Holiday Gift Ideas

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2018 CAT Calendar

Give the purrfect gift and support a great cause!  Adorable 12-month wall calendar features photos of rescue cats and kittens *


Best Friends' Corner

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Heal Animal Massage Therapy

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Perfect Gift for the Responsible Dog Walker!

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Honor a pet or loved one this season!


Beautiful and Clean for the holidays!

Show Dogs Grooming Salon & Boutique Full Service Salon for dogs and cats. Tues-Sat 9am-7pm. We Groom with care.



Holistic Care a Boon for Seniors

Treating the Whole Pet for Quality of Life

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Meet Piper, a sweet 14-year-old Goldendoodle. Like many older dogs, while generally healthy, Piper periodically experiences back and hip pain, and has a bit of trouble getting around. All this is managed with the support of a great veterinarian.

When Dr. Louise Mesher of At Home Veterinary Services (AHVS), arrives at Piper’s home, she and her technician first do a thorough exam. Discussing any new issues and checking problem areas in her back and hips, the conversation naturally includes her quality of life, and treatment options to continue supporting her well-being. Mesher and her team treat the whole dog, considering quality of life in every step of the process. They first assess any medical concerns, then present a range of available treatments, detailing potential benefits and risks.

While discussing a pet’s aging and disease is difficult, it is extremely important — potentially preventing the need to make rash or emotional decisions later. Sometimes preventive treatment is “just what the doctor ordered,” but other times no action is best. A vet who is willing to discuss all the angles — with impeccable skills and a loving heart — is among a pet parent’s most important ally in navigating the later years of their beloved pet’s life. Dr. Mesher is just that for many, and it shows: this year Mesher and her practice won 1st Place Top Dog Awards for Home/Medical Vet, End of Life Care, and Cat Medical; and was voted Top 10 for Veterinarian (Dr. Heather Dillon and Dr. Mesher), Veterinary Practice, Specialty Medical, and Holistic Practitioner.

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In caring for seniors teamwork is king

“It is important to note that maintaining quality of life for elderly animals is not just about veterinary care,” Mesher explains. “It’s about organizing a whole support system. Each animal requires a different level of care, and each owner requires support from those around them. It’s a team approach.”

A full menu . . . and growing

AHVS provides many other services, including preventive and hospice care. For many animals, having care at home minimizes stress and allows for a relaxed, calm visit.

The ongoing care Piper receives includes acupuncture and therapeutic laser for back and hip pain. She also receives physical therapy (lucky dog!). Several members of the AHVS team are Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapists, and they teach Piper and her owners therapeutic exercises for strength and flexibility. AHVS now offers these services to assist patients with long-term injuries and debility. The wonderful team of vets is ready for just about anything, and unfailingly provides care that honors the human-animal bond at every stage of a pet’s life.

The October/November '17 (We Heart Our Aging Pets) issue is brought to you by At Home Veterinary Services.

Learn more: * * 503-281-1631

For the Love of Seniors

Meet beloved older lovebugs shared by a few of Spot's Facebook friends.


I have the world’s most wonderful two Senior Pets around, Bubbas and Oski.

Bubbas came to me in 2006 at 2 years old as a $15 rescue from the San Bernardino Animal Shelter.  When he was picked up, the person told us "he's a lucky boy, we were just prepping the room to put him down as he'd been here for over a week and his time is up." He is the most beautiful and sweetest boy I have ever known.  He wakes up every morning at 5am to go outside and watch the morning sunrise and visit with the birds and squirrels.  He adores chicken jerky, long walks and rides in the car.


Oski was a Craigslist rescue at the age of 10 back in 2012. He is a Chow/German Shepard, and adores rolling around in the grass.  He is my big cuddle muffin shadow man who waits by the door for me until I come home and follows me wherever I go.  He loves babysitting little puppies and is the perfect teacher and nanny: so very patient, loving and calm. Oski's favorite things in life are chicken, pets on the head, and walks in nature.

- Jess Peterson


Our little old man, Jake, is a marvel. Sixteen, two rebuilt knees, spinal surgery that nearly killed him, deaf, losing his sight and what we believe is doggie dementia, and yet there are times he has the eagerness and energy of a youngster. We are his family three, getting him at the age of six, and will be his forever people. Of five other dogs in our lives he is the most memorable and will be the most missed when he leaves us, but until then he makes us laugh every day and shares our great love and affection.

