Reprinted with permission from Hindy Pearson, Caring for a Senior Dog. Copyright August 25, 2015.
It’s all about keeping an older dog comfortable
I foster and adopt senior and special needs dogs, so don’t have the experience of watching them go from a puppy to a senior, they pretty much start out that way for me. That’s just the way I like it!!
In this post, I thought I’d share my thoughts and experiences about what has worked for me in keeping an older dog comfortable. It’s pretty much common sense, but I really felt compelled to share this with all of you.
Of course every situation is unique, but if you have a special senior in your life, maybe this will help.
Although I have had many senior dogs over the years, they have all sadly crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I do, however have the love of my life named Red with me.
Briefly – she’s around 14, we adopted her 6 years ago. She was dumped at an animal control facility, about to be killed when thankfully the shelter I volunteered at took her in. Then we fell for each other.
She was blind, had eyes bulging out of her head due to glaucoma, and she was so obese her stomach touched the ground. She is a Chihuahua/Min Pin, but I say she’s more Min Pin.
We had her eyes fixed because they were, literally, about to pop out of her head, and put her on a weight loss program. She’s still blind, but not in pain.
Sleeping arrangements and beds
I guess I’m starting with this topic first, because it’s what has changed the most. For the first few years Red slept with me, and that’s just the way I wanted it. When she started having to pee more frequently, she would sleep in her own bed, on the floor next to my side.
Last winter she discovered the joy of sleeping on a comforter (duvet to some!), and now she has two to choose from. She loves the extra padding it gives her, and they’re light enough so she can scrunch them into any configuration she likes.
Although she wears a sweater for warmth in the winter, I always keep a blanket on her beds in case she gets cold. It’s too cute watching her wrap herself in one, like she’s in a cocoon. The picture on the right is exactly what I’m talking about. She’s in the red blanket somewhere!
Bathroom breaks and accidents
With age comes more frequent pee breaks, and with certain medications, even more! I take Red out frequently, and at night I block off a sizeable area, and cover it in pee pads. It saves me having to get up at all hours, and it allows her to go pee, then straight back to sleep. Also with her being blind, I can’t just teach her to go find the pee pad. To her it’s not that different from the carpet.
Sometimes no matter how many times they go out, accidents still happen. Not much you can do other than blot the stain, and use a good enzymatic cleaner to remove the odour.
Visiting the vet
Red visits the vet a lot more often then she used to, but then there’s more reason to nowadays. Senior checks are available at every veterinary practice, and it’s a good idea to go as recommended. Better to catch an issue before it becomes a bigger one.
I always feed my senior pets senior food, but health changes can bring diarrhea, and sensitive stomachs. The foods and treats they used to be able to eat, can now be off limits. I make sure I get a list of foods appropriate for her conditions.
With age can come medication, and lots of it. Of course that isn’t a given. I have had plenty of senior dogs who took no medication, but sadly Red is not one of them. At the moment she’s had diarrhea issues, so I always make sure I keep the appropriate relief in stock, under the guidance of my vet, of course.
How to exercise an older dog
Again, every situation is different, but pay attention to any lameness, or difficulty in walking. You may need shorter, slower walks.
They may not be able to walk as far, or as long, but they can still enjoy being outside and getting fresh air.
Another option is to invest in a dog stroller. There are different sizes and styles to suit your dog.
Joint supplements can be a big help, but speak to your vet to find out if they would benefit your dog.
Keeping an older dog comfortable – conclusion
Of course we start to worry as they get older, particularly if they have some serious medical issues. Sometimes sleep doesn’t come as easily, but worrying doesn’t change anything.
The best we can do, is do the best we can do. Make sure our beloved pets are comfortable, well cared for and loved.
Hindy Pearson is dedicated to creating as complete a resource as she can, for people who share their lives with seniors. She is a Pet Care Consultant, offering in home consultations to people who are looking for behaviour and training advice. Hindy Pearson runs The Saffy Pearson Resource Centre, a mobile resource offering the same advice as her pet consultancy business, only this service is free when at various locations. Her dream is to open The Saffy Pearson Retirement Home for Abused and Abandoned Animals.