Living With an Older Dog

Most dog owners have seen the movie “Marley and Me” by know; if you haven’t its worth checking out. For those dog owners living with older pets it’s not far from reality. Like our human children, we think of our dogs as always being puppies with seemingly endless amounts of energy.

The truth of the matter is that sometimes our dogs forget they cannot do what they use to or for as long. They continue to try to please us biding for our attention only to find that sometimes our increasingly busy schedules offer little. As pet parents we need to understand that this time is precious and worth spending every extra moment.

The old adage of seven dog years’ equals one human year starts to ring true when your dog turns four to five years old. At that age, they are more like a 28 to 30 year old human and depending on the breed by the time they turn seven they should be considered a senior citizen. The age expectancy for small to medium dogs is anywhere from 12 to 18 years, for large breeds 10 to 15 years while extra large breeds is 7 to 10 years.

The most important thing you can do for your senior dog is have your vet give a senior seven blood work up. This test will screen for a host of issues affecting older dogs. Next would be to realize the limitations of your dog while playing and exercising. Cut the time you use to spend by half finding other activities and reasons to offer your affection.

Expect some “accidents” to happen in the house; do not treat this as you would when your dog was a pup. If your dog was properly housebroken then these accidents are an embarrassment for your dog. Punishment or a stern voice will only make them feel worse as well as confused. On the other hand, do not offer a condolence saying, “that’s okay” or you will begin to un-do previous training. Instead, let your dog outside more frequently and if it gets worse place some Wee Pads down encouraging their use instead of the carpet.

Other signs are weight lose, loose of sight and hearing, and weak and tender joints.  There are several types of dog food and dog treats available to pet parents that contain natural ingredients formulated to relieve the pain of aging joints. For sever joint pain and arthritis consult your vet; new medications are now available with little side effects that will offer your aging dog a higher quality of life.

Be sure to give extra attention to teeth and gums. Broken or loose teeth are common for older dogs requiring professional cleaning from your vet. Dogs are susceptible to certain types of cancer and like humans; some are operable will others are not. You can find several specialty veterinarian hospitals throughout the country that offer complete oncology departments for pets.

It is sad to say but most pet parents have yet to embrace pet health insurance and the price of treatment becomes the concern leaving some the only option to euthanize their pet. At the end of the day, living with an older dog is about quality of life. Purchasing pet stairs to help them get to their favorite spot and consulting with your vet will help extend those precious moments. However, when their quality of life can no longer be maintained then euthanizing is the best choice.