- Patty Hudson


"My name is Miss Lily, and nine years ago I curled up in Mama Laurel's lap because I knew I'd found my furever home. The past nine years have been filled with great joys and deep sorrows. I am a sensitive beast, and show my family expressive, unconditional love no matter what path we walk. My age has not really slowed me down much; I still hike and swim and play and learn new tricks. I'm so grateful Mama and Dad came into the shelter, and I tell and show them every single day."

- LaurelAnn Boone


His name is Guinness and he is 19 years old. He was a pound puppy, so his first year of life is unknown to us, yet evidence like the bb's lodged throughout his small body point to a rough start. So... you can’t blame that he only trusts those he loves. Those chosen few have aided in providing him an amazing life. He is my best friend and I am not satisfied with 19 years, I want him to share my entire life. I understand that's unreasonable. So, instead I will enjoy every moment until I kiss him our last goodbye.

- James Moore & Travis Ayres

Curb Your Enthusiasm

It’s our job to prevent overexertion          


Traci Delos loved watching her little dog play in the sprinklers. He’d bite at the water and chase it around the lawn, bright-eyed and wiggling, happy as could be. It’s the kind of all-out playing pet parents love to see, and a perfect way for pups to burn energy while staying cool on a warm day. 

The day he came in from playing and collapsed, Delos became a sudden expert in something she hadn’t known existed: water toxicity.

“He drank too much water, and that upsets the electrolyte balance enough that it can actually kill them,” she says. The dog was nearly unresponsive when she rushed him to the veterinary clinic. Thankfully, he survived. Since that day, Delos has been passionate about warning people that dogs who swim or play in water — or even who gulp buckets during rough play — are at risk for this uncommon but potentially fatal condition. “Especially for Retrievers and other breeds that tend to overdo it, this is something to watch for. It can cause swelling of the brain and they can die.”

Delos was surprised that she’d never heard of the condition. She’s worked with animals all her life, first as a groomer and sitter, then in veterinary client care and practice management. Today she is hospital administrator at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center in Tigard, OR. 

“It’s something I wasn’t aware of,” she says, even after years of experience in emergency clinics and specialty practices. But she’s not alone among well-informed pet guardians who hadn’t heard of some of the deadliest illnesses until their own pet experienced an emergency.

We’re all wary of common maladies like sore muscles and arthritic joints in our weekend warriors. The deadlier dangers though, while rare, are so horrifying that they warrant conversation.

The good news is, simple precautions can lower the risk of sudden deadly conditions. And pets who experience the more common ones, such as exertion injuries, are fortunate to live in the Northwest. 


“There aren’t a lot of things I see in human medicine that aren’t available in animal medicine,” says Delos, pointing to treatments such as veterinary acupuncture, massage, cold laser, stem cell and injection therapies, underwater treadmills, and therapy pools. 

Stem-cell therapy involves drawing the animal’s own fat cells, harvesting the stem cells, and injecting them back into the patient. “Tissues can regenerate,” Delos says. “Laser therapy and acupuncture are incredible. When I think back to when I was growing up, and what we were able to do for them and what we can do now, it’s just amazing.”

That, along with new anti-inflammatory medications with fewer risks and side effects than those available even just a few years ago, make it a pretty good time to be an aging dog or cat with creaky joints, bulging discs, or torn ligaments. 

As with humans, pets typically experience some age-related joint or soft-tissue pain. Some are more vulnerable due to their breed, genetics, or lifestyle. The part we can impact —lifestyle — can be challenging for those who have playful acrobatic cats or intensely ball-crazy dogs with a go-go-go approach to life.

Humans are likely to slow down when in pain, but our furry athletes are often loathe to leave the field. As Delos points out, it’s up to us to watch for signs of trouble and make them rest before overdoing it. Signs can include excessive panting, trembling, being unusually vocal or restless, or frequently re-positioning while lounging or sleeping. Symptoms might not always be obvious, which is another reason to see the doc anytime a pet’s behavior changes. 

Delos recalls a woman who felt she had to give up her Retriever who had started showing signs of aggression. “I had to email her and say, ‘Hey, that’s how animals often react to pain, so it’s important to have the vet check that out.’”


