How do you deal with aging in dogs? Uninformed pet owners view it as an illness that can only be dealt with through euthanasia. In a book entitled Good Old Dog: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Healthy, Happy and Comfortable, the authors Dr. Nicholas Dodman and Lawrence Linder talks about how to navigate an often misunderstood stage in a dog’s life: advanced age.
One of the first things you need to know is that older dogs are more sensitive to temperature changes. As their metabolism rates change, they are more prone to experiencing heat or freezing bouts. The capability of their bodies to thermoregulate will decrease as they age, so you don’t want to leave them out in the yard during a hot summer day.
Exercise is another important issues that needs to be address, lest their heart and lung function deteriorate. You also have to watch out for senior diet sold in grocery stores, as they may not be as healthy as they claim to be. To ensure the safety of your dog, check with your veterinarian first before introducing a new diet to your senior dog.
Another concern for many owners, says Dodman, is what to do when their pet gets a terminal disease. Cancer kills 500,000 dogs a year in the United States and affects half of all dogs older than 10 years.
But deciding whether or not to treat cancer aggressively is difficult for many pet owners, says Dodman, because there are so many things to consider: the cost of treatment, a pet’s quality of life after treatment, whether the treatment is painful and how long a dog’s life can be extended.
“If, for example, you had a relatively noninvasive procedure that wasn’t going to cause your dog a lot of pain, and it was going to buy him an extra six months and you could afford that treatment — and those six months were quality life — then why not, if you can afford it?” he says. “But, on the other hand, just to drag out an existence. … Some people, I have known in the past … have done that. Owners, with cooperating vets, have just gone step after step after step, when really, you’re on a highway to nowhere. If the dog is in chronic pain and doesn’t have long to go, sometimes I question the wisdom of that approach.” (Read more here)
But what about declining cognitive functioning, the equivalent of Alzheimer’s in humans? This illness is not quite as easy to detect, and you might need the expert opinion of a veterinarian for it. In the unfortunate circumstance that your old buddy ends up having this condition, it’s no reason to let go just yet. Ask your vet about your options, so you can make an informed decision.
At the end of the day, your dog’s advanced age is yet another adventure for you and your buddy to go through together. Will you give up now that your fur baby needs you the most?