Caring for Senior Dogs with Dr. Ava Frick
The lifestyle and diet that works for a puppy may not continue to work as your dog ages, but often we forget to make changes to best support our senior dogs. In this episode of Your Natural Dog with Angela Ardolino, we’re joined by Dr. Ava Frick, a unique leader in the veterinary field making it possible to achieve higher quality of life for the longest possible amount of time. Dr. Frick joins us to discuss caring for senior dogs and pets, and the importance of paying attention to your dogs’ digestion, behavior, and mobility as they age. She also shares some common signs of aging and explains how planning and nutrition in the puppy stage can help your dog stay healthier in the future.
Table of Contents
- We often forget that dogs’ needs change as they age
- When is a dog considered a senior?
- Digestion changes as dogs age
- Look for behavior changes as your dog ages
- Pay attention to your dog’s mobility, it’s essential to quality of life
- Conventional pain regulation can make things worse for older dogs
- How to connect with Dr. Frick
Caring for Senior Dogs
Many of the dogs brought to my rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, are seniors. Pet parents often find themselves overwhelmed and unprepared to care for their pet, as their pet ages and health issues begin to plague their bodies. We do our best to give them the peaceful and pain-free twilight years they deserve, by safely taking them off of their prescription medications (with the guidance of our holistic veterinarians), transitioning them to a raw diet, and adding Full Spectrum Hemp Extract (CBD) and other senior dog supplements to their daily regimen. They go from barely walking, to running and playing, as their degenerative diseases slow down their progression, and their health drastically improves.
When is a Dog Considered a Senior?
A common question I get from pet parents is “When is a dog considered a senior dog?” However this answer varies, depending on the breed and size of your dog. Small breeds, like the chihuahua can live up to 20 years, and are usually considered senior dogs around 12 or 13 years old. Unfortunately, giant breeds such as Great Danes generally live less than 10 years. This means they can be considered senior dogs by age six. So we have to consider your dog’s breed and life expectancy when determining if they are approaching their senior years.
Feeding your Senior Dog
Gut health is incredibly important to overall health for dogs, especially as 80% of the immune system resides in the gut. This is particularly important for our senior dogs. As their bodies age, they may not tolerate certain foods as well as they used to, or they may need different nutrients or supplements to support their microbiome.
Common questions I get from pet parents include “When to switch to senior dog food?” or “What is the best diet for senior dogs?”. There is no one answer to fit all senior dogs. Caring for your senior dog just means caring for your unique dog as they age. Don’t assume your senior dog can eat the same diet they’ve been eating for 9 years without any issue, as dogs age, pet parents should take note of any new reactions or intolerances to diet.
For senior dogs on a raw diet, pet parents may find that they don’t tolerate some proteins as they age, or may become more sensitive to certain proteins or ingredients. For many senior dogs, a gently cooked or lightly cooked diet might be best, aiding in their digestion.
Senior Dog Behavior Changes
As your pet ages, it is important to pay attention to their habits and routines so that you can know when something is off. Recognizing your senior dog needs more support can be difficult for pet parents, reminding us that our beloved pets are aging. But our senior dogs need our support in their golden years more than ever, and there are a few things to watch out for.
A decline or loss of mobility, including being slower to stand or lay down, hesitating or refusing to climb stairs, a sudden change in their gait, or a limp can be a sign that something is going on with their joints, such as arthritis in senior dogs. These can also indicate a more serious ailment, such as osteosarcoma, as was the case with my girl Nina’s osteosarcoma diagnosis. Senior dogs may also start having trouble with slick floors, rugs or mats can provide the grip they need to comfortably get around the house again.
Senior dogs might also show signs of hearing loss, or loss of vision. If your dog was always quick to react at any knock or doorbell, but is suddenly sleeping through these or otherwise not reacting like they used to, that’s a sign they might be losing their hearing. Losing these senses can also be confusing for your senior dog, and they’ll need your support as they adjust. It is important to note that changes in hearing or vision can cause some of the same symptoms as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, aka dementia in dogs. For example, a dog who is losing hearing or vision may become disoriented and may have increased anxiety as a result.
