Caring For and Loving a Senior Dog
By: Brittney Frazier, Found Chicago
Seeing a beloved pet begin to age and drop in activity level is never an easy process to go through. As my own rescue girl creeps into the double digits, I find myself reminiscing on old pictures from when I first met her. There was a time when her face had far less gray on it and she couldn’t get enough of the “chase game” in the backyard as she ran to catch tennis balls she would never return!
But now, my Jolie is slower and a bit less social. She would much rather sleep on her therapeutic dog bed specially designed for an older canine frame than meet every person and dog that comes her way. People she has known all these years never fail to remind me “how gray she is looking.” But I love my dog; I always have and always will. She is a representation of the time I spent getting to know and love having a canine companion by my side. She reminds of the moments I learned something new about myself and every new stage of life I’ve encountered in the past ten years. So I will always find new ways to honor her and keep her life interesting. Certainly it is the least I can do for all she’s done for me.
But what experiences can I offer an older dog who may not take well to the heat during walks or take a bit longer to muster up the gumption to hop into the back seat of the car? I have found that with some creativity and added effort on my part, there is plenty I can add to my most loyal friend’s golden years. Below are some tips for spicing up your favorite senior dog’s life.
- Senior dog food and senior supplements for good health: When dogs begin to age, it is sometimes necessary to examine their feeding regime to ensure the dog is receiving the right amount of nutrients to keep him or her feeling their best. Consult with your veterinarian to create a plan for your dog’s future in terms of what kibble would be best for the current life stage and if there are any supplements that could improve the quality of their life. Dogs are such stoic creatures and may not give obvious signals of discomfort. Remember to stay vigilant to your dog’s daily routines to stay clued in for what may be needed for their lifestyle.
- New smells and tastes: After checking with your dog’s veterinarian about what diet is best for a healthy senior dog, new food and treat options helps to add some surprise and excitement in a dog’s life who may be getting used to mundane. Researching new homemade natural dog treats, or simply picking up a new dog bone on your way home from work will be an unexpected bonus to your dog’s day. These kind of new sensations keep dogs keen on their canine senses.
- Ease the walks, but don’t end them!: Senior dogs may be slowing down in their activity level, but keeping your dog connected to the outside environment is important for the dog’s moral. Although an older dog may sleep the majority of their day, but getting out and about to “sniff the roses” on a regular basis will keep your dog’s spirit young. Remember that dogs enjoy spending time with you and keeping up with routine is great for their relationship with you; not to mention the fresh air and sunshine does just as much good for dogs as it does for humans.
- Old dogs CAN learn new tricks!: Contrary to the old saying, senior dogs are just as capable as learning something new as in their younger years. New tricks, taking into consideration the dog’s physical capabilities, are a great way to keep your dog’s brain sharp. New games are always fun for older dogs as well, such as “hide and seek” with treats or new activities in a park setting, like small hurdles or makeshift “weave poles.” Find what motivates and excites your dog and run with it!
Older dogs are really a joy when you can find the rhythm of living with them and loving them as they are. Giving senior dogs something to look forward to each day will add both vibrancy and a new perspective on your relationship with them. Although he or she may not be the young and sporty dog you remember from your past, there is a whole realm of new relationship to explore with your pet. Our time with our dogs is so precious, so why not take advantage of every moment?