Guarding against overexertion can be a daily job for people with highly-driven breeds or working dogs, but simple steps can help prevent wear-and-tear injuries and even more dangerous conditions. Depending on your pet’s age, breed, snout length, and general fitness level, his exercise limits might be a short leash walk or an hour-long game of fetch. Whatever his limit, it’s worth heeding. Especially in extreme heat or cold, and in older animals, the risk is far greater than a potential knee injury. 

“A seven- or eight-year old dog can be like an 80-year-old person,” says Delos. Risks can include sudden death from “breathing problems, heart problems, heart attacks — pretty much anything that can happen to an older person from overexertion.” 

Thanks to advancing medical care, pets and humans alike are living active lifestyles well beyond middle age, healing from injuries, managing arthritis, and staying in the game. In the end, that means we get to enjoy our furry adventure buddies for more years. 

“We’re their guardians,” says Delos, “and it’s important for us to make sure their quality of life is the best it can be.”


Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.

Can you hear me now? Vision and hearing loss in elderly pets.


One morning, shelter staff arrived for work to find a gray-faced black Lab wandering the parking lot. She was stiff-kneed and seemingly confused, but happy to see them. She put a slight bounce in her step as the humans slapped their legs to call her to them. Animals were usually surrendered at the front desk during business hours, and staff were able to get the pet’s history. All they knew about this old girl was what they could see: she was probably about 10, a bit arthritic, and sweet as they come.

Days passed while staff waited through the old dog’s mandatory stray time, doubting anyone would come looking for claim her. She wasn’t lost; she’d been dumped there. In her kennel, she bounced and wiggled when caretakers opened the kennel door, but she rarely lifted her head to make eye contact with people walking by making friendly, encouraging sounds. Maybe she was a bit withdrawn, they thought. Poor old love had been abandoned, after all.

When her stray hold was up staff called me, the first person who always came to mind when elderly black dogs were in the adoption kennels. Big, old, and black (BOB): the well-known trinity of bad luck for dogs in crowded shelters. In those days — the early 2000s — the shelters were always full. For some reason, potential adopters overlooked BOB dogs. And this one, with the way she stared at the walls rather than visitors, it was unlikely she would be adopted anytime soon.

The dog happily got in my car for the short drive home. I showed her to a new dog bed in the living room, and she plopped her old bones down. Never a sound, or a demand, or a nudge from a wet nose: the old girl just kept to herself. She didn’t seem distressed; in fact, she walked into my house and claimed the bed without a hint of surprise — as if she knew she’d be coming to a house like this and a bed like that.

I settled in and picked up the book I was reading. Maybe just sitting quietly nearby would help the old girl come out of her shell.  I realized I needed to call her something other than “Old Girl.” She needed a name. From my spot on the couch, I started calling out names of female characters in my book. “Chelsea?” No response. “Gretchen?” Zilch. “Becky?” Nothing. “Maya?” Hey! She lifted her head and looked right at me. “You like the name Maya?” Her floppy ears perked up, making wrinkles just above her silver brows. “That’s your name then, Maya. Okay? Maya?” Nothing. Her head dropped back down on the dog bed.

By the time Maya had her first medical checkup two days later, I was starting to wonder if maybe she was deaf. The vet said she’d do a quick exam to find out.

“Maya. Hey! Maya!” the doctor called from four feet away. Maya’s ears didn’t move. Her head didn’t rise off the tile floor.


“Yep. She’s deaf,” the doctor said. “Can you believe I have twelve years of college to do this job?” she laughed. Maya was otherwise in generally good health, and there was no way to know whether she’d always been deaf or had lost her hearing with age.

And suddenly, I had a big, sweet, lumbering, deaf buddy. Pretty soon, though, I could easily forget she was deaf. Because Maya settled in and adapted to the household the way any dog would.

None of this surprises Susan Licari, founder of St. Martin’s Animal Rescue in Sheridan, OR. “Having a deaf or blind dog is never any more trouble,” she says. “And that includes finding adoptable homes for them. They always get adopted and they always do well in their homes.”

Licari has rescued elderly and special-needs dogs for much of her adult life. When she founded her rescue in 2012, she became a refuge for many elderly dogs with hearing and vision loss. Animals find their way to Licari when families can’t keep caring for them or when out-of-state shelters with high euthanasia rates can’t devote the resources to help them find ideal homes.

According to Licari, though, the necessary time and energy are almost inconsequential. That’s largely because of dogs’ and cats’ sharp senses. “If they can’t see anymore, their sense of smell and hearing just become more pronounced. Same with deaf dogs: their sight and smell just get stronger.”

