year-old Golden Retriever, Clifton, with every necessity, from pet stairs to help them get on the couch to covering their orthopedic beds with waterproof comforters. They take both dogs to the vet twice yearly for senior exams and tests. “Clifton has become more sensitive to thunder and other scary sounds, so we sleep downstairs with him when there’s a storm coming,” says Holmquest. “Merle is neurologic in her hind end, so we use the garage one-step entrance instead of the porch stairs to go outside.”

Common sense and a lot of TLC can make all the difference for your dog’s golden years. “We deal with their aging issues because we love them,” says Holmquest.

Take Your Dog on a Winter Retreat

Does your dog give you that telltale depressed look when you return home from vacation -- the kind of look that says, “You had a great time while I was lonely and stuck at home with the sitter”? Skip this guilty moment by taking your dog with you on a winter ski adventure. Many top resorts nationwide make it easy on you and your powder hound.

“We welcome dogs in our lodge, and everyone has a great time,” says Lucas Milawsky, spokesman for Stowe Mountain Lodge in Stowe, Vt. “Dogs love the attention we give them, and it’s genuine because we really enjoy having them here.”

Whether your dog is lounging in front of a lodge fireplace or hitting the snow-covered trails, it’s sure to have one of the best winter vacations ever. Just a bit of advance preparation is needed.

Ski Resort Dog Policies
At many resorts, a $50 one-time fee gets your dog full entry to your room and other areas, including Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyo., says Matt Webb, a resort spokesman. Milawski says Stowe’s fee is the same. “You can go hiking with your dogs. A lot of owners love to go up on the mountain and play fetch,” says Webb. “At the end of the day, you can relax together in the resort.”

Beyond the standard fee, policies vary widely at pet-friendly resorts. Here are a few questions you might consider asking in advance:

  • What pet amenities do you provide? Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Lodge, for example, provides dogs with a clean bed and a couple of bowls. Most places expect you to bring food.
  • Can dogs be left alone in the room? “At Snow King Resort, it’s OK to leave your dog alone for a few hours during the day, but we like to know someone is with the dog at night,” says Webb. Some other resorts have even more strict policies, requiring the use of a sitter when you can’t watch your pet.
  • Where can my dog go? At most pet-friendly ski lodges, dogs are welcome in certain areas but not in others. For example, they’re often not allowed in areas where food is served.
  • Is there a limit to the number of dogs? Matching the relaxed attitude of vacationing skiers, resorts tend to not set strict limits on the number of dogs allowed, but if you have a canine “Brady Bunch,” you should mention your special needs in advance.

  • Are other types of pets allowed? If you have a dog, a bunny, a cat, etc., check in advance to see if the whole animal menagerie is welcome. Often, resorts only allow dogs but no other animals.

Dog-friendly Ski Resorts
Author and DogFriendly.com co-founder Len Kain suggests checking out the following canine-ready ski resorts. Be sure to contact each beforehand to determine up-to-the-moment policies. According to Kain:

  • Bretton Woods Mountain Resort, New Hampshire: Provides 8 kilometers of groomed trails for dogs and on-site fido-friendly lodging. Dogs need to be leashed on the trails and at the resort.
  • Bear Notch Ski Touring Center, New Hampshire: Dogs are allowed on most of the over 40 kilometers of groomed trails, and they can be off-leash if under voice control.
  • McGuire’s Resort, Michigan: Dogs are allowed on all 10 kilometers of groomed trails and on-site pet-friendly lodging.
  • Carter’s X-C Ski Center, Oxford and Bethel, Maine: Dogs are allowed at both centers, each of which has more than 40 kilometers of groomed trails. Dogs can be off-leash if under voice control.
  • Tamarack Resort Nordic Center, Idaho: Dogs are allowed on all of the 22 kilometers of groomed trails. Dogs can be off-leash if under voice control.

Snow Play
Once you’ve settled on a resort, days of snow play await. Many dogs love to chase snowballs down hills or to catch them in their mouth like icy Frisbees. You can also have your dog fetch sticks and pinecones for making snowmen, or play hide and seek with dog biscuits and other treasures. In short, it’s a veritable play paradise for pooches. Says Milawski: “We don’t have a house dog here, but many of us wish we did. The guests’ dogs wind up becoming part of our family instead.”

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/LawrenceSawyer

Keep Your Dog Safe in the Snow

Last night’s snowstorm transformed your backyard into a winter wonderland, and you and your best friend can’t wait to get out there and play in the white stuff.

Most canines can’t resist rolling in fresh snow and refereeing a good snowball fight. But you need to be the parent when it comes to your dog’s snow play. Just like a kid, your dog might not know when it’s time to come in from the cold. And it’s up to you to manage the snowballs that form on your dog’s coat.

Ice Is Not Nice
Ice clusters are the bane of medium- to long-haired dog owners. Not only do these frozen orbs make a mess in your house as they melt, the hard balls that form between your dog’s toes can feel like rocks under his feet, making him very uncomfortable.

