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Published: Monday, 6/24/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

CRITTER CARE

Senior animals still have lots of love left to give to owners

Elderly dogs up for adoption often get passed by

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
April Wilcox of Toledo is fostering Opal, a senior French bulldog and Chihuahua mix, for Planned Pethood. Opal, estimated to be between 12 and 15 years of age,  is blind and deaf. She was brought to the Lucas County dog warden after she was found wandering in Grand Rapids, Ohio. Older dogs could benefit from a diet of extra antioxidants and lower-calorie food, vet Gary Thomp-son said. April Wilcox of Toledo is fostering Opal, a senior French bulldog and Chihuahua mix, for Planned Pethood. Opal, estimated to be between 12 and 15 years of age, is blind and deaf. She was brought to the Lucas County dog warden after she was found wandering in Grand Rapids, Ohio. Older dogs could benefit from a diet of extra antioxidants and lower-calorie food, vet Gary Thomp-son said.
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April Wilcox knows the perfect home is just waiting for Opal.

The elderly Chihuahua and French bulldog mix is blind and deaf but still has a lot of life left in her, Ms. Wilcox said.

Even though Opal can’t see, she tries to play with one of the Toledo resident’s other dogs.

“Her personality is really coming out,” said Ms. Wilcox, who began fostering the dog last week for Planned Pethood. “Charlie’s tail was wagging right in her face, and she was playing with his tail. It was the cutest thing ever.”

Because she is blind, she gets a little startled if she is approached too quickly, so Ms. Wilcox gives her a gentle touch before picking her up. She quickly learned the lay of the land in Ms. Wilcox’s home and no longer is bumping into the furniture.

“I know she was owned by someone, because she is already housebroken,” Ms. Wilcox said.

Ms. Wilcox has a soft spot for senior dogs, so she jumped at the chance to foster Opal, who is estimated to be between 12-15 years old.

“Some people shy away from adopting senior dogs because they worry they won’t have them as long,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you have a dog for 2 years or 15, you are still going to be equally sad to lose it.”

Ms. Wilcox’s other dogs include 13-year-old Anabelle, a Dachshund mix who rules the roost. She also is mostly blind but has an excellent sense of smell, Ms. Wilcox said.

“I have a set of stairs next to my bed so she can get up there, and Anabelle finds them and uses them with no problem,” she said.

Ms. Wilcox says she likes that older dogs are lower-energy and more cuddly than most younger dogs.

“Opal is incredibly low-maintenance,” she said. “She doesn’t bark, and she just wants to be in your lap.”

The small dog was found wandering along a street near Grand Rapids on May 18 by Deb Scheub, who took the abandoned animal to the Lucas County dog warden.

“My husband and I rescued her,” Mrs. Scheub said. “After attempts to locate anyone who may have lost her, it became clear she was discarded like trash. She is a sweet dog that needs love and a second chance.”

Opal is looking for a home through Toledo rescue group Planned Pethood. She will be featured at an adoption event Saturday at The Andersons, 4701 Talmadge Rd., Toledo, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Besides showing adoptable pets, the group will be offering dog washes and nail trims by donation. Those interested in adopting Opal can fill out an application at tinyurl.com/​AdoptOpal.

Opal’s exact age isn’t known because she is a rescue dog, but she definitely falls into the senior category. What is considered senior varies by breed, but 7 years is a good benchmark for most pets, said Dr. Gary Thompson of West Suburban Veterinary Hospital.

Special consideration should be given to what an older dog or cat is fed, he said.

“Older pets can benefit from some of the extra antioxidants and lower-calorie senior foods,” Dr. Thompson said.

Dr. Cindy Thurston, the Lucas County dog warden’s staff veterinarian, said older dogs frequently have heart, liver, and kidney issues, along with arthritis. Blood tests can reveal if organ functioning is strained.

“But even with high levels, they can sometimes feel fine,” she said. “It really depends on the individual dog.”

Dr. Thompson said some older dogs can benefit from a special diet prescribed by the veterinarian.

“Kidney disease and bladder stones are examples of conditions that respond extremely well to dietary management,” he said. “These are very specific diets for diseases that require a definitive diagnosis, so never feed a diet for a disease without the advice of your veterinarian.”

Taking good care of an older pet’s teeth can help stave off other diseases, Dr. Thompson adds.

“Periodontal disease leads to heart-valve infections, kidney disease, and strokes,” he said. “The simple act of brushing pets' teeth results in improved dental health that can add an average of 20 percent to your pet’s life expectancy.”

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com, 419-724-6066 or on Twitter @TanyaIrwin.



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