For many of us, acquiring a deaf or blind pet is a gradual process. That is, our dog or cat will undergo this loss with age. While some breeds are more prone to vision and hearing loss, all animals (like humans) experience some changes with age. Animals whose faculties diminish over time have the advantage of being familiar with their surroundings. In later years, the dog might get bumped by an opening door because he didn’t hear us approaching, or the cat reaches a paw to feel for a ledge before jumping because she’s learning not to trust her depth perception. Such small things are often the sum of their changes. Once they adjust to their new sight or hearing levels, they carry on as usual.

“It’s good to keep furniture where it is,” says Licari. For her, such practices are a given, and she’s happy to coach new adopters through the steps. By definition, a rescue organization places animals in new, unfamiliar homes. For deaf and blind pets, that transition requires just a bit more attention, but the accommodations are simple.


Licari sometimes outfits animals with halo-type bumpers while they learn the layout of a new home. This allows them to explore without bumping their heads or noses against walls and table legs because the halo bumps first and gives them a warning. Soon, they don’t need the halo.

Licari also uses pets’ sense of smell to help guide them to different zones of the house. She’ll place different essential oils in each zone, such as citrus near the door where the dog will learn to go out to potty, and a comforting fragrance near the cat’s new bed.

Aside from these temporary fixes, Licari says these pets only need a bit of understanding. “Try not to startle them. A lot of times they’ll feel the vibration of the floor as we walk toward them,” she says, adding that can still be easily startled.

At my house, Maya sometimes didn’t hear footsteps in time to move away from a swinging door. I learned to open them slowly. At the dog park, she’d put her wiggly gray nose to the ground to follow a scent, lost in her own fragrant world. I’d only need to catch up and tap my finger near her shoulder, and she’d look up, always surprised. “Oh, hey! You’re at the park, too. Isn’t it great?!?”

Resources: * St. Martin's Animal Rescue on Facebook


Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.



Testing the Bond: Incontinence and your senior


There’s no doubt that dealing with chronic incontinence can challenge even the most patient and dedicated pet owner. The smell you can’t quite get rid of, the endless shampooing, the squish of stepping into a puddle or pile you didn’t see.

Just like humans, aging dogs and cats often suffer physical and sometimes cognitive changes that can weaken bladders, bowels and the systems that control their function. Incontinence can be so trying that it plays a role in why many pets find themselves homeless in their golden years.

“I don’t have statistics, but in my experience it’s quite often that dogs are surrendered because of incontinence issues,” says Susan Brugato, founder of St. Martin’s Animal Rescue. Established in 2012, the foster-based rescue’s mission is to save senior dogs from high-kill shelters.

Sadly, some of those dogs might have been able to stay in their homes had owners known that many incontinence issues can be treated — or at least managed.

“The biggest mistake people make regarding incontinence is assuming it’s behavioral and not taking the dog to the vet,” says Brugato.

Diagnose before you decide

Incontinence can happen at any time and for many reasons. However, some pets are more prone to these types of problems.

“We tend to see incontinence much more in females than males, and much more in dogs than cats,” says Dr. Alicia Zambelli of Murrayhill Animal Hospital.

The most common urinary incontinence is seen in older spayed female dogs, which can be remedied with medication or hormone supplements. Still, the issue may not be age-related.

“Anytime you see the dog is leaking, the first thing you want to check is that they don’t have a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, or other medical problem,” advises Zambelli. Most of those issues can be treated effectively.

Fecal incontinence can be much harder to manage. In older dogs, cognitive dysfunction can be a cause, but other reasons not related to age such as spinal injuries and disease may be addressed with acupuncture and medication.

Luckily for cat owners, true incontinence of any kind is much less common. In senior felines, constipation and kidney disease are more common, and both can have the same root cause.

“Kidneys are the Achilles heel of cats,” says Zambelli. “Over time if kidney function deteriorates — renal insufficiency — in order to compensate they drink more and urinate more. Sometimes that expands into urinating inappropriately.”

This lack of fluid can also create poor bowel function, and if your cat has an unusually poop-free litterbox, you should note that.

There may be another less direct cause if your kitty starts to have accidents. “One thing that’s easy to miss in older cats is arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and pain,” Zambelli says. “They no longer want to jump up into the cat box, so they start peeing on the floor. It’s a solvable problem if we troubleshoot and put a real low pan down, like a baking sheet, and improve accessibility and address pain.”


