Having any dog in your home means being respectful of their needs.
Most dog owners are familiar with the needs of the “average” dog, but seldom are they aware of the changing needs of the older dog.
One of these changing needs is an increased need for respect. Respect of space, respect of personal needs, and respect for the aging process itself.
When our dogs grow older, they become more sensitive.
The pain of arthritic joints can mean a shorter fuse which requires more space, more accommodations to make life more accessible, and treatment aimed at easing symptoms to decrease pain.
When our dogs grow older, they require more time to recuperate and rest.
The aging process reduces stamina which requires more time for sleeping, fewer interruptions from family, and the provision of a comfortable and supportive place to rest.
When our dogs grow older, they begin to experience diminished senses.
Hearing becomes dull and sight becomes blurry. These changes require accommodations to prevent the senior dog from becoming startled upon waking, changes in how we communicate with our dog, and even medical interventions for dry eyes.
When our dogs grow older, their dental health may not be at its peak.
As teeth begin to decay, they can cause pain, discomfort, and diminished ability to eat harder foods. These changes require more regular dental treatment, occasionally tooth extraction, and changes in diet.
When our dogs grow older, their strength may wane.
Arthritis and muscle wasting mean a decreased ability to jump, climb, run, and walk upstairs. These changes require medical intervention, assistive devices, and increased assistance in daily activities.
When our dogs grow older, like people, their lives slow down.
Less patience and less energy mean less tolerance for young children, young dogs, and strenuous activities. We must be conscious of this when we make choices for our household. This means not bringing home a new puppy, not planning long walks with your senior dog, and not letting the neighbor’s toddler make demands of your senior dog.
In the grand scheme of things, the demands of a senior dog are few in comparison to the years of companionship that we receive in return.
As caretakers for our senior dogs, we need to ensure that the changing needs of our senior dogs are accommodated.
This will sometimes mean spending more money on provisions, finding a way to afford medications, losing out on those longer walks together…but they are changes made for the comfort and dignity of our dogs.
Those dogs that have dedicated their lives to our happiness.
Those dogs who deserve to spend their senior years in comfort and being loved as much as they always have.