If you have been following my blog and web site you will know Kaffee. On January 7, 2018 Kaffee turned 13 and he is still walking daily with me, hiking on trails with the other dogs and friends for 1-2 hour walks, taking herding lessons and still competing in herding competitions. I feel so grateful that Kaffee is still well and fit at age 13. In this writing I would like to share some of the things that I have done to keep Kaffee active, healthy and happy.
First, Kaffee has been an amazing partner. We have gone on a wonderful journey together in these 13 years: competing in agility; traveling a great deal for us to learn about herding and competing where I put all his novice herding titles on him in AKC and AHBA. We then moved to obedience where he successfully competed getting 20 High in Trials, 22 High Combined recognitions and even more amazing was his OTCH (Obedience Trial Champion) that he got a few years ago. After his OTCH Kaffee (age 11) Kaffee went back to herding. I wanted him to not run as much to help keep in sound and to understand the finesse of driving. Kaffee then started training and showing with Dawna Sims who is an amazing trainer. Dawna put all of Kaffee’s open and advanced titles on him including his AHBA HTCH (Herding Trial Champion). Since he is sound and still enjoys herding sheep (and I enjoy watching him so much) he continues to take his sheep herding lesson and compete in AKC and AHBA Advanced. Many times he places and even will win his class.
Our life was full of travel and adventures, exploring trails in Sedona and Flagstaff and many special times to remember in our pictures.
Reflecting back on Kaffee’s life in the past and present here are a few things that stand out that have helped preserve his health, soundness and fitness.
- The very best nutrition possible.
- Daily exercise to help keep his endurance.
- Helping to prevent cognitive decline by finding ways for him to keep his mind active and always learning.
- Keeping him fit with exercises designed to strengthen his core, keep his muscles strong in his front and rear, help him with his balance and stability
- And most importantly, NEVER THINKING HE IS TOO OLD to do what the other younger Border Collies in the family do.
BEST NUTRITION AND CANINE NUTRIGENOMICS
I highly recommend Dr. Jean Dodds and Diana Laverdure’s excellent book, Canine Nutrigenomics where much of my new knowledge has come from. In this amazing book Dr. Dodds writes how our dogs are born with 21,000 genes. While we cannot do much to change these genes there is another layer of genes called the epigenome that surrounds our DNA and the proteins attached. From extensive research we now know that food communicates with our cells and can control these genes. You will learn important and valuable information in Canine Nutrigenomics on how food can change your dogs health and wellness and prevent many of the inflammation based conditions that are so prevalent in our animals such as allergies, arthritis, autoimmune disease, cancer, cognitive issues, GI disorder and many more.
I have been feeding a raw diet to my dogs for many years. However after taking 2 very extensive nutrition courses (one from Dogs Naturally and more recently from Dr. Jean Dodds and Diana Laverdure) I have modified the not only the quality of the raw food but also added functional canine superfoods avoiding foods that can lead to inflammation and the many diseases that are now prevalent in dogs.
These changes include:
- Meat from grass fed animals with no antibiotics, steroids, hormones and the highest quality wholesome ingredients including 100% USDA edible-grade meats and certified organic produce.
- Addition of organic produce daily to their diet such as the powerful antioxidant organic blueberries and nutrient dense superfoods such as watercress. Other superfoods come from fruits and vegetables such as the cruciferous vegetables broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage and bok choy. Leafy green vegetables are excellent and my dogs get one leafy green veggie with each meal.
- We know that fresh (organic when possible) fruits are important such as apples, bananas, berries and cantaloupe.
- The importance of functional fats and oils such as the addition of omega 3 fatty acids and coconut oil to a dogs diet.
- A senior dog has special needs such as preventing cognitive decline and coconut oil has the most amazing scientifically proven ability to improve brain function in older dogs (page 163, Canine Nutrigenomics). Antioxidents also are very beneficial for counteracting the effects of free radicals on the brain.
- Supplements to support canine performance and stamina and possible system weaknesses identified by blood work.
