By: Jeff Clare
No doubt you have already faced the reality that we all get old. Loved ones won’t be as strong or as healthy as they are now and will require more time and attention as the years go by. There is no denying that everything under the sun is subject to aging. Caring for the elderly is not easy and takes a lot of adjustments for all parties involved.
Dogs age too. They get older and weaker and can’t do everything they used to be able to do. Your once spry, young puppy is now slow and might not be able to see or hear so well. Maybe he has arthritis or some other age-related affliction that makes it hard for him to get around. During this phase of your dog’s life you will have to take great care to be patient and understanding.
One of the most distressing changes for both owner and dog is the bathroom issue. If your dog lives a very long time, you may find that an animal who has not soiled the house since puppy potty training begins to leave messes indoors. The worst thing you could possibly do at this point is overreact. If this happens, the first thing you will want to do is determine why the accident, or accidents, happened.
If your dog has arthritis or any other condition that makes it difficult to negotiate stairs to get outside, then he may simply be choosing to make a shorter trek to a spot in the house to eliminate. This is not the time to punish, but a time to think. Is there a way to make outside access easier for your dog, such as a ramp or simply a shorter trek? If your dog spends a lot of time in his bed, you may consider moving that closer to the doggie door.
On the other hand, if your dog depends on you to take him outside to eliminate, you may consider taking him on more frequent bathroom breaks or simply installing a doggie door so that he may take care of it himself whenever he feels the urge.
If bladder control becomes severe, or if your dog simply becomes very forgetful, he may eliminate on himself without even realizing it. At this point, you will simply need to take on the extra responsibility of keeping both dog and environment clean. You will also want to evaluate whether your dog’s quality of life has decreased sufficiently enough to have him euthanized. A leaky bladder or bowels is not necessarily a sign that it is time for euthanasia, however, though it may mean more work for your family.
Unfortunately, many dog owners simply move a dog who has lived side-by-side with them for many years, to the outside. This can be traumatic and confusing to the dog, who may think he is no longer wanted by the family, or that he has done something terribly wrong. If this is the only option, make sure that you are able to schedule more time with your aging pet, and that you make time to bring him indoors for supervised visits, perhaps on absorbent doggie-sheets. During these visits, give him lots of love and affection.
The golden years of your dog’s life can be bittersweet. You know that they won’t be around much longer, but at the same time you need to remember that this is not the end of your relationship with your dog.