Tuesday 23 January 2018

The strays of Istanbul

I had the good fortune to spend new year 2017 in Kadiköy, in the Asian part of Turkey. It was amazing – the coffee, the exotic-sounding language, and the plaintive and incomparable call to prayer, ringing out every few hours from the mosques.

It was especially impressive hearing the Iman calling from Istanbul's fabulous Blue Mosque, which is quite magnificent, both inside and out, and it reminded me of the time I spent in Northern Cyprus some years ago.

Turkey was just as I expected and more besides. What I hadn't expected to find, here in Istanbul and Kadiköy, were the numerous stray cats and dogs who populate the streets, apparently living in harmony alongside the people of Turkey. There are a huge number of these animals – unwanted by some but not unloved, it seems – and a scheme has been implemented whereby strays are taken in by resuce centres; checked over, vaccinated against rabies and other diseases, neutered, tagged and then returned to the streets, where local people (and a great many tourists) ensure their day-to-day living is taken care of. It's quite common to see both dogs and cats sleeping peacefully on the floor inside shops, cafes, and bars, oblivious to the coming and going of customers. It is hoped that this regime will mean an eventual reduction in the number of strays, which should, in theory, be the case.

I was both heartened and humbled to experience how Turkey is trying to accommodate these animals (who are, by the way, beautiful, and very affectionate by nature), who have become strays through no fault of their own. Far, far preferable is this to America's kill policy so enthusiastically implemented ... it could learn a lesson from Turkey's example.

Friday 12 January 2018

You old dog!

After Christmas, there is always a focus on new or young dogs – how to look after them, what to feed them, etc – but what about older dogs? They require just as much care and attention as a new furry friend in the home!

Just like us, dogs are living longer, which has led to the need for a greater understanding of what is ideal in terms of care, exercise, food, physical and emotional support. Signs of ageing are similar to those in humans – grey hair, slower movement, tiring more often. Quite when a dog is considered 'senior' varies dependent on breed, but most tend to start showing signs of slowing down from the age of seven. Things to be mindful of include:

Mobility We are all prone to aching joints as time goes on, but there are a number of ways in which we can help ease our dog into a slower pace of life. Keep a consistent daily routine that either involves short walks, or garden activities, to keep him moving. 
You can teach an old dog new tricks, and he will thank you for it, as it can help to make him feel 'younger.' An added bonus is that older dogs have a better attention span than younger pups, so training them will be easier for you too.

Creature comforts Your dog may need to rest more, and that's fine! Make sure that everything he can possibly need throughout the day is close to hand for him, and that there are minimal obstructions to hinder him. 
Hard floors can prove tricky for senior dogs, so try a non-slip rug underfoot to give him more traction. 
It's also a good idea to revise the way in which he eats, as some older dogs find it difficult standing for prolonged periods of time.
They may also suffer from separation anxiety, so try not to leave an older dog alone for extended periods.

Warmth With thinning fur, it's a good idea to invest in a nice coat for those brisk, and often wet, winter walks. When back at home, be mindful of draughts in the house, and make sure that his bed is situated somewhere cosy.

Bodily functions Incontinence, loss of sight, and being hard of hearing are all unfortunate side-affects of old age in almost every animal, but that doesn't mean it has to prevent a normal way of life! Help re-train your pooch to use an indoor litter tray if he can't make it through the night without a visit outside. Have patience when your dog doesn't seem to respond to you – he probably just didn't hear you, or is having trouble focusing his vision!

A dog's diet is a crucial aspect at any age, but there are a number of different things to consider now your faithful companion is getting on in years. It is important to maintain a balanced diet in order to combat obesity and diabetes. Dinner with Rover and Dog cookies are two books that can help inspire you to creat fun and nutritional dishes for dogs of all ages!

There are some key areas where a change in diet can improve your dog's general health:

Gut-love Digestion becomes tricker with age, so including highly digestible ingredients, in particular proteins, will help with the efficiency of the gut. Fibre is a good ingredient to keep a steady, and healthy, gut transit.

Organs The higher the quality, the higher the nutrients! This will mean fewer waste products for the kidneys to dispose of. Maintaining a balance of minerals is another way to help protect the kidneys, whilst some diets contain specific essential fatty acid supplements that can not only protect the kidneys, but the heart as well.

Weighing-in on the situation Keeping a close eye on your dog's weight in his senior years is key to retaining mobility. It's ideal to feed your dog food that is lower in fat and calories to reflect a slower metabolism, and reduced exercise.

Grey matter We are all prone to senior moments, and dogs are no exception! The brain and immune system may not be what they once were, but a balance of vitamins and minerals can help to increase the effectiveness of the immune system as Fido ages. An increased intake of antioxidants will also benefit immunity, as well as having the added bonus of protecting against brain ageing!

Word of mouth Appetite decreases with age, and senior diets are structured around this; kibbles are generally smaller for ease of eating. Some kibbles may include a dental formula to help clean your dog's teeth while he chews. 

Aside from the obvious needs of an elderly dog, there are a great number of reasons why they make the perfect pet! Every dog deserves a loving home, but younger dogs are more favoured for adoption than their elders. Just think of how much you'll be appreciated if you take home an older dog instead – not to mention the brownie points you will gain emotionally, knowing you have saved a dog from possible euthanasia. Older dogs also have a more mellow temperament, and can be easier to form a bond with than younger dogs, and are generally easier to get along with, as most are content just being in their owner's company!

For a great guide on caring for your senior pooch, why not pick up a copy of Living with an older dog, available from Hubble & Hattie? It covers a wide range of aspects that you are likely to encounter whilst caring for your furry friend, and will be invaluable to you and your dog during his golden years. Always remember to consult your vet if there are any changes in your companion that concern you.