Caring for your senior dog
Just as with humans, our senior dogs suffer from age related problems and senility. The problem is however, is that they cannot always show us what is wrong.
Common health problems in senior dogs
- Deteriorating eyesight and hearing
- Kidney disease
- Weight gain/loss
- Dental problems
How do I know if my dog is in pain
There are certain breeds like German Shepherd Dogs, who are extremely stoic and will often hide their pain, so it is important to look for signs of discomfort and agitation. Senior dogs with arthritis, can be sensitive to touch and resent normal handling.
Sudden snappiness or aggressive behaviour is a sure sign that your dog is feeling out of sorts, or hiding away instead of coming to greet you. Changes in their eating pattern, excessive drinking and sleeping throughout the day are all indications that your dog is unwell.
Our eleven year old German Shepherd is now heavily panting, even though is had no exercise and is noticeably stiff when he awakes from a nap.
When to get treatment
Senior dogs do not have the reserves of a younger dog, hence time is crucial. It is far better to err on the side of caution and get your dog checked out as soon as you can.
You may also want to take more frequent trips to the vet, based on your dogs symptoms and be careful to administer the correct dosage of medication when prescribed.
Adjust their living conditions
For senior dogs with joint problems such as hip dysplasia or joint issues, you may want to consider giving your dog a ramp, to enable them easier access to the stairs or your car. Keep their foot and water bowls within easy reach and provide non slip mats on wooden floorboards or slippery floors. Heat pads can relieve a senior dogs achy joints, but check them regularly, to ensure that they are not too hot and follow the instructions carefully.
It is extremely difficult to see your once playful puppy turn into a senior dog with health problems and know that their time with you may be limited. They may have their ailments but they still feel as much love and loyalty as they did in their younger years.
The final goodbye
Sudden death is a rarity and it is more likely that they will give clues that they are nearing the end of their lives. There is a strong possibility that you may be faced with a heart wrenching decision about when to say your final goodbye.
Dogs that have been ill for sometime may fall peacefully to sleep, but it is more likely that their quality of life will diminish rapidly, forcing you to make a painful decision. It is important to remember that the rapid advances in veterinary technology may prolong your dogs life, but it is not always in their best interest to do so.
Your last loving act may be that of euthanasia, setting your dog free from their pain and suffering. Only you know what decision to take. When you see the suffering in your dogs eyes and their inability to cope with the smallest things, like eating and drinking and when their quality of life has completely diminished.
The final breath
Having your dog put to sleep is the most difficult decision you will make for your dog and I would implore you to stay with him until his very last breath. Try to stay calm, remain strong and if possible, hold them until they quietly slip away.
Take time to grieve
Just like losing a human family member, you must take the time to grieve. The loss of your pet can have a severe impact on your health so consider counselling or a support group. Dogs are with us through tears and our happiness and often are there when our family are not and their passing can leave a huge void in our lives. Acknowledge your grief, since it is an essential part of your healing. Take as long as you need and cry when you feel the need.