THIS STORY IS FROM OUR ARCHIVES
Lorraine rescued Johnny Hobo as an adult dog when he was six years old: he was in the pound after being picked up by the dog warden as a stray. He was literally minutes away from being euthanased when Lorraine decided to adopt him. At first he was a bit of a challenge: that August Bank Holiday, someone left a gate ajar, and he ran off with one of Lorraine’s other dogs. The two dogs were missing for a full day before they were located by fishermen: they had become trapped in a sea cave, with the tide coming in. The animals were eventually rescued by the RNLI lifeboat, being brought into Wicklow harbour to cheers from local people.
JOHNNY HOBO HAS AN UNPLEASANT PROBLEM
Johnny Hobo settled down after that: he never escaped again, and he has become a household favourite. At eleven years of age, he’s an older dog, but in most ways he doesn’t show his age. He has a bright, shiny coat, a sparkle in his eye, and he loves his daily walks. There’s only one area where he has a problem: dropping “bombs”. This is Lorraine’s way of describing an unpleasant situation: Johnny Hobo has developed mild faecal incontinence.
He sleeps in the utility room, and Lorraine has noticed that when he gets up in the morning, he leaves a small “parcel” behind him in his bed. And as he walks around the kitchen during the daytime, once in a while he drops a plum-sized “bomb” onto the kitchen floor. He’s completely unaware that he’s doing this, and they are small, solid objects, so it isn’t a big problem to clean them up. It only happens around twice a day. Lorraine felt that he was so young in many other ways, and it seemed too early for him to develop the type of incontinence which is common in elderly dogs towards the end of their lives. She brought him to see me to find out if there was something that could be done to help.
When an older dog loses the ability to be house trained, Doggy Alzheimer’s, or “Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome” is top of the list of possibilities. This is a common problem in older dogs, with 50% of animals over the age of ten showing signs which include disorientation, random barking, disturbed sleep and poor house-training. Lorraine agrees that Johnny Hobo does look “perplexed” sometimes, as if he is slightly confused, and he does bark more than he used to, but he has none of the other signs of senility. He’s deaf now – another common issue for older dogs – and that could be enough to explain his increased barking. When animals can’t hear themselves, they tend to make more noise.
AN EXAMINATION WAS NEEDED
When I examined Johnny Hobo, I found evidence of a different problem: he has a mild slipped disc in his spine. His left back leg is weak, with reduced reflexes, and his tail is limp. Lorraine says that he wags his tail less often than in the past. To make a precise diagnosis, Johnny Hobo would need to have an MRI scan, but that would only be necessary if surgery was being considered to treat his slipped disc and Lorraine feels that he’s too old for such a radical intervention. Instead, he’s being treated with anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the pressure on the nerves around the slipped disc.
Lorraine will be delighted if he responds to this simple treatment, and if he continues to drop occasional bombs, she’s not too worried. He’s a happy dog, he doesn’t know it’s happening, and Lorraine sees it as just another part of caring for an elderly dog.
- Doggy Alzheimer’s is common in dogs over ten years of age
- As in humans, often other diseases happen at the same time
- Simple treatment can often help to keep older dogs more comfortable