Taking a dog into your home, any dog can be a greatly enriching experience, offering company, structure, and a real bond and connection with another living creature, who can love you with all of its heart. However, every dog brings its challenges, too. Whether you have had them all of their life, or you have decided to adopt one, living with an older dog gives you the opportunity to offer them the comfort and care they deserve in their twilight years, but it does come with some challenges to be mindful of, as well.
They’re going to look a lot different
Dogs can start to show the signs of aging just as readily as humans can. Some dogs can start to become leaner as they don’t eat as much and, as such, don’t retain as much weight. Some dogs go the opposite direction, putting on a little more weight as they get older. Whichever is the case, managing their diet with the help of the vet is always a good idea. You might want to look into any thinning or greying fur they might start to show, as well. If it’s happening naturally and doesn’t show signs of discomfort, then it’s likely perfectly fine and natural hair loss. Some conditions that cause complete fur loss over patches of them can be more likely to show in older age, however, and that’s worth a trip to the vet’s over.
Understand they will not be as active as they once were
Even if a dog is growing entirely healthily, and there are no issues affecting their overall health for you to be worried about, it’s worth understanding that, as they get older, they are going to have less stamina, in general. As such, they’re likely to slow down, not want to play quite as much, and show signs of tiring out a little earlier in walks. As such, you might want to make walks a little shorter and less strenuous and avoid jogging with them.
Anticipate some pain
As dogs get older, they can experience many of the same health issues as humans. Any chronic health issues they have been experiencing can require a little more attention and treatment as their body feels the effects of it more. Then there are things like inflammation and arthritis, which can be more likely in some breeds than others. Of course, working with the vet and keeping them in the loop to follow recommended instructions is always a good idea, but there are also many who recommend things like CBD for dogs to help deal with discomfort, and to help keep them relaxed. Whatever you decide is best, it’s important to be aware of the pain that can affect them and to, at least, not do anything to exacerbate it.
They are likely to be more anxious, too
It’s not just physical changes that you should expect in your dog, you should also look out for some of the mental changes in their behavior, as well. Age affects mental and emotional health in dogs just as much as it does for humans. For instance, dogs become a little less well-equipped to deal with stress and, as such, any anxiety problems they may already have, such as separation anxiety, can become all the stronger for them. In other cases, they might become less accepting of new situations and new people than before, which can make them seem more irritated and agitated. As such, you might want to start doing a little more to keep them out of such situations.
Changes in cognitive function
Just as both humans and dogs experience changes to their emotional health as they get older, they can also experience changes in cognitive function. Dogs can experience senility, of course. They may start to have accidents around the home a little more often, or they may start getting lost or confused even in familiar spaces. There are things that you can do with your vet to help manage these issues and to keep them as comfortable and secure as possible, so if you spot any early signs of this kind of behavior, you mustn’t simply ignore it: bring it up with your vet.
Preparing for the inevitable
It might not be something that any dog owner wants to think about, regardless of what their dog is. However, at some point, there will come a time that we have to say goodbye. It’s important, in some regards, to be prepared for this any time you take a dog that’s showing serious signs of illness to a vet, but especially if they are an older dog. Dealing with the loss of a dog is never easy, but it is a part of life that you have to prepare for. Establishing a memorial for them, and keeping some reminders of them around the home can help you show respect for them as time goes on.
They may have a hard time getting on with newer pets
Whether you’re looking to provide your older dog with some company as they get older, or you simply feel like you need a younger dog to keep you active and busy as your beloved older pooch starts to slow down, introducing a new dog to an older one requires a lot of care, especially if they are a puppy. As mentioned, a lot of older dogs can be a little more prone to stress when meeting new people or pets, and sharing their space with them comes with an even greater challenge for them. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, of course, but you should follow tips on introducing puppies to older dogs just to be on the safe side as best as possible.
Hopefully, the tips above make it a little easier to at least know what to expect when living with an older dog. All dogs are deserving of a loving and caring home. Sometimes you just need to adjust your idea of how to provide that.
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website’s content and editorial direction since 2018. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra’s expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.