Oops! I did it again

Taking care of an incontinent senior takes effort, but there are many ways to make this labor of love manageable.

“First of all, no carpet!” laughs Brugato. “Also, make any bedding easy to clean. I take the filling or pad from dog beds, put it inside a plastic garbage bag, tape it up, then put the cover over that. You only have to wash the cover and the filling stays fresh and dry.”

Barrier pads, such as belly bands for incontinent male dogs, work well. With any method, however, pets need to be kept clean so that secondary issues don’t arise. 

“It’s important to make sure there’s no perineal scald [skin burns from urine], skin irritation, or dampness that can lead to secondary itch, infection, and discomfort,” says Zambelli. “Animals can suffer silently and don’t always tell us when they’re uncomfortable.”

But sometimes they do. Constant licking can be the first sign of a problem. “Some dogs just get moist and there aren’t puddles around the house,” says the doctor. “That can be emerging incontinence. It’s probably not just a habit.”

As for clean-up, Brugato says there are many great solutions on the market, including the one she uses with the superhero-worthy name: Airx Rx 101 All-Purpose Odor Counteractant Cleaner. You can also opt for something simpler that’s nearly as effective: hydrogen peroxide mixed with baking soda and vinegar.

“You have to really soak the carpet or fabric and rub,” she says. “Just spraying with a spray bottle does nothing.”

For pet owners, the hardest part of dealing with incontinence may be the realization that your loved one is aging and that your time with them is growing shorter. But Zambelli says it doesn’t need to be a sad time for you or your pet.

 “There’s so much I think we can do for older cats and dogs.” 


Michele Coppola is a veteran Portland radio personality, copywriter and freelance writer who shares couch space with her dogs Ginny and Bailey, Roxy the a cat, as well as Bryon, the stray man she married eight years ago.

Senior Emergencies


Leading causes, and keys to survival

We’ve all been there . . .

You’re walking the pup, and . . . “Is he limping?  I didn’t notice that yesterday.”

Or you’re strutting along and wonder, “She sure is panting a lot. It’s not that hot out. Is that normal?”

Or your cat has been sleeping all day. “I know cats sleep a lot, but he used to be so playful.”

Or, “Wow, she sure has been drinking a lot of water lately.”

Or, you’re snuggling with your lovebug and discover a lump.

Another biggie: they didn’t eat breakfast (or dinner) — a huge concern with a pet who never skips a meal.

These occurrences are all the more worrisome when pets are older.  Any new, little thing brings trepidation and fear.

It’s hard to believe how time flies, and our pawed companions reach their senior years much faster than we do. Aging is an undeniable part of life and, for pets, along with it comes lumps and bumps, limps and gimps.

It’s easy to recognize the outward signs of aging in a pet: stiffening joints, graying muzzle, slowing gait, and once bright eyes growing cloudy.  What can’t be seen but must be remembered is that his or her internal systems are changing too.

So, how can you tell if your senior pet is suffering from a serious health issue or merely presenting signs of age?

Spot spoke with Dr Megan Nyboer, Emergency Director at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center about the most common medical emergencies for pets in their golden years.


Metabolic System Disease

The metabolism makes energy from food and eliminates waste and toxins from the body.  Metabolic function is at the core of good physical health. Disorders include anything that disrupt the process, from disease isolated to an organ such as kidney or liver to a systemic disease affecting the body overall such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism.


Early indications of a metabolic problem include increased thirst/urination and weight loss. More advanced signs include decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting and weakness. “While not curable, metabolic system disease is treatable if caught early,” Nyboer says. The best prevention, she adds, is annual exams and bloodwork for pets six to seven years of age and twice yearly as they get older or as specific health issues arise.


Heart Disease

Dr Nyboer says heart disease is very common in both older dogs and cats, but that it can be managed when detected early.


Signs that trouble is brewing for dogs include a cough lasting more than a couple of weeks, lethargy, and intolerance to exercise. Difficulty and/or heavy breathing, severe coughing, and fluid from the nose are more acute symptoms, signifying a possible emergency that may require oxygen.

As with their canine counterparts, sudden onset of heavy breathing and general lethargy in felines are indicators of heart disease, but Nyboer warns that cats often exhibit no symptoms.  In fact, she says, cats tend to mask signs of illness better than dogs, often delaying detection.

