Editor's Note: This is a guest post on the Grey Matters Blog and not written by anyone affiliated with Grey Muzzle. We allow guest contributors from time to time in order to provide our supporters with a wide range of topics pertaining to senior dogs.
Your dog is a part of the family. Unfortunately, dogs don’t live as long as humans, so we’re forced to watch them age, and eventually make some very difficult decisions about the end of their lives. It’s not easy to make the decision to euthanize an older pet, and you can go through feelings of extreme grief and guilt after doing so.
But, just because your dog is older, your thoughts don’t automatically have to shift to the end. One of the best things you can do for your pooch is to make sure their last few years are fun, comfortable, and loving. If they’re sick, you can consider options like animal hospice to make sure their needs are being met. But, in many cases, it’s what you do with them at home on a daily basis that will not only keep them happy and healthy longer but will show them just how much you care.
So, how can you make the most of your dog’s “golden years?” Let’s look at a few tips that can help you to feel more confident in your ability to help your dog age.
Keep Them Mentally and Physically Active
You don’t have to slow down too much with your dog just because they’re getting older. While they do need time to rest, they also need plenty of exercise. If your dog doesn’t exercise regularly, their body can become weaker, and because of this, it’s a good idea to have your dog on some kind of exercise schedule, even if it’s as simple as a walk around the block each day.
If your senior dog has mobility issues or suffers from pain, you might consider treatments like hydrotherapy or acupuncture to keep them more comfortable so they can stay active.
It’s also important to keep your older dog’s mind active to support their general well-being. Mental stimulation can include anything from taking a walk and meeting new people/other pets, to filling their favorite chew toy with peanut butter and letting them play for hours to get the treat inside. Contrary to popular belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Dogs, like people, enjoy learning and don’t want to stop experiencing new things just because of their age.
Make Sure They’re Comfortable
Think about how you might care for an aging or ailing loved one. Your dog is no different. There are many ways to support your aging dog as they get older, including:
● Helping them to maintain a healthy weight
● Giving them regular dental care
● Using ramps as needed
● Elevating food and water bowls
● Giving them a thick bed to sleep on
● Using heat or ice to help with pain
● Talking with your veterinarian about medications or specific food
Again, you can also look into alternative forms of therapy for your four-legged friend. Physical therapy and massage are often great ways to help your dog’s joints and muscles so they can stay comfortable.
You might have to make some changes around your home as your dog gets older. While ramps and soft bedding are included in the list above, things like making sure your floors aren’t slippery and removing obstacles for your dog to walk around are also important. An injury from slipping or running into something could be more serious for an older dog than a younger one if they don’t have the strength to heal. Because of this, it’s especially important that you familiarize yourself with basic pet first-aid practices, like bandaging injured paws or checking for sore joints if they take a tumble.
Honoring Your Love for Your Dog
As much as most pet owners wish their dogs could live forever, we all know they’ll eventually pass. It’s truly like losing a family member, and sometimes that decision is in your hands. Talking with your vet is the best option if you’re trying to decide whether you should euthanize your senior dog or not. If they’re in pain or have a chronic illness that will get worse over time, sometimes the most humane thing to do is to end their life while they’re as comfortable as possible. No one wants to see their loving pet suffer.
Even after your pet is gone, your love for them doesn’t stop — and you don’t have to forget them. You can honor your dog’s memory the same way you would with anyone else in your family. In fact, remembering the life you shared with them can help with the grieving process.
One creative idea is to gather together photos you took of your dog throughout their life to put together a photo book or another unique photo display in your house somewhere. Doing something along those lines will help you to always remember your dog, and anyone who visits will be able to see just how much your furry friend meant to you, too.
Whether you’re just starting to see signs of aging in your older dog, or you know they don’t have many years left, making those golden years as comfortable and full of love as possible is the best thing you can do. You know your dog better than anyone, so catering to their specific needs will make the end of their life an easier transition for everyone.