Senior Dogs: Loving Them, Caring For Them, And Why We Never Really Get Over Losing Them

Pets come into our lives and become part of our families. They age faster than we do so at some point we all have to say good-bye. It's never easy.
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Senior Dog with ball laying in Grass
Source: kaywriteswords

My husband bought new socks today. While putting everything away after our shopping trip, my dog decided to take the socks and run with them, shaking them around much like a dog would with one of those plush toys.

Brand new socks, and we laughed. When a dog ages, it can be hard to watch. Movements that once came easily for them no longer do. They need shorter walks. Habits change. So, to see my 13-year-old pit bull acting like a puppy, doing something a puppy would normally get scolded for, he gets laughs and hugs instead. That’s how to deal with an aging dog.

This topic is very present in my life right now because I heard of two friends whose pets passed within the last week. And while I haven’t seen either of them in some time & I never met their pups, the fact that their families lost that broke my heart and brought my own dog's age into sharper focus.

What Is Considered A Senior Pet?

There’s no quick answer to this one. Pets begin to be considered seniors at different ages and not only do their size and breed matter, but their species also do as well. Typically for dogs, the larger they are the less time we get to experience their slobbery kisses and goofy antics.

You’ll know your pet is starting to reach that senior age range when certain things about them start to change. You may notice they start to have difficulty with their hearing or vision, and even physical changes with their bodies. They may be shaky getting up and slower on their walks.

An older pup may experience a weight change. It could be that they are losing weight because their appetite isn’t what it once was. They may also gain weight from being less active.

You’ll see them sleeping more. One of the most pronounced changes in my pup was that he sometimes doesn’t hear us returning home anymore so when we wake him, he gets startled. It’s cute at the moment, but then the sadness comes as reality sets in.

Dog and cat age chart compared to age of humans
Dog age chart by size in human years

How To Take Care Of An Aging Pet

There are some practical approaches to caring for a senior pet and then there are the more affectionate approaches to ensure they get the emotional care they need as well.

1. More frequent vet visits

An older pet's needs tend to be more immediate than during their younger years. Your vet would be able to advise on any special precautions you should take as well.

2. Be mindful of your pet's diet

Their food may require a change depending on individual nutritional needs. Another thing your vet should be able to give you some guidance on.

3. Make sure your older pet gets regular exercise

Dogs lose some flexibility and become less mobile as they get older so it’s important to keep them reasonably active. They don’t need to burn as much energy as a puppy so a short walk will do to get them up and moving and combat some of the pitfalls of a sedentary lifestyle.

4. Keep up with your older pup’s hygiene

Bathe your aging pets as needed to ensure no skin issues arise, maintain their oral health, and take appropriate parasite precautions in the form of vaccines or monthly supplements. They can’t fend off illness as quickly as their younger counterparts.

5. Watch for signs of senility

Engage with your pet regularly to help them stay mentally stimulated as they age.

6. Keep your cool if your older pet has an accident

Just like with older people sometimes aging pets might not be able to control an accident.

7. Make sure you watch the stairs when they go up and down

An older pup can’t go up and down as easily so arrangements might have to be made to ensure they don’t make any unnecessary trips. I actually moved my office from the basement to the main level just so my pup wouldn’t have to go up and down the stairs with me every day. (I’m not sure who’s in charge here, lol)

One of my dog's favorite things to do is go for walks. As he’s gotten older, he can no longer handle the distances that he used to. He starts moving quickly and has a hint of his old energy, but usually, by the time we get back, he’s already slowed quite a bit. Despite not wanting the walk to end, he reluctantly goes inside. It's what is best for his overall care. His walks might not be the same length of time they used to be, but he more than makes up the difference sunbathing in the back yard.

What You Can Do For An Aging Pet?

Love them. Hug them. Make time for them. The love of an animal is the most unconditional love you’ll ever feel. It is only fair that we return that love when they need us most. Give your senior pet the best of you every chance you get. You only have so much time left.

There is nothing quite like snuggling a dog if your dog is into that kind of thing. Not all pets are into snuggling, but even just pets, belly rubs, or ear scratches can help them relax. Feeling their fur can be soothing for you as well so take some time each day to give them that one on one attention.

Listen to your pet. Give them what they need. As I was writing, my dog decided to get under my desk, wedge himself under my legs and turn me away from the desk. This guy. He wanted some attention and so he demanded it. I obliged.

Do you ever get over losing a pet?

As humans, we’re used to the traditional, chronological order of things, being much less prepared for the shortened life span of our furry friends. Sometimes, we get hit with it suddenly when an accident happens or some type of terminal illness is diagnosed. Sometimes we have time to prepare as we care for our older pets.

Either way, whenever it happens, every time it happens, it hits like a ton of bricks. A piece of us gets taken away.

Best friend. Confidant. Constant companion. It’s a lot to lose all at once. Eventually, the healing begins and we start to move on, but we never forget the impact that animals had on our lives. Even the more difficult ones leave us with fond memories and holes in our hearts.

To all the ones we’ve lost, may they never be forgotten…

~ Smokey ~ Midnight ~ Sinbad ~ Baby ~ Cooper ~ Trixie ~ Gus ~ Gordon ~ Lulu ~ Rocky ~ Duke ~ Beanie ~ Tori ~ Maui ~ Buttons ~ Rex ~ Bandit ~ Stella ~

I know this list could be longer, these are the furry family members I thought of in the moment. Either because I knew them personally or because their humans keep their memories alive. Animals profoundly impact our day-to-day lives. They make our lives better, they give us hope when there maybe none. At the very least they are there for us so we never have to be alone. We honor their commitment to us by always holding them in our hearts.  

Why do we love pets?

It can be hard for people who haven’t experienced the love of an animal to understand why the rest of us get so worked up about our pets.

Our pets are our companions. They are there for our good times and our bad times. They make enjoyable moments happier and they make difficult moments bearable.

Even those pets that are somewhat taxing to take care of are still there for us when we need them. They may be stubborn, behaviorally challenged, or untrained. Sometimes they may frustrate us to no end, but they still always make the days better.

Why do humans bond with pets?

Our pets are our best friends. We can tell them anything and they’ll never spill the beans. They are faithful confident and more recently, maybe even your regular office mate, if you are working from home. It is their unyielding loyalty that causes us to bond with the animals we care for. We give them a home, food and water, attention, and in return, they stay by our sides to make sure we are okay.

When we are sad, just their presence seems to take away our pain. They bring the good juju with them wherever they go.

Our pets never judge us, whatever we are feeling, we are able to just be when we are with them.

This is why our pets make us happy!

For the most part, pets can always bring a smile to our faces. Whether it’s with a loving hello or goof-ball antics, their behavior is a response to how we are feeling.

Our pets share in our excitement when we are happy. They can be stoic when we feel low, providing comfort in an effort to elevate our moods. There’s something about snuggling an animal that really soothes the soul.

I’ve watched my dog age. It’s been beautiful and tragic to see him go from the spry, speedy pup he once was to a clumsy old man. Holding it together some days is one of the harder things I’ve had to master. Every time I see a stuttered step, it tears at my heartstrings.

I know my pup is closer to the rainbow bridge than I’d like. I always tell him to let me know when he’s ready. But if by some miracle he could live forever that would be alright with me too.

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Aspiring content marketer, writing to soothe my soul. Lover of dogs, fiction novels, and a good TV binge.

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