Slowing down. Opening of the treat jar or refrigerator doesn’t have the usual nanosecond response. Having difficulty with steps. Sleeping more. Stiffness upon rising. Not so enthusiastic about the usual exercise routine or car outings. Eliminating in the house. Appearing confused or anxious within the context of the normal routine. These are all signs of entering the senior years. As our dogs age there are many things we can do to keep them active and interactive as well as enjoying optimum health. No matter the species, age takes its toll from head to toe. As bullies age, vision can become impaired. If your bully starts bumping into things, be careful to protect them from sharp edges such as furniture corners. Keeping the furniture as is will help their confidence in maneuvering about safely and, with time, you will become amazed at how deftly they can get around. If there is another dog in the house that your senior bully is very attached to, keeping a bell on that dog’s collar (as long as your senior bully’s hearing is still fairly acute) can be reassuring to their orientation and travels. Other age associated ocular changes can include a condition known as dry eye in which normal tear production becomes compromised. This is fairly common among bullies and can be quite uncomfortable. Squinting, redness and mucus buildup are symptoms and require veterinary attention. Your vet can measure tear production and may offer artificial tears and/or a medication such as optimmune, which lubricates the eye thereby helping prevent some of the more serious complications of dry eye, such as corneal abrasion. Hearing can become less acute. Keep your aging dog interested in what you have to say by teaching hand signals. Though these are good to teach at a young age, old dogs can learn new tricks. In the beginning pair the hand signal with the word or capture the behavior and give the hand signal and then reward. As always train with treats. Ear hematomas are not unusual in BTs. These pockets of blood can dry without intervention and the only consequence will be a crimped ear. However, some hematomas can be painful and rather than repeated puncturing, draining and pressure bandaging, the best results come from a quilting procedure surgery. Be vigilant about keeping your seniors teeth clean. Gum disease and decayed teeth can lead to systemic infections. There are many wonderful products now on the market that help prevent dental disease. Oxyfresh is a company that offers an entire line of pet health care products, including an excellent pet oral-hygiene solution. If not available through your veterinarian, go to www.oxyfresh.com. Keeping seniors feet in the best possible condition will aid greatly in their mobility. This means keeping the nails from getting too long. As they age, bullies can become increasingly sensitive about the dreaded nail clipper. Using a dremmel can ease the anxiety while doing a very good job. A very thorough “How to . . . “ article can be found at www.doberdawn.com. The best advice here is to start with the dremmel at a young age. Senior dogs need to be kept physically and mentally engaged. Keep them involved with car trips to the ice cream parlor for a frozen yogurt or a frosty paws from the supermarket. Increased veterinary visits can become a stressful, natural consequence of aging. Try to counter those outings with positive outcome rides, being ever vigilant about extreme temperatures. Go for a visit to a friends, a short stroll at an on-leash park or even a trip to the vets so they can get some cookies. Seniors balance is often compromised and quick turns and sudden stops can be hazardous to their safety. Always make sure they are comfortable and secure in the car. Go to www.canineauto.com for excellent seat belts. Degenerative disease such as arthritis and disc disease often occur as dogs’ age. Keeping their weight down and keeping them active is essential. Non-weight bearing exercise such as swimming has been found to be therapeutic. Always use a swim vest for safety. A source for a good swim vest product is www.ruffwear.com. Glucosamine among other supplements including specific herbs, fish oil and metabolic enzymes have been clinically found to be beneficial in dogs. Much success has been found using Adequan (injectable Glucosamine). This requires a loading dose of 2 injections per week, usually for 4 weeks. Maintenance is a once a month injection. Work with your vet to select the best products for your bully. Like humans, older dogs can suffer from Alzheimer like symptoms, known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS). In dogs, symptoms can present as night roaming, increased barking for no apparent reason, separation anxiety, confusion, lack of attentiveness and elimination accidents. Your veterinarian can prescribe Anapryl, shown to be helpful in alleviating the symptoms. Valium, Thorazine and Zanax are used more specifically for night roaming. Teaching new tricks is fun and helps stimulates mental activity and does not have to be physically demanding. There are wonderful trick books available. A website for these and other good canine reading materials is www.dogwise.com. Using their dry food or small bits of carrots, celery, apple, skinless boiled chicken or extra-lean beef as treats will not result in too many additional calories. Changes in behavior or activity level, particularly those of sudden onset, should not be discounted as simply a sign of aging. Your trusted veterinarian should be consulted. Veterinary check-ups, which are recommended semi-annually for senior dogs, should include an annual senior blood chemistry profile as well as a full panel thyroid. Skin tags and lumps need to be assessed and watched for changes. Many bullies get fatty tumors that do not require the stress of surgical removal. For more information on age associated problems and their care visit www.srdogs.com. If you and your aging bully have any “Better the Senior Years” suggestions, please write to us and we will share your responses.