Since there is no easy test to diagnose a dog with CCD, it is important that you write down any observations you have made and bring that paper to the vet. One sign of CCD or dementia in dogs is that you may notice your dog pacing behind closed doors, or otherwise seeming lost inside their home. Another sign of CCD or dementia in dogs is a lack of bowel control. You may also notice a decrease or increase in appetite with CCD or dementia in dogs.
Catching these signs early can make all the difference in your senior dog’s quality of life.
Senior Dog Supplements
Senior pets are often in need of additional supplementation to address specific degenerative conditions. There are thousands of supplements on the market claiming to help our senior pets, ranging from cognition boosters, to inflammation-based pain relievers, to joint supporters, and many more. So let’s go over the best senior dog supplements for your aging pet.
CBD for Senior Dogs
There are many ways that our senior pets can benefit from adding a Full Spectrum Hemp Extract CBD Oil to their daily regimen. Full-spectrum Hemp CBD has been shown to increase mobility, while ensuring quality of life and improved general well-being. Another study stated that CBD has therapeutic benefits for both people and pets suffering from chronic pain and acute chronic pain episodes.
CBD oil from a Full Spectrum Hemp Extract is shown to help dogs have a restful sleep. Cannabinoids interact with ECS receptors that help to eliminate the sense of pain in the body. This increases mood and causes sleep. And, gives our pets’ immune system a good boost, lowers blood pressure, and helps decrease risk of additional conditions.
Not only can CBD potentially help reduce risk of dementia or CCD in dogs, but it’s a natural care choice if your dog has any sort of cognitive decline. CBD can help relieve dementia-related anxiety and stress and may help your dog remain relaxed and secure in their senior years. Full spectrum hemp extract is also rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that contribute to the wellbeing of the brain.
Related: Learn more about the benefits of CBD for Senior Dogs
Medicinal Mushrooms for Senior Dogs
If you’re looking for a high quality, well sourced and formulated combination of medicinal mushrooms for your senior dog, look no further than Mycodog’s Clarity mushroom tincture. Mycodog, a line of wild harvested, triple extracted mushroom extracts for dogs, formulated by Angela Ardolino is the answer to every CCD dog owner’s prayers. This formula was designed to support your dog’s cognitive disorder, nervous system, mental and emotional health. In addition to Lion’s Mane and Reishi, two powerful adaptogenic herbs are added into the mix: Bacopa Monnieri and Ashwagandha.
“I lost two of my dogs, Potato and Daisie, to dementia, to CCD, canine cognitive dysfunction, which is Alzheimer’s for dogs. So knowing the power of Lion’s Mane and Reishi mushrooms for dogs, I knew what they could do for these geriatric dogs. Odie, my senior mini-schnauzer, was turning 16 soon and I wanted to be able to support him as best as I could, so I created Clarity. Since then, I have literally watched Odie, my senior dog, go from having no interest in eating to taking his mushrooms and eating like a monster the next day.” – Angela Ardolino, founder of CBD Dog Health & MycoDog
Boswellia for Senior Dogs
Boswellia is an herbal extract derived from the bark of the boswellia tree. Interestingly, it is the primary source of the well-known essential oil Frankincense. Boswellia has been used for centuries to address numerous inflammatory-based health conditions. The main active compound in Boswellia called boswellic acid, has scientifically-proven anti-inflammatory and joint pain-relief effects.
In addition, research has shown that it has the potential to be a useful remedy for conditions like asthma, colitis, skin damage/disease, and more. What’s more, Boswellia has also been studied and shown to have tumor specific cytotoxic effects (causes tumor cell death), and can promote cancer cell apoptosis (cell death) in other cancer types such as leukemia.
Boswellia and its derivatives (boswellic acid, frankincense, etc.) are considered to be safe and well tolerated by dogs and cats alike when administered alone. When combined with curcumin (like in CBD Dog Health’s EASE tincture), Boswellia is even more powerful at combating inflammation and addressing age-related conditions like osteoarthritis. Therefore, Boswellia should be seen as an integral long-term option for our senior pets.
Related: Is Frankincense Oil Safe for Dogs?
