One thing that we’ve come to realise now that Chuck is older is that taking care of an elderly dog is vastly different to caring for a younger one. His drives have completely changed now that he’s an old man (he’s the equivalent of around 80 years old in human years) and we’ve had to make some changes to accomodate him and keep him healthy for as long as possible. Here’s some of the things you might want to consider if you have an elderly pet:
Just like with old people, old pets can struggle with mobility. Chuck used to race up and down the stairs with ease, walk for hours and think nothing of jumping up and down onto the bed or sofa to snuggle with us. Now, he’s a lot less mobile, so we’ve placed water bowls both up and downstairs so that he never has to go too far for a drink and we’re also looking into getting some pet steps so that he can get up onto the bed without having to jump.
This one is a double-edge sword. Now that he’s less mobile, he doesn’t exercise as much and therefore doesn’t need to eat as much. However, since his drives have turned away from procreation, they’ve turned firmly towards food so he acts like he’s hungry MOST of the time! We’re careful to limit table scraps and have moved him onto a diet which is best for senior dogs which gives him the nutrients he needs with fewer calories so that he doesn’t get fat!
We know for a fact that he’s suffering with heart problems and suspect that he had a heart attack sometime last year. This means that the dog who used to walk for literally hours now barely makes it 800m. We’ve decided that we allow him to completely dictate how far he wants to go; on days when he’s not feeling it, we leave him be or let him have a little plod to the end of the road and back, but if he seems pretty spritely we let him dictate the pace and distance and it seems to be working pretty well.
Some pet owners are lucky to rarely ever need to take their pet to the vet, but once they get older it’s vital to get at least a check-up. Chuck takes a variety of medications for his heart and an anti-inflammatory for his joints which means that he gets to live out his old age with minimum pain or discomfort. If you’re worried about vets bills, the PDSA offers treatment if you’re in receipt of benefits, so it might be worth having a look if you have an elderly pet.
We’re incredibly lucky in the respect that Chuck is an amazingly wellbehaved dog with our kids and is soft and loving with them. However, now that he’s old and struggling with stiffness etc. we make a point to make sure that the kids aren’t too rough with him and give him plenty of space. We trust him completely but it would be heartbreaking for him to get hurt or feel overwhelmed and lose his cool with one of them. We don’t think for a second it would happen but it protects ALL THREE OF THEM if we remove the risk altogether.
Do you have an elderly pet? Have you found any new challenges have arisen since they’ve got older? I’d love to hear from you.