Life is built with your dogs.
You travel together.
Celebrate milestones like birthdays, gotcha days and holidays.
Days lead into seasons changing and another year of life being celebrated.
Before you know it, you see your dog’s face graying, eyes getting a bit cloudy and your dog’s get up and go turned into let’s do that later.
It can feel as though your dog transitioning into later life stages can happen so quickly.
Sometimes we hold on to what was and the changes then slap you in the face when you notice new behaviors or changes in bodily movements and look to get your dog into the next vet appointment available.
As a pet parent myself, who is caring for a senior dog in their golden years, there are lots of emotions which bubble up.
Letting go of the attachment to what was and breathing into meeting Jack where he is at and where he needs me to be is his need right now.
Feeling my own grief of letting go of what was and the attachment to what this meant for me was and is in some respects difficult.
It was an important first step.
It opened me up to seeing Jack in the present and taking care of his needs regardless of the sadness and loss I feel.
Caring for a senior dog does take an emotional toll as it can be uncharted territory as it was for me.
Some things I gleaned from discussions with Jack’s vet which may help you as your dog transitions into those twilight years.
🖥 Find a veterinarian you trust. This is an invaluable resource as you will be able to have open conversations about next steps. Trusted veterinarians will see you as a member of their team when giving recommendations on how to address your dog’s medical needs.
🩺 Do your homework on understanding medical interventions and how mainstream medications can impact your dog. Inquire about their opinion as a medical professional about the pros and cons of those interventions as it pertains to your dog’s individual needs. Gaining information on the topic can help you make a well informed decision.
🕣 As with any life stage, there are new considerations and even new changes. Dogs entering their senior years may look different as they are a decade or more older. Talk with your vet about frequency of vet visits to monitor change you may not see on the outside. This is especially true if your dog developed any conditions which will stay with him for the rest of his life. In regards to Jack, he was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Disease in 2021. In conversation with his veterinarian, it was recommended he come in semi annually to chart his health and keep an eye on any changes.
🐶 Let your veterinarian know of any new changes to your dog’s mobility, if you feel any lumps or bumps that seemed to just “show up” and how your dog is eating and drinking and on the flip side of this, the patterns of urination and defecation. This can give your veterinarian more of a clear picture of what’s going on. Even discuss with your dog’s veterinarian if you observe your dog acting confused or disoriented. Dogs can experience cognitive dysfunction like people experience dementia.
⛑Dogs are masters at hiding pain. Asking your veterinarian to assess for pain can indicate arthritis developing and your dog can be started on therapies which help support the joints and bones earlier in the aging process.
👩❤️👩 As your dog advances in age, discuss with your dog’s other decision makers (spouse, partner, roommate ect) of what you all agree on in terms providing care to your dog as your dog grows older will help establish roles and responsibilities. If you are the one and only to your dog, reach out to others who experienced life with a dog and get support from them. Making decisions can feel like a burden and you may question, “is this the right decision”. Your veterinarian is also part of this conversation too. Open communication allows for all involved to share their own feelings and ideas of how to move forward. Doing so will also alleviate any resentment or regret which can interfere with thoughtful decision making.
Enjoy all the special moments with your dogs always. Their silliness, goofiness, how they show you love and how they keep you honest. They will always be the bestest friend you’ll have in life.
❤️ You are your dog’s best advocate. It’s a tough job, but the love and compassion you feel and show towards your dog makes it all worth it.