- Variety and rotation of all the food groups to maintain balance. I rotate their meat every 3-4 weeks and feed seasonal veggies.
Daily walking as a form of excellent exercise is not only important and beneficial for humans but also for their canine partners. Dogs loose muscle strength as they age especially in their hind end. They also loose endurance, change of gait and balance, flexibility and stability. I have tried to be aware of this and daily do some form of exercise with Kaffe. At least 6 days a week Kaffee goes for either a 30 minute walk where we live or for a trail hike. We also go regularly to his doggie gym almost every day. You can see the video below of the advanced work he does on balance discs to help keep him fit.
On the past we were able to hike on beautiful forest service trails behind my house several days a week; we also go to Northern Arizona to hike on lovely trails. We were still going 1-2 times a week for walks or runs on the wooded trails. Recently the 3 Border Collies got to enjoy some light snow on these same trails. Kaffee loves the snow as do all the dogs and just runs and run. The snow brings the puppy inside out.
PREVENTING COGNITIVE DECLINE and DYSFUNCTION
Most dogs begin to show signs of cognitive decline by age 11 and 12. You will begin to notice that they behave differently than they did when they were younger. Some changes may be physical due to decreases in hearing and sight and others may be due to health such as arthritis. Still we see definite changes in their ability to process information, learn, remember and often we see disorientation.
There are some things that can be done to help your aging senior dog related to diet, exercise, keeping a routine schedule, and finding ways for them to use their mind.
Here are a few things I have done with Kaffee.
Diet: Dr. Jean Dodds in her Canine Nutrigenomics book has an excellent section on “Nutritional Support for the Aging Canine Brain” (page 162). I again recommend her book but a few of the recommendations that I use with Kaffee and most of my dogs include:
- A diet rich in antioxidants to counteract the effects of free radials on the brain. Vitamins E and C plus the addition of fruits and vegetables are excellent. Blueberries are one of the best additions to the diet.
- Coconut oil has the amazing scientifically proven ability to improve brain function in older dogs (p. 163).
- Milk Thistle (reference p. 165-166). All my dogs receive Milk Thistle for one week a month
Work on Balance Discs: The video below shows the advanced work that Kaffee has progressed to on the balance discs. This work involving not only balance but also correct placement of front and hind legs encourages the use of his mind and translating it to his body. Kaffee loves his balance disc work and for his age has excellent balance. I believe this has some of the greatest impact on his cognition.
Activity: Kaffee has all of his herding titles but he still continues to take herding lessons regularly and compete in one class at each trial in 2 locations that he is familiar with. He seems to be so proud of himself when he herds the sheep and really enjoys this. This is another way he is being asked to use his mind and process information.
We have decreased the amount of time he herds to one run in a lesson and trial, only sheep and only trialing in 2 places that he is familiar with. He has a chance to practice his exercises in the trials helping to eliminate any confusion he might experience.
Fitness: As mentioned earlier Kaffee goes on daily walks with me for 30 minutes with some on and off leash. We also go hiking in Flagstaff 1-2 days a week on easy terrain. I am not sure that our hikes where I live would be suitable for him since it involves some climbing and maneuvering rocks but our hikes in Flagstaff seem to be perfect.
While I want to keep Kaffee as fit and active as possible I also realize that his activities need to be cut back to address what he is telling me about his body and what he can do. I watch him carefully every evening when he gets up to see if he is stiff or having trouble moving.
Yes, he still herds but less than a year ago. He comes out of the herding rings quite proud of himself. He got to spend his 13th birthday in an AHBA herding trial. He runs Advanced Level III herding and while he is slower than many of the dogs, he is slow and steady and always seems to qualify with lovely scores. Below is the video of his 13th birthday AHBA L# herding run where he got a 97 out of 100 points. He also won the raffle on his birthday which is the picture shown above.
The second video is of how Kaffee stays strong and sound by working out in his doggie gym on balance discs several days a week.
AVMA: Caring for an Older Pet
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