This underscores the importance of yearly physical exams: early detection is key to being able to manage a disease, and hopefully prolong survival. If a murmur is discovered, for example, it can be monitored, and explored further with additional diagnostic tests.



For pets, incidents of cancer increase with age. According to The Veterinary Cancer Society, cancer is the leading cause of death in 47% of dogs (especially over age 10) and 32% of cats. 

With so many different types, cancer follows no iron-clad rule. Symptoms vary, or can be scarce until the disease has become advanced.

The cancer that causes the most life-threatening emergencies — especially in older animals — is Hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive, malignant tumor in blood vessel cells. Because these tumors form in blood vessels, they are frequently filled with blood. When a blood-filled tumor ruptures, it can cause internal bleeding — particularly when the liver or spleen are involved.

“This can happen very quickly and without warning,” says Nyboer. “This an acute, urgent situation where immediate emergency care is needed.”


Because pets may not exhibit symptoms until a problem becomes serious, the doctor urges parents of senior pets to vigilantly watch for listlessness, sudden and unexplained weakness, pale gums, abdominal swelling, difficulty breathing, and collapse.



Regular veterinary examinations and bloodwork establish a baseline for pets, making it easier to detect abnormalities before they become advanced or life-threatening and improving the chances of a longer, healthier life.

You know your pet better than anyone, making you his or her first line of defense. Watch for even small signs that your aging dog or cat is “just not feeling or acting right” and, should they appear, get veterinary care. The sooner you act, the better the chance of a positive outcome for your best friend.

Resource: Cascade Veterinary Referral Center | |  503-684-1800


Vonnie Harris is a freelance writer, and operator of Pet Stop Pit Stop pet sitting services in SW Washington. She resides in Vancouver with Jessie (a yellow Lab), and Pedro & Grey Bird (parrots). Vonnie is “the face of Spot” at many Portland-area pet-related events, and the voice of Spot in social media outlets.

Caring for “gray muzzles” in shelters and at home


When people consider adopting a pet, they often think of puppies or kittens. They’re cute, warm and fuzzy, and their new family gets to watch them grow up from day one.

But it takes a lot of time and effort to make that puppy a part of the family. When you take on the privilege of caring for an older dog or cat, that work is already done. In essence, you can skip right ahead to the golden years. And as many will testify, it’s an extraordinary experience.

Portland resident Lindsey Ferguson adopted a senior dog, Gizmo, while in college. “I knew from volunteering in the shelter that senior dogs had trouble finding homes,” she says. “It was mostly because people didn't like the idea of getting attached and then losing them so quickly. But the truth was that they were the best-behaved dogs in the shelter. When it came time for me to start fostering, I requested an older dog.”

DNA testing showed Gizmo was a purebred Lhasa Apso. The shelter estimated his age at 10, but he lived 10 more years after finding his forever home with Ferguson. 

Many shelter animals are stray or abandoned, with no known medical history. Age is often a guess. Also, what is considered senior can vary by breed, based on average lifespan. While in shelters, senior animals often need unique care that can increase the shelter’s budget. In years past, shelters didn’t try too hard to place senior dogs or cats, but that is changing.

“Where our shelters used to be overcrowded now we’re at a point where some of our shelters are actually seeking out adoptable animals,” says Kim Alboum, Shelter Outreach and Policy Engagement Director at the Humane Society of the United States. “The messaging about spay/neuter and adopt don’t shop and visit your local shelter have worked.”

Along with this evolution has come increased services and resources to help place harder to adopt pets. “People have a special place in their hearts for the seniors,” says Alboum. “Many times we have shelters step right up to take in seniors because they pull at the heartstrings of the community.”

Senior dogs often have joint aches and pains, so they need comfy beds with support. They also need food formulated for their life stage.

“Many times senior dogs at shelters have lost their owners but were previously well-cared for, so we see obesity,” Alboum says. “And with senior animals we see dental issues. Dental care can be very expensive for shelters, so they do expect that their budget is going to be higher when they have more senior animals.”

According to the ASPCA, about 1.5 million animals per year are currently being euthanized in the US. Alboum says there was a time when closer to 14 million animals were euthanized annually. The likelihood of a senior animal being adopted was very slim. “But now far fewer animals are being euthanized, and these animals now have a really good chance of being adopted because they’re housebroken, they’re trained, and they’re just incredible pets,” she says. “These ‘gray muzzles’ as we call them are really special.”

