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Loving your Senior Dog

There is something special about older animal companions, their beautiful grey faces and their wise eyes. It is a privilege to be part of their life.

It is considered that for a smaller dog at 8 or 9 years of age is an aging dog and for giant breeds 6 or 7 years of age.

Have you ever considered adopting a senior dog as a companion? There are many dogs at many rescues just waiting to spend their senior years to give and get love and affection. Senior dogs nearly always know most commands, are way past puppy stage (think chewing!!) and are more relaxed and chilled. Most senior dogs have a story. This is our senior dog story.

Our rescue greyhound, Sammie came into our lives at 10 years old. He had spent many months at the kennels, after being returned at 9 years of age. He was not wanted, as he was considered too old. He spent his 10th birthday at the kennels. We weren’t looking for an older dog, but after hearing his story, we decided he would be a great companion for us and our other greyhound.

When he first came home, we thought that he was in pain with arthritis as he couldn’t go up the stairs. My husband built him a ramp and after a thorough check with the vet, his joints were quite good and not stopping him from using the stairs. We realized that Sammie had never used stairs before! We taught him how to use stairs and he is happy to come in and out of the house.

A side note - I am a dog lover and advocate – I am not a vet, so please see a qualified animal health practitioner if you have any health concerns with your animal friend. Animals usually don’t cry out with pain unless it is very severe. In older dogs, changes can occur very slowly and while you may not notice a difference from one day/week to the next, they can be sorer and stiffer over a period of months. According to “The Healing Vet” Edward Bassingthwaighte it is not normal for your old dog to be stiff and slow. Don’t wait; see how a vet or animal naturopath can help your senior dog, so their senior years are comfortable and free.

Sammie wouldn’t come to us for a pat or cuddle when he first arrived and for the first six months he was with us. He was very wary. We only knew a little of his history. I told him often that he would live his senior years with us. After 6 months, one morning, he was standing by my bed, waiting. He came to me for a pat and didn’t walk away. Since then, he has come for many pats!

Sammie will be 13 years old next month and is happier and healthier than ever. He is special dog, giving love…and getting love! Older dogs can be a great teacher for us too.

From a dog lover’s perspective, here are my top 10 tips for loving your old animal friends, and as a reminder, if you have any concerns, see your qualified animal practitioner:

  1. When you adopt a senior dog, there is a good chance you won’t know their history. Go slowly with new experiences and see what they like and don’t like.

  2. Get your dog’s eyes checked. Sammie needs glasses. Our vet noticed that Sammie’s eyesight is deteriorating and while dogs generally have poorer eyesight than humans in light, they have the ability to see better at night. Now we turn a light on for Sammie to use the stairs at night or he won’t use them.

  3. Older dogs’ hearing may deteriorate too. You can use hand signals to communicate with your animal friend.

  4. Give them space. We have two younger rescue greyhounds and sometimes they can get a little boisterous for Sammie. Sammie has his own “quiet space” to go when he needs to be in his own space.

  5. Look after their teeth. Dogs need their teeth brushed too! Ask your vet to do a dental check with your animal.

  1. Keep them warm in winter (there are some cute dog coats around!) and cool in summer.

  2. Give an appropriate senior dog diet with plenty of variety. Imagine if you had to eat the same thing day in and day out for 10 or more years?! Many dogs love fruit and vegetables. Sammie loves sweet potato mixed with his food, and sardines as a treat!

  3. Take your old friend for their daily walk. Sammie still loves his walks. Keep to a routine so that you both get out and enjoy some time being active. The walks may be a little slower or shorter as time goes by, but if they are excited by their lead, enjoy the time.

  4. Give them plenty of love and hugs and quiet time if needed.

  5. Be aware of the bedding they are using. As dogs get older, they need greater support. Check out some of the ortho beds for dogs.

Most of all, enjoy this special time with your dog. They can lead happy and healthy senior years and give as much affection and companionship.

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