As our dogs get older, we start to notice changes in their bodies, energy levels and overall personalities. This can be upsetting and hard to accept but your dog still loves you just the same. It's very important to ensure that your dog doesn't feel neglected, alone or in pain. A dog gets classed as 'older' when he/she turns 8 years old as this is when the body and its cells begin to decline. You may well find that your pet insurance (if you have it) will increase upon your dog turning 6 years old.
Signs of the ageing dog:
Greying muzzle, poor skin & coat:
The muzzle is usually the first thing to go grey. In some cases, the coat can become thin and may also may lose its shine. The skin aging signs can come in the form of getting greasier and thicker. The elbows can also become thickened due to calluses.
Poor hearing & Vision:
One of the most common problems that the eyes may develop are Cataracts. You can detect Cataracts by noticing a cloudiness to the eye lenses or you may notice that the dog will start bumping into things i.e. furniture. When a dogs hearing starts to go, dogs will only tend to focus on certain noises. Voice commands may be ignored but the rattling of the food bowl may have an immediate response. So, if you think your elderly dog has 'selective hearing', it might be worth a trip to the vet for a check up!
Sleeping longer, Arthritis & stiffness in the joints:
This is one of the most common signs of aging. You'll notice your dog taking longer to stand, he or she may not want to go for a walk and when you are out & about, your dog may want to walk slower. There are lots of ways to ease this pain, I discuss some of them on the Holistic Health page.
Dental problems & Poor digestion:
Elderly dogs can suffer with tooth decay and gum disease, this makes eating and drinking painful and/or difficult. This causes weight lose. Their digestive systems also become incredibly sensitive leading to regular bouts of constipation, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Urinary & faecal incontinence:
This is the area that most owners find the hardest to cope with. As they age, dogs can tend to drink more and the ability to hold urine becomes difficult for them, faecal incontinence goes alongside this. Help to make your dog comfortable by placing a puppy pad under their bed to absorb any accidents they may have. Please remember that this is just as stressful for your dog as it is for you so be kind.
So, what can you do to make your dog more comfortable during this stage of their life?
Try not to change their routine because as they get older, dogs get more confused. If their vision is poor, try not to move the furniture. Keeping them focused and active is very important, doing several short walks is better than one long one. Make adaptations in the home if needed, don't put their bed in a location where they must jump. Give them plenty of attention. Clinical examinations at the vet to check hearing, eyesight and ensuring your dog is pain free.
When the time comes, the decision of Euthanasia is the hardest one that a dog owner will have to face. We all dread the day that we'll have to say goodbye. The decision of Euthanasia may need to be made upon a serious injury that cannot be treated, old age or disease.
What is Euthanasia?
Euthanasia is a very quick procedure. It is the process of the vet injecting a drug directly into the vein and your dog will pass away within moments.
When should Euthanasia be discussed?
Euthanasia is a hard topic to discuss but is one that at some point, will need to happen. It should be considered when your dog has no quality of life left, is in pain or struggles to breathe normally on its own. Does your dog have an aggressive form of cancer? Have they had an accident i.e. been hit by a car and will be left with emotional, mental and physical damage? As hard as it to come to terms with for you and the rest of the family, look at your dog. Have they had enough? Are they struggling? Sometimes what's right for us isn't right for our dogs.
What choices do you have?
You have the choice on if you would like to be in the room with your dog or not. This can be extremely difficult for some while others find they need it for closure. It does not make you a bad owner for not wanting to be there when dog slips away. However, it may comfort your dog to have you there. The decision is yours. If you choose to be there until the end, try to keep yourself calm, concentrate on your breathing, talk softly talk to your dog to help minimise any stress they may be feeling. Stroke them, rest a hand on them so they know that you are there. There is also the choice of having the procedure done at home so that your dog can pass away in the environment he or she is familiar with. More and more people are now choosing to have their pets cremated so that they can scatter their ashes in a place that has meaning to the family such as a park, your garden, you can even have the ashes placed into jewellery. This option truly is a beautiful way to keep their memory alive. I'd fully recommend a company named 'Ashes to Glass' who I have personally used.