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My dog will be 10 next year and I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. For him and for me! We got him when he was just 5 months old. Not quite a puppy as he already had a home before us but he was still very young. And I was only 19 years old too – I’m 28 now! And the crazy thing is, I can still remember that day we brought him home like it was yesterday.
As anyone with a dog will understand, looking after your pet’s health and needs is one of the most important things in your life. We all want our pets to be as happy and healthy as possible. But of course, there’s this little thing call time and nobody is exempt from it. Not even out furry friends.
Although thinking and talking about our dogs getting older can be hard and upsetting, I think the best way to do it is logically. We all go through different phases of life where we have different needs. I mean, I have VASTLY different needs now to what I did when I was 18 yeas old!
And the same goes for our pets. It’s just about adjusting to those needs and this new phase of their life.
Of course all dogs are different and that’s worth considering. From breeds with different lifespans to previous health problems or injury. Two 10 year old dogs might look and act very different from each other. My boyfriend’s late dog for example, was 14 when he passed away and up until about 6 months before, you’d have thought he was around 6!
My bear is still doing well. He’s had a few health problems for a few years now, including hip dysplasia and ligament problems in his legs. We use various medications and joint tablets for dogs to keep it under control, as well as 6 monthly injections which seem to be keeping everything at bay for the time being.
Although he is getting older and can’t go for walks as long as he used to, he’s still very active, very vocal, very cheeky and very alert. I mean, he’d spot a squirrel from 6 miles away. And we’re aiming to keep it that way for as long as possible.
If you’re in a similar position and have a dog that’s getting a little older and you’re hoping to make the transition as smooth as possible for both you and them, here are some points to consider:
Don’t miss vet check ups and appointments
I mean you shouldn’t do this anyway, whatever their age. But definitely not when they’re getting older and potentially more likely to suffer from or start suffering from health conditions. Anything that seems a bit amiss, get them checked out, like you would with yourself. And don’t miss those yearly boosters and check ups!
Make sure your home is safe for their needs
For older pets, getting around and getting on and off of furniture might become an issue. Just like you’d baby proof your house when you have a toddler, think about how you can pet proof your house too and make some adjustments here and there to make things easier for your pet. Perhaps adding extra steps or ramps so they don’t have to jump, if their joints are affected.
Consider their diets and adjust accordingly
A balanced diet plays a huge role in your dogs life – whatever breed and whatever age. But things may need to be adjusted slightly when they get older. If they’re lacking in a bit of energy, then they may not be exercising as much and might be at risk of putting on weight or even obesity which comes with it’s own set of issues for dogs. So consider a lower fat diet and less treats (and more mindful treats) to compensate.
Be patient when taking your dog for exercise
Your dog may get slower with age and have less energy but they still need to be walked every day and have exercise regularly, to maintain a healthy weight and good overall health. If you’re unsure as to how much exercise your elderly pet should have, your vet surgery should have plenty of advice.
Spend more time with them
This point will benefit both you and them. All I’ll say about this one is that you don’t want to regret not spending time with them in their final few years. They will want you by their side and you should cherish every single day that you spend with them. Make memories, take photos, have cuddles and make their life as great as possible.
And finally… think about it
I know, I know, the absolute LAST thing you want to do is think about your pet coming to the end of its life. But end of life care doesn’t just apply to humans. And with pets being just as much a part of the family for so many of us, it’s important to have these conversations with others and with ourselves.