Aging dogs present special dog health challenges for their owners. However, with a little effort and a lot of love, they can continue to enrich their owners’ lives.
Like humans, dogs lose strength and capabilities as they age. They move a little slower. They need more time to get where they are going and they may need more trips outside to “do their business.” When devoted owners see that their dog is starting to fail, they may conclude that the end is near. They may begin wondering how many years the dog will be part of the family.
However, dogs and humans age differently. Even a dog that is physically disabled may be able to enjoy life. Owners need to remember that dogs like to feel they have a job. Even a good “sit-stay” can be a job. Therefore, dogs that are going deaf, losing their sight or feeling stiffened by arthritis can still contribute to their owners’ lives. It’s up to the owner to help the dog maintain dignity and a sense of purpose.
The Deaf Dog
Dogs can begin to lose their hearing as they age. Owners can teach these dogs some basic hand signals. In fact, owners might consider introducing hand signals as they teach dogs to sit, lie down and come when called. Dogs that associate hand signals with voice commands will adapt easily.
Owners can get a deaf dog’s attention by tapping gently on the floor. Additionally, an owner can toss a pillow or toy in the dog’s line of sight. Once the dog pays attention, the owner can introduce hand signals.
The Aging Blind Dog
Humans often are surprised at how well dogs adjust to losing their sight. After all, unlike humans, they have never had to read or drive. Their other senses will compensate for loss of vision.
Some owners spray inexpensive perfume on large pieces of furniture. The dog associates the smell with an obstacle that should be avoided.
Arthritis and Aging Dogs
Dogs with arthritis will move slowly and awkwardly. Sometimes a veterinarian will prescribe medication or will encourage over-the-counter vitamins and medication. Unfortunately, these remedies do not help all dogs.
As a dog becomes unable to play, it is important for owners to remember to include the dog in the activities of the household. Some dogs will appreciate owners who move their beds to a living room or kitchen area, where they can sleep and still feel part of the family. Owners can help the dog feel involved by maintaining rituals they developed with their dog over the years, such as watching television together on the couch.