A dog’s life is short and sweet. Sooner or later, the picture of health and sunny smiles will be replaced by the blues. The cute boisterous puppy who has grown into a fun and protective companion is now sleeping all day instead of looking forward to your next adventure. Grey streaks can be seen all around his snoot.
All dogs age, no matter how much we yearn for time to stop. The early signs may not be easily noticeable in a healthy dog, but most dogs are considered to be in their autumn years as soon as they reach their 7th birthday. Unfortunately, dogs can’t talk to us and tell us how they feel or what they need. If only they could, your senior dog would surely tell you the following.
- “I’m not sulky, just tired…”
Dogs sleep 10 – 12 hours a day, and now that he is older, he needs a little more. The amount of time a senior dog needs to sleep through the day will increase naturally. Occasionally, you may find him ready to conquer the world but will only excuse himself after a few minutes to snooze back again. Give him all the time he needs and make sure he sleeps in a warm and comfortable orthopedic dog bed. It’s nothing but a small favor you can do for the dog who has devoted his halcyon years in providing you protection and undivided love.
- “Please don’t scold me…”
Your dog may have been housebroken his entire life, so you immediately you get annoyed with the wee-wee you see lying on your floor. Don’t be! Incontinence is an inevitable part of a senior dog, so expect a few accidents in the house. Many dogs will experience it more frequently as they get older. It is best to go to the vet as soon as possible so you can work together how to alleviate the condition. Most importantly, don’t scold your dog. He knows what he has done and he is embarrassed every time he makes an accident because he knows he’s not supposed to.
- “Sorry, I forgot…”
Apart from a few wee-wee accidents, you’ll wonder why your dog is also breaking other rules. Don’t rush into scolding. It isn’t a matter of disobedience, but a decline in cognitive ability that is linked to aging. He may forget simple things and have a harder time performing the tasks that were once child’s play for him. Being patient with your pet during his senior moment is one of the most compassionate things you can do for him.
- “I want to play, but I can’t see …”
Your senior dog is not ignoring you. He simply could not see the ball you threw in what you thought was clear as day for him. Sadly, most dog owners don’t see the sign of their dogs losing their eyesight until the case has gotten severe. Many senior dogs develop cataracts even when they had perfect eye health during their earlier years. So always keep an eye on your dog, especially because vision loss has subtle signs. Check if your senior dog is getting clumsy or is having a challenging time getting around the house. Chances are, he will run into walls and fall down from the couch or from the stairs.
Hence, always declutter your floors, block off dangerous areas such as the pool and fireplace, keep his things in the same location, and mark different rooms with different textured rugs or scents so he can easily recognize which room he’s in. Lastly, make sure you have your senior dog checked out by your veterinarian as well to ensure whether there are underlying ailments that are causing his vision loss.
- “I can barely hear you either…”
Your dog would like you to understand how he would love to hear you the way he could when he was young, but hearing is another luxury that wanes as dogs age. So be patient with him and help him reassure that everything is okay. Fortunately, dogs can detect vibration and understand hand signals well.
- “I’m cold…”
Senior dogs can get cold and sick more easily than they were younger since they cannot regulate their body temperature as fast they used to. If your dog gets the sniffles, keep him warm and comfortable as he can ever be. There are a huge array of heating beds and sweaters for dogs to keep him toasty.
- “Please stay with me, I’m scared…”
When your dog was younger, he may have been so fearless and overprotective. Now that he’s old, he may become so much anxious and interact negatively towards visitors and new surroundings. He will likely develop separation anxiety. So always reassure him and create a secure and homey environment for him even when you’re not there. You can place a DAP diffuser beside him to send relaxing pheromones into the air around him.
- “Yes, I am hurt…”
Dogs experience the same problems we do when they age: dementia, arthritis, obesity, gum disease, and so on. Arthritis, in particular, is the most common health issues in senior dogs. It can be very painful and difficult for them to move about. Joint pain can even cause them restless sleep. Providing your dog a comfortable orthopedic bed and a dog ramp when he needs to climb up can help stave off pain caused by inflamed joints. Simple measures such as this can go a long way.
- “Can I have one more treat?”
Dogs will always remain treat-crazed as ever, but their metabolism has slowed down and hence their body isn’t burning the calories as much as they used to. It is advisable that you shift to dog foods specially designed for senior dogs. Such have fewer calories, low in fat, more in fiber, and has extra nutritional supplements.
- “Thank you…”
Once a dog becomes a part of your life, he leaves an imprint that will change your life forever. It is without a doubt that most dog owners find this realization so difficult to deal with. So, don’t be sad, but rejoice that you still have a few years to spend together.
Caring for a senior dog may sound like a lot of work, but such devotion has its own rewards. Most importantly, your furry buddy has done everything he can for you back in the days, so it is your turn to do the favor now that he’s old and weary. If only he could talk, he will surely say ‘thank you…’
Brian Morgan is an editor over at DogBedZone.com, a website dedicated to dog lovers publishing helpful tips, product reviews, and more. Brian is kept busy with his two dogs a 11 year old Pomeranian and 7 year old Husky.