So what’s the best way to cope with your abominable snowdog? “Use a warm, moist towel to help melt the balls and then use a dry towel, or even a hair dryer, if your dog will let you, to warm and dry your dog’s coat,” says Anne-Marie Forde, owner of The Sudsy Dog, Inc., an award-winning grooming facility in Erdenheim, Penn. “Many dogs with ‘advanced self-help skills’ will try to pull the ice balls out themselves using their teeth. Before you let your dog do that, be sure he didn’t play anywhere where he could have come in contact with de-icer chemicals.”

Be gentle as you remove ice balls, cautions Dr. Jeffrey Berman, co-owner of Fort Washington Veterinary Hospital in Fort Washington, Penn. “You shouldn’t try to pull the ice balls out of your dog’s fur, because it can cause pain and some dogs will nip in defense,” says Berman. “Instead of tugging away, I recommend you speed up the melting process using a washcloth soaked in warm water and lightly massage the ice away. Pay particular attention to paws and pads and check them for lacerations.”

Ice-prevention Strategies
Although there are several techniques to get rid of ice matted into fur, preventing ice from forming in the first place is a good strategy. Before venturing into the snow:

  • Apply petroleum jelly between the toes and on pads.
  • Use products specifically made to protect dog feet, such as Musher’s Secret paw wax. You can find a dealer at www.musherssecret.net.
  • Use clippers (not scissors) to trim excess fur on medium- to long-haired dogs (e.g., Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs, Salukis). Pay particular attention to fur between the toes.
  • Periodically brush snow off your dog’s fur while playing to prevent the formation of ice balls.

Have Fun, Play Safe
You and your buddy enjoy playing in the snow, but you also need to keep safety in mind. Consider these potential risks:

  • Running in deep snow is hard work -- especially for small breeds or overweight dogs, which can lead to exhaustion or heart failure in a dog that has heart disease.
  • Although you might be snug as a bug in your “Michelin Man” attire, remember that damp air and cold snow can be painful for a dog with arthritis.
  • Extreme cold poses a frostbite threat to your dog’s nose and ears.
  • “Ice is more dangerous than snow, because a dog slipping on an icy surface can rupture a cruciate ligament or hyperextend and sprain a limb,” says Berman.

While any dog worth his salt wants to investigate his frozen terrain, pay attention to your pet’s explorations. Some antifreeze products are deadly if ingested, and road salts can irritate his sensitive skin.  

Most dogs love snow, but if your pet starts to shiver from the cold, tires or is hesitant to continue playing, or if you notice the conditions are too icy, it’s time to call it quits and huddle by the fire indoors.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/RCerruti

Puppy’s First Christmas: The Gift Guide

You need no excuse to shower your puppy with gifts, but those jingle bells a-ringin’ mean it’s time to spoil him with some extra-special presents. Santa has some great gift ideas this holiday season. Your biggest challenge will be keeping your pup from ripping open the wrapping paper before Christmas morning.

Puppy Play
It’s possible to keep your dog entertained for hours with the right toys. “Keep puppy busy by letting him play with an assortment of toys, including those that satisfy a puppy’s natural need to chew,” says Toni Eberhardt of PetSmart Corp. She recommends interactive throw-toys to strengthen the bond between you and your puppy. Buy a few to put under the tree and some to place in his stocking. Other fun toys:

  KONG Snowman Tugger Knots are always a puppy-pleaser. Available at PetSmart, $9.99 – $12.99.
Nylabone Puppy Chews in different sizes and colors are made for sharp little puppy teeth. Available at PetSmart, $2.99 – $14.99.
  Busy Buddy Bones come in a variety of sizes to fit all sizes of puppy mouths. The bristles, nubs and Gnawhide rawhide rings are irresistible. The Bouncy Bone is a gift that keeps on giving, because the toy unscrews for refilling with more treats. Available at Drs. Foster and Smith, $3.99 – $18.99.
KONG Wubba Tug ’N’ Tosses are soft and squeaky and provide hours of toss-and-play fun. Available at PetSmart, $3.97 – $6.97.

Holiday Fashionistas
Wearing holiday-themed clothes makes the season even more special, so why not dress up puppy for photo ops? He’ll look his Christmas cutest in warm and whimsical outfits. “They are so adorable and have the added benefit of helping reduce hair and dander on your furniture or beds” says Jodi Liddle of Drs. Foster and Smith. Other fashion favorites:
Cozy Thermal Jammies make sleepy time more snuggly. Available at Drs. Foster and Smith, $9.99 – 15.99.
The Reindeer Costume is among Liddle’s personal favorites. Available at Drs. Foster and Smith, $17.99.

Puppy Einsteins
Puppies need intellectual stimulation as much as they do physical exercise to develop into happy and healthy members of the family. “Intelligence toys and food dispensers help keep puppy’s mind sharp and busy,” says Darcie Krueger of SitStay.

The Yuppy Puppy Treat Machine is a terrific brain game. Available at SitStay.com, $37.95.
The KONG Wobbler and Buster Cube hard-food and treat dispensers make puppy work for his treats. Available at SitStay.com, $12.80 – $18.80.
The Orbee Tennis Ball and the Bounce ’N’ Play Ball can take a lot of physical abuse and provide hours of dynamic playtime. Available at SitStay.com, $9.00 – $17.60.