Curcumin for Senior Dogs
Curcumin is the main biologically active compound in the turmeric root and is one of the most well-known and most powerful anti-inflammatory herbals on the planet. Additionally, it has been shown to increase antioxidant activity within the body, may help prevent certain types of cancer,and boost the production of a naturally-derived compound called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Decreased levels of BDNF have been linked to many brain disorders like depression and Alzheimer’s disease, so adding curcumin may make a big difference for senior pets dealing with early-onset dementia (aka cognitive dysfunction syndrome or CCD). Lastly, curcumin may help delay aging and fight chronic age-related diseases, making it a vital tool for increasing a senior pet’s longevity and quality of life.
Although you may get some curcumin by eating turmeric as a diet additive, most times it must be administered in a concentrated supplement form for powerful therapeutic influence. Curcumin is also not well absorbed into the bloodstream when taken on its own, so combining it with a fat source (i.e a fatty meal) or with a very small dash of black pepper will allow for more effective absorption. CBD Dog Health’s EASE tincture contains therapeutically beneficial amounts of curcumin in an oil-based tincture, meaning it has a greater potential to be maximally absorbed.
Final Thoughts on Caring for Senior Dogs
We want to give our aging furry companions the happiest, healthiest life possible. Along with a species appropriate whole food diet and regular exercise, integrating high quality and ethically sourced supplements when and where appropriate, can be quite advantageous for increasing our pets’ overall wellness and maintaining longevity. Not all senior pets will face the same issues, so choosing the right supplement for your specific pet will depend on their individual medical conditions.
Feeding a balanced fresh diet, avoiding microbiome disrupting drugs, using Full Spectrum Hemp Extract, and adding in medicinal mushrooms and adaptogenic herbs can make an enormous difference in your senior dog’s life.
- Dr. Ava Frick’s Website
- Dr. Ava Frick’s book – “Conversations with Animals”
- Have a question about your pet that you want answered on the podcast? Email us at [email protected]
- Angela Ardolino
Note: Like all discount codes, they don’t last furever!
About Angela Ardolino
Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert and educator who has been caring for animals for over 20 years. Angela owns and operates Fire Flake Farm, an animal rescue. She’s also the founder and formulator of CBD Dog Health, which offers high quality, all-natural cannabis health and wellness products for pets; and MycoDog, which creates and produces high-quality medicinal mushroom and adaptogen tinctures specifically for pets.
Accordingly, she has used CBD Dog Health’s CBD for Dogs, and now MycoDog mushrooms for dogs, on all her pets at her rescue farm every day since 2016. Angela’s pack includes rescues Jolene, Maza and Rhemi. In addition, she has 4-10 more any time she is fostering or boarding. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians and the Veterinary Cannabis Association. In fact, Angela has educated hundreds of medical doctors and veterinarians on the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals.
About Dr. Ava Frick
Dr. Frick graduated from veterinary college in 1980. Starting out in a traditional-style practice. Then, after her son was born in 1996, she transitioned to a more holistic approach. Chiropractic, rehabilitation, exercise, and nutrition has been her keen focus ever since. Early on, even before laser was popular, Dr. Frick designed the first Laser Spinal Pad® for animals. She is positioned as the world’s leading authority in veterinary microcurrent therapy spending over 20 years of research and publications in this field with Alpha-Stim® technology. Dr. Frick has also consulted for Standard Process® and developed the Clinical Animal Nutrition Survey© to help doctors prioritize organ system function via input by the dog and cat parent.
Educating others and sharing her wealth of knowledge has been the impetus for her books; starting with Fitness in Motion®, How to Interpret Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, How to Customize Nutrition in Dogs & Cats, Tai Chi-huahua® a low impact exercise video for dogs (and other critters), Dog Stretching Exercises video, contributions to online learning as an instructor at e-trainingfordogs.com, and many journal publications.
Ava was honored with the Hartz Veterinarian of the Year Runner-up, Franklin County Humane Society Visionary Award, and was one of the first inductees to the Animal Chiropractic Hall of Fame. Her biography, Conversations with Animals – From Farm Girl to Pioneering Veterinarian, was released in 2021. She now lives in Cave Creek, Arizona continuing her passions.