Written by Lonna Battles
We got our “puppy” at 9 weeks old and he was just 4 pounds. Now, 12 years and 18 more pounds later, he’s aged into quite the old little man. Our Boston Terrier is an integral member of our family and is included in just about everything that we do – he is the fur baby in our house. As he gets older, I’ve noticed several signs of aging in the past year, just little “things” here and there which triggered an epiphany – I have a senior dog, how did that happen!
Aside from some frosty white hairs on their faces, I wanted to highlight some important things to keep in mind and to watch out for as your own pup gets older. They may need your help, and a bit more patience and even intervention.
Our dog now takes a liquid medicine twice a day before breakfast and before dinner. He has a heart murmur and heart diseases which, thankfully, is not progressing rapidly. He started the medicine over a year ago and will be on it for the rest of his life. In addition, he needs to have an EKG every year to ensure that the disease has not worsened.
Keep in mind: Senior pets are prone to more diseases and ailments. It can all be quite costly at times and I do wish I had enrolled him in pet insurance sooner.
His joints have started to ache (just like they do in humans) and he now has stiffness in his legs. I just started noticing that on certain days he moves more slowly going up the stairs. He also rocks back and forth before jumping on the bed and sometimes needs assistance. Also, when he is running after a toy he stumbles more easily – his back legs are not so strong.
Keep in mind: There are joint supplements available at pet stores and at your local veterinary hospital to help with this. Some pet owners even buy stairs to help their dog get up onto furniture. They may be worth looking into.
Decline in Energy Level
While he still has plenty of energy, it’s not quite what it had been two years ago. He is still obsessed with the tennis ball, but he doesn’t run back and forth 20-30 times. He now does 4-5 runs in the backyard and calls it quits. He is just more content to have company outside with him.
Keep in mind: Monitor your pet’s exercise threshold. If it decreases dramatically and/or suddenly, there may be something wrong. If it slowly decreases as they age, just be sure not to push them too hard especially on hot summer days!
He still loves to play in the house, but I’ve noticed that he now retires earlier in the evening. Often, I’ll find him snoozing on the couch before he comes upstairs to go to bed with us.
Keep in mind: Give your dog plenty of places to sleep, especially in the downstairs portion of your home. Going upstairs may not be an option every night for them.
Our dog now needs to get up in the middle of the night to urinate. He used to be able to sleep through the night. My husband and I take turns. Truth be told, I get up more frequently than he does and now it has become part of my nightly routine.
Keep in mind: You may need to adjust your family’s routine to accommodate your aging dog’s needs. They’ll be grateful for it!
Random Barking & Other Behaviors
He has always barked when anyone comes to the door but now he barks when my husband comes home. He also sometimes barks for no apparent reason when we are all in the house. He seems overly cautious and more nervous when people come to the house. This could be due to the fact that he is partially blind and I wonder about his hearing.
Keep in mind: Be patient with your pup! Their random barking and over-alertness may be annoying at times, but their senses just aren’t as sharp anymore and they know it, which puts them a bit on edge.
While your pet may or may not experience any combination of these “symptoms,” it’s good to be aware of what you may encounter as your pet gets older. And if I had to do it all over again, I would not change a thing! It’s just a matter of making adjustments to accommodate our furry family member who’s been there since the beginning. Afterall, we owe it to them.