Sasha Elliott, Community Engagement Manager for Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene, says Greenhill offers reduced or fee-waived adoptions for any seniors in their care, including dogs, cats, and small animals such as rabbits. 

“Unlike puppies or kittens who require extensive training and activity, senior pets fit into your life — they’re already great dogs and cats,” Elliott says. “Whether you’re looking for a companion to go on long walks with, or someone to relax with on the couch or porch, a senior pet can be a great fit.”

Tina Aarth and Joe Martinez, adoption coordinators at Animal Aid in Portland, love their senior dogs. “We love being able to help them find their soft landing,” says Martinez. “After a lifetime of human companionship, the isolation of a kennel can be extremely depressing.”

Two key features of Animal Aid’s successful senior placements are in keeping their animals in foster care for as long as it takes to get them adopted — sometimes for several months or even years, along with medical support. 

“Many senior dogs have problems with their kidneys, hearts, joints, teeth, etc.,” Martinez says. “The Animal Aid Cares fund allows us to adopt dogs with ongoing medical needs into loving homes where the cost of vet care might be overwhelming. We do this by paying half of the animal's medical costs for the first year, and sometimes longer.”

Seniors at Animal Aid get more frequent vet check ups and whatever dental procedures or other medical treatment may be needed while waiting for their “furever homes.” At foster homes, seniors can have a more comfortable life while awaiting their new family, and, as in the case of Ferguson and Gizmo, that foster home may become their forever home. 

At home with Gizmo, Ferguson says routine was key. He had health problems that required twice-daily medication, so they kept to a schedule. “That made it easier to identify new problems and to monitor improvements,” she says. 

The extra vet care can be expensive, so Ferguson kept a rainy day fund and worked with her vet to manage her budget. Ferguson says she prefers senior pets because they are easier to care for and don't require the exercise and attention puppies or kittens do.

“There are far fewer unknowns with a senior pet,” Ferguson says. “And for the most part they just want a comfortable spot to nap and a belly rub.”

Animal Aid *

Greenhill Humane Society *

The Humane Society of the United States *


Vanessa Salvia's love for animals began as a child, when stray kittens just seemed to follow her home (who thankfully, her family accommodated). She lives on a sheep farm outside of Eugene OR, surrounded by dogs, cats, horses, chickens and kids.

Fresh food — it’s good for everyone


Heather Macfarlane of WILD Pet Provisions has worked in the pet health and nutrition field for more than 30 years. In that time, she says one of the most frequent questions she’s heard from pet parents is what senior dog/cat food is best.

Macfarlane says nutritional recommendations are based on each dog and cat's individual needs, and senior pets are no exception. “Diets should be tailored to meet each pet's nutritional needs, and not based on age alone,” she says. “Every person I know eats for their needs — why should pets be any different? 

In the natural world, Macfarlane points out, there is no puppy, adult, or senior food for wolves or wild cats, and in fact no packaged food at all. “Their food is their prey —  raw muscle meat with organs, bones, fur, and pre-digested greens, berries, and anything else that’s in the stomach of their prey.”

What did dogs eat before commercial pet food became available a mere hundred years ago? Macfarlane says, “People food. Mostly consisting of the parts of the food we didn't eat — meat scraps, organs, bones, veggies, etc. This was much closer to their natural diet than what we find in the pet food aisle today.” 

Macfarlane goes on to say that while the pet food industry holds that senior dogs and cats should eat differently than adults or young pets, there isn't a consensus for guidelines on such senior formulas. “In reality, senior pet foods on the market vary in content and analysis, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, and calories,” Macfarlane says. “Just because a pet food says it is for "senior dogs/cats" it doesn't mean it's good for all senior pets. A dog the same age as your senior dog may have very different nutritional needs, so feeding them both the same food may not be beneficial to one, or either one for that matter.” 

22-year-old Turtle is one of Macfarlane's four senior felines (and one senior dog)

22-year-old Turtle is one of Macfarlane's four senior felines (and one senior dog)

All dogs and cats should eat according to their individual needs, not just based on their age, Macfarlane says. 

So what to consider when making food choices for your pet? Macfarlane says body condition and underlying disease or imbalances are much more important factors than age when it comes to feeding your senior pet. 

