Elderly dogs are so cute.
They enjoy the most simple things and are usually easily satisfied when we take the time to give them appropriate attention and engagement.
In our house, two of our dogs are approaching their 15th birthdays: McCoy’s is March 12 and Finn’s is March 31. It is hard to believe they have been with us so long and still enjoying life at this age, but they do.
Both dogs have health issues. McCoy has had a mild hip dysplasia since puppyhood, and entropion in his left eye which causes his eyelashes to scratch his eye and make it water. But both problems have not been serious enough to warrant surgery. Other than that he is doing quite well. Finn has a heart condition for which she takes two medications and has done so for 3 years. Both dogs enjoy their meals and treats and they love to sniff everything on walks since they both became hard of hearing in the last year or so.
Dogs are living longer these days. I have found it extremely important for older dogs to have something to do that they enjoy. Often the belief is that older dogs just sleep and eat and poop. This is true, but there is likely something else that an elderly dog still enjoys doing – as long as it is not too taxing on them physically.
Our Older Dog’s Activities
McCoy really likes to go for walks. They don’t have to be long, but he still has quite a bit of energy for a dog his age. There are times that he just wants to get out in the yard and run, even if it is cold out. His running is not the same as a younger dog. He uses both back feet to push off from instead of just having one foot down at a time. This prevents his hips or legs from giving out as their strength has lessened over the years.
Finn prefers to cuddle. She does like walking and sniffing but is much slower than McCoy so a walk is a long drawn out process. Her favourite thing to do is curl up beside me on the couch and get brushed or scratched. McCoy does not care for petting as much so this is the main difference between the two dogs.
McCoy is starting to not enjoy food as much until the evening when he seems more hungry. This can be an issue for training since he is reluctant to take treats if he is not hungry. So we focus on taking him for exercise that he can tolerate.
Finn on the other paw, has no problem eating. This makes it easy to do short, interesting training sessions that make her think a bit. I also find that some light massage in the evening is good for Finn. She has always been a slightly anxious dog so this helps her relax.
Something To Live For
Daily stimulation helps keep an older dog’s mind active, just as it does in humans. Keeping the mind stimulated is huge in preventing cognitive problems in older dogs. I actually believe this is the most important thing to keeping both your dog (and you) healthy – something to live for or something of interest in life. Of course when considering what you should do with your older dog it is prudent to make sure nothing is overdone and that you choose the appropriate activity for the dog’s physical issues. But having an enjoyable activity to look forward to is crucial to keeping the mind healthy. This in turn helps the body.
I know I don’t have to tell most humans with dogs to make sure the older dog is given enough stimulation. But sometimes it slips by us, what with our busy lives and rushing around trying to get everything done and then needing to rest because of that. Often, the dog can be the last thing on the list to entertain when there is little energy left for basic stuff.
You never really know how long your dog will be with you, but you can make those years or even months enjoyable and interesting for your loyal fur friend and likely yourself as well.
For a list of the Ten most important things you can do to keep your senior dog healthy check out this link: http://www.srdogs.com/Pages/care.tips.html
For more information on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome check out: http://www.akc.org/news/come-grow-old-with-me/