While Huff doesn’t want to share too much personal information, he thought there are some things you ought to know if you are adopting a senior dog.
One of the first things I did after Huff moved in, was take him to the vet. I am guessing you will do the same. I was already committed, I just wanted to know what it was going to cost me - both financially and emotionally.
I am sure you understand the first, but the let me clarify the second. Not knowing how healthy he was, I couldn’t make a guess on how long he would be with me. Moreover, the more serious his health issues might be, the more difficult choices I would have to make. Ugh.
It’s tough to spot health issues in a "new" old dog. The warning signs of trouble are vague. Weight loss, decrease in appetite, fatigue, changes in bowel habits, unusual behavior. When you adopt a dog, you have no baseline for comparison. You don’t know what normal is.
Warning Sign 1: Weight Loss. Has he lost weight? He weighs 38 pounds today. That’s all I know.
Warning Sign 2: Decrease in appetite. Huff was eating, but a little less than the vet thought he should be. I didn’t know if that was a problem or a habit. It was a problem.
Warning Sign 3: Increased fatigue. He was sleeping a lot, but he is fourteen. He was alert when he needed to be, so was the sleeping a health issue or an old dog’s proclivity for naps?
Warning Sign 4: Changes in bowel habits? Uhh. Food went in. Poop came out. So I guessed it was okay. I was wrong about that.
Warning Sign 5: Unusual behavior? He’s a herding dog. A traumatized herding dog. He had been attacked by another dog at some point in his past and he has not recovered mentally from that. Our walks are an exercise in paranoia. He has PTSD, but that’s a story for another post. When safe inside the house, he was fine. He wasn’t whining or pacing all the time, so I gave that a no to unusual behavior. Mostly.
His blood work showed no abnormalities.
He was heartworm negative.
He had an ingrown dewclaw that was easily fixed.
He has hip dysplasia which cannot be fixed.
He needed dental work - at least one tooth would have to come out. We scheduled that.
This was not my cheapest trip to the vet. But not my most expensive. That would come later, when the dental work was done.
One of the best things about adopting an older dog is watching them come back to life.
When he first arrived, Huff was closed off. He was obedient, but not expression. He was fearful, always waiting for next instruction. He shrank in fear if I was upset or angry. My emotions didn’t have to be directed at him. I am pretty sure he was not responsible for the weird updates on my computer, but my frustration sent him cowering into the corner.
He looks alive now. His coat is shiny. Part of that could be attributed to the bath he tolerated but did not enjoy. It could be the daily scrambled egg breakfast. No, he is not spoiled, much.
His eyes show emotions. He is willing to express his displeasure with me - which is delightful. I’m still in charge but we are team now and feels safe enough to offer his input. If you live with a herding dog, you should expect that.
More Adventures with Huff
For the latest: See The Huff Diary