“What I recommend is that all dogs and cats, including seniors, eat fresh, raw food,” Macfarlane says.  “Raw food is in its natural state and the nutrition is readily recognized and utilized in dog and cat bodies. Older pets thrive from food they are designed to eat, which provide moisture, natural joint support, digestive enzymes, and animal-based protein.” 

Where to start? “Some fresh food is better than no fresh food at all,” Macfarlane says. “You probably don't eat salad every single day, but you eat salad, right? Likewise, if you don’t feed your pet a 100% fresh food diet, then incorporate fresh as much as you are able by adding fresh foods to your pet's current meals, feed fresh meals once a day, once a week, twice a week, whatever is feasible for you and your pet.”  Pet nutrition assessments and individualized dietary plans are available through Macfarlane’s business. 

Beneficial foods Macfarlane recommends incorporating into your senior pet's diet include:

  • Green Juju (contains buffalo bone broth, celery, coconut oil, dandelion greens, ginger, kale, lemon, parsley, turmeric, zucchini)
  • Canned sardines (packed in water, not oil)
  • Bone broth
  • Freeze dried food and/or treats (such as Stella & Chewy's, K9 & Feline Naturals, Vital Essentials, Primal)
  • Phytoplankton
  • Eggs
  • Wildcraeft's Heal
  • Turmeric or Golden Paste
  • Green and Blue Lipped Mussel
  • Coconut oil
  • Probiotics
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Boswellia

Learn more and meet the nutrition specialists at WILD Pet Provisions at 2393 NE Fremont, Suite A in Portland, or at

Spotlight on...the Dalmatian

Dalmatian Painting-rz.jpg

Matchmaker, Matchmaker


Grooming needs:  Easy to Groom, Frequent Shedder

Exercise:  High Energy

Environment:  Indoors with Guardians, Outdoors

Temperament:  Active, Sociable

Life Expectancy:  10-13 years 

Interesting Fact: Fire wagons were originally horse drawn, and Dalmatians cleared the path for the horses to travel. The Dalmatians then calmed the horses during the firefighting commotion.  Even today, Dalmatians are often great companions to horses and sometimes seen in firehouses.

Appearance: The Dalmatian has a very distinctive look.  No two Dalmatians have the same spot patterns. Their short, dense coat is white, with liver or black spots. Their eyes have matching black or brown eyeliner, and their noses are black or brown. They have soft fur with a velvety head and ears. The body’s length from chest to hind end matches the height of this medium-sized dog. The Dal (the breed’s nickname) is athletic and sleek, but solid.

Dalmatian puppies are born white and develop their spots at around two weeks.

Personality: A well socialized Dal is dignified but outgoing. Their speed, endurance, and athleticism make them a favorite in the show, agility, and obedience rings. They may appear standoffish with new people, but love their family. Owners report they are clownish and keep the family laughing. Dals are reported to be sensitive and affectionate, with a good memory. This intelligent dog enjoys daily mental and physical play and exercise. 

Common Health Problems: Urinary tract issues such as stones are sometimes seen. About 33 percent of Dalmatians are either deaf or hear out of only one ear.

Best Match: A joke about the breed is that they shed at two different times: day and night. Daily brushing can help minimize shedding, and bathing is easy.

Dals make great jogging partners, and want at least 40 minutes of exercise daily. They want their people involved in their play. Like many breeds, if confined too much, especially without companionship of people, the Dal can display destructive behaviors and barking. A person who is inactive or away from home many hours a day is not a good match.


Featured Adoptable: Sadie is a 4-year-old Dalmatian/American Bulldog mix. She is a silly girl who loves to be with her people. Sweet and loving, Sadie just wants to cuddle. She doesn't need a lot of exercise, but could probably be motivated to go, just to be with you. 

Sadie does great in the car and is good on leash. She is equally good at hiking and laying around the house. While she hasn’t met an adult she doesn't like, she is uncertain about small children. She is crate trained, so she will not get into mischief when you’re not home. 

Sadie weighs 55 pounds. She is spayed, and current on vaccinations. She is currently in Gold Bar, Washington. Her adoption fee is $100. To learn more or to meet Sadie, please complete an adoption inquiry form at


Megan Mahan lives in New York City with her fiance Jacob, Frenchie Bulldog Nono, and the occasional foster dog or litter of foster kittens! She works for a major animal welfare organization and loves her former home in the Pacific Northwest.