It’s been a year and a half since I wrote a post about Peanut’s physical rehab. Since that is one of my more popular posts, I thought it would be worthwhile to share an update.
Our little gal turned 13 on December 24th. A few weeks prior to that, I met a woman who just happened to be with her own 13-year-old pug at the veterinarian’s office. While making small talk, she referred to Peanut as a young pug. I thought she was joking but she wasn’t. It must be the black coloring she still has on her ears, around her eyes, and on her muzzle. It’s been wonderful to be fooled for so long by a dog that has barely been showing her physical age. It often tricks me into thinking that nothing has changed and the three of us can just hang out forever more.
She doesn’t look a day over seven years old, eight tops.
Despite her youthful appearance, we’ve had to make some changes over time to Peanut’s exercise and standard care. Towards the end of summer, Peanut seemed more hunched in general. She was also starting to lose balance from behind on tile; she couldn’t keep her legs from splaying which was causing her to fall. We not only had a weak wrist that was getting weaker but also back legs that were no longer holding her up as well. Add a hunched frame and I was struck with the reality that she really was getting older. I think it all happened rather quickly but Joel says it has been a slow evolution over time. I don’t envy the animal medical professionals who have had to wade through our differing assessments of what started when.
Pain Medications: At our veterinarian’s advice, we started giving Peanut Metacam for pain. Since Peanut never gave us any reason to suspect that she was in pain until she started hunching, we decided it was time to provide relief. She’s doing well on it and does seem generally perkier and less hunched during the day. We also recently started giving her Tramadol in the evenings which has made a huge difference in her ability to sleep through the night without uncomfortably shifting around several times an hour. We initially assumed it was just something we’d all need to live with until we spoke with our vet about it. I’m so glad we did.
Carpet: And lots of it. Because my faithful companion still insists on providing a personal escort throughout the house, I had to find a way to provide traction on tile. There were tireless efforts of trying any and every combination of boots, socks, velcro, vet wrap, clips, bands, and incantations to keep her from sliding and falling on tile floors. Some provided only short-term assistance, others proved to be more of a hazard.
Sadly, no silver bullets here for us.
We tried keeping her crated during meal time preparation; times meant for revelry and leaping about. It didn’t go well. We now have inexpensive carpet off the role from Home Depot that covers the entire kitchen. Peanut can easily trot after us at will and once again run from one end of the kitchen to the other when that dinner bell chimes.
Strategically placed in the work triangle of the kitchen where spillage is most likely to occur.
Senior-friendly activities: We’ve incorporated more low-impact activities such as slow movements around the house and sensory stimulation. I picked some from this list and made adjustments that work for us.
Step Overs : We’re down to two tightly wrapped towels spaced a few feet apart because of the racing and potential tripping. (Peanut is more focused on the destination rather than the journey. She must get that from me.) Trying to slow her down using a leash only makes it worse.
K-Laser: We are now getting weekly K-laser (cold laser) treatments. I believe the science behind this as well as our experience that these treatments help accelerate repair and provide relief. You can find a local K-Laser provider here.
Low Incline Ramp Balancing: The homemade ramp that we’ve had for years now doubles as a core strengthening tool. This works better for us than the yoga ball. I prop the ramp up on a few pillows placed on the ground so that the incline is much less than it is on the couch. Even though the ramp is just a few inches off the ground, the slow back and forth movements provides good balancing and coordination exercise. I make sure I’m standing over her or right next to her to keep her from falling in case she stumbles. Of course she only complies if there are treat rewards! We originally used a bosu ball in therapy (rubber side down), so that or something similar would also be ideal.
More Buggy Time: A pet buggy purchased years ago also allows for balancing practice. While our preference is to visit forest preserves, we bumped up the number of small walks around the neighborhood when time is tight. Whether she is standing or seated, she must balance while we are in motion. The added stimulation of seeing and smelling what’s going on around the ‘hood is great, too.
Chiropractor: For now we have paused on chiropractic adjustments. When researching dog diseases of the spine, I learned about Pug (Constrictive) Myelopathy and the suggestion that adjustments could be counterproductive. I have not yet spoken with the chiropractor about this to get her input. The only way we would know for sure would be to get an MRI, but due to Peanut’s age, we will not pursue that or any non-lifesaving surgical procedures which would be too high risk at her age.
Professional Physical Therapy: We left one physical therapy group and got a second opinion from another. Regarding the weak wrist, we were told that no exercise could accomplish strengthening it back up and that we’d actually need to brace the weak shoulder, the source of the problem. Because I think she would hate the harness and since she compensates quite well from day to day, we are not pursuing the shoulder harness at this time.
Treat Ball and Figure Eights: She stumbled around too much while batting the ball. We also eliminated figure eights because she was tripping herself while scrambling to get the treats. It’s adorable when a puppy does it, but a wonky senior? Not so much.
We cherish the good days and do our best to roll with the challenging days. But roll we shall.
Thank you to all the great members at PugVillage.com for their compassion and support on this journey through senior care.
Towards the end of 2015 and around the time Peanut turned 14, her physical activity was limited to walking on carpet around the house when she was up for it, walks outside in the buggy, and trips out for laser therapy. Based on a tip we received in a Face Book support group for pugs with walking issues, we purchased a laundry cart to ease the burden on her bad shoulder and wrist; there was nothing more from a therapy perspective to make them any better. I fed her in the cart and pushed her around in it as I did things around the house – cleaning, cooking, working, etc. Not only did she not mind it, she seemed to like the view from a few feet higher than she otherwise saw the world and the ability to “go for rides” around the house all day. I loved the fact that we could still do things together around the house without the physical burden of her trying to keep up. I can’t express enough how valuable having this cart was for us in her last year.