Nestled Snug in Their Beds

Of course your puppy loves napping in your lap, but he deserves to snooze in his own lap of luxury.

The Martha Stewart Bone Quilt Skyland Dog Bed “gives puppy his own place to feel safe and call his own,” says Eberhardt. Available at PetSmart, $49.99.
The Traditional Slumber Nest with orthopedic padding in puppy sizes is a favorite at Drs. Foster and Smith, $39.99 – $69.00.
Holiday Snuggler Toys are the perfect silky and plush puppy bedtime companions. Available at Drs. Foster and Smith, $8.99.

The Best Dog Beaches, Coast to Coast

“Go ahead, make my day,” was a favorite line of actor Clint Eastwood, who also served as mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, a California beach town south of San Francisco. But the phrase gains new meaning with present Carmel mayor Sue McCloud, who invites you to visit the picturesque town’s beach with your dog.

“Carmel is dog heaven on Earth,” she says, after walking her own Dandie Dinmont Terrier on Carmel’s beach bluff pathway. “Our beach is off-leash, and nearly everything here is canine-oriented,” she says, mentioning the water bowls, treats, restaurants, inns, and more throughout Carmel that are all geared toward dogs.

Carmel’s beach is just one of many of the best dog beaches across the United States. You and your dog can take in the waves from coast to coast with a bit of advance planning. So load up your woody, as the Beach Boys sang, and prepare for plenty of canine beach safaris this summer.

Clues to Dog-friendly Beaches
If you and your dog pull in to an unfamiliar beach town, a few major clues can indicate whether or not the beach welcomes dogs. “In general, if a beach allows swimming, it will not allow dogs,” says Doug Gelbert, author of Doggin America’s Beaches: A Traveler’s Guide to Dog-friendly Beaches. “If a beach has lifeguards, it absolutely will not allow dogs.”

Although human swimmers and dogs generally don’t mix, Gelbert says many beaches permit dog access. The friendliest are “beaches that allow dogs in season, out of season, 24/7, 365 days a year, and dogs are allowed to run off leash,” he says. Some beaches permit dogs on leashes year-round, while others restrict dogs to certain hours or off seasons. Many New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts beaches fall into the latter category.

Three Dog-beach-paradise States
When planning a summer beach getaway with your dog, it’s hard to go wrong with these states:

  • Delaware “In Delaware, you can always get your dog to the beach,” says Gelbert, “even in season.”
  • Oregon “All 360 miles of beach in Oregon are public and open to dogs, he says. Lincoln City particularly welcomes dogs, according to city spokeswoman Sandy Pfaff. “Not only are there 7 miles of pristine beach for the two of you to walk or jog, but also there are numerous hiking trails with stellar views,” explains Pfaff. “Some of the local merchants will even allow your well-behaved pet to shop with you, and there are pet-friendly lodging opportunities to meet any need, desire or budget.”

  • North Carolina According to Gelbert, “North Carolina has the dog-friendliest beaches on the East Coast, mostly on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.”

Best Beaches for Dog Lovers, Countrywide
Gelbert says you can enjoy a dream beach vacation with your dog at the following destinations:

  • California: San Diego Dog Beach, San Simeon State Beach, Pismo Beach, Pfeiffer Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, areas surrounding San Francisco Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore, Mendocino, Crescent Beach

  • Connecticut: Bluff Point Coastal Preserve
  • Delaware: Fowler Beach, Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware Seashore State Park
  • Florida: Amelia Island, Sombrero Beach, Fort De Soto Park, Bonita Beach, St. Andrews Beach

  • Georgia: Golden Isles
  • Louisiana: Grand Isle State Park
  • Maine: Old Orchard Beach, York Harbor Beach
  • Maryland: Assateague Island National Seashore
  • Massachusetts: Cape Cod National Seashore
  • New Jersey: Island Beach State Park, Gateway National Recreation Area, North Brigantine Natural Area, Corson’s Inlet State Park, Higbee Beach, Sunset Beach
  • New York: Montauk

  • North Carolina: Duck, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Crystal Coast, Topsail Beach, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, Brunswick Islands
  • Oregon: Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Gold Beach, Cannon Beach
  • Rhode Island: Scarborough State Beach, Cliff Walk
  • South Carolina: Grand Strand, Edisto Beach, Hunting Island State Park
  • Texas: Galveston Island, Padre Island National Seashore
  • Virginia: Virginia Beach

  • Washington: Long Beach Peninsula, North Beach Point

Remember to Bring Water
Bringing water to a beach might seem unnecessary, but Gelbert advises it’s the most important thing you should take on your trips with your dog. “Hiking on sand is tough going and will tire a dog, and fetching sticks in the waves will get any dog thirsty,” he explains. “While drinking some salt water will be inevitable, you want to make sure your dog has fresh water.”

In Carmel, many dogs and their owners make a pilgrimage to the “Fountain of Woof” after their beach visits, according to community services assistant Cindi Lopez-Frincke. “It’s the nation’s first official doggie drinking fountain, where dogs can enjoy fresh running water,” she says.