Mia loved being a small town dog. She trained her owners well so they would eventually be ready for another four legged family member once her work here was done. If Mia stared long enough at the cookie jar with the embossed paw print resting upon the kitchen counter, her humans knew to give her a treat. When it was time for a trail walk, Mia would pull Colin through the garage so he would remember to pocket a few poop bags from his stash. Should a wet nose and a long snout find its way under Anna’s relaxed hand, that meant it was time to pet the dog. Mia easily trained her human family members and shared 16 happy years filled with treats, trail walks and hustled pet sessions.
A full year passed without a dog at home when Colin and Anna, a healthy, sharp couple in their early 80’s, heard the story of Domino. A few states away, 12 year old Domino was living with a widow who was moving to a facility that does not allow dogs. A rescue intervened to give Domino a second chance, which is an understated challenge for senior dogs. Hundreds of miles and several phone calls later, Domino and a foster volunteer arrived to meet Colin and Anna to determine if this permanent placement is suitable.
It proved to be a great fit. Domino presented himself as a well-mannered, mature and healthy mutt. Colin and Anna passed, too, courtesy of the additional training Mia provided during her final years. Their thorough understanding that senior dogs require special care gave the rescue group complete confidence in placing Domino with them. Here are five helpful tips Colin and Anna shared during their interview with the rescue.
1. Older dogs require more frequent visits to the veterinarian. The vet will assess the pet’s weight, examine the teeth, hips and thyroid performance, and prescribe medications to maintain or even improve the quality of life.
2. Comfort is important to senior dogs. Avoid sore joints by adding extra padding or towels to the dog bed. This will make nap time a more quality sleep.
3. Going to dinner and movie? Make sure someone can let the dog out while you are gone. In older humans and dogs, the bladder loses its elasticity and consequently its ability to hold large urine amounts over long durations. A visitor during your absence can help prevent an indoor puddle.
4. Dietary changes and supplements are important, too. Most dog foods available offer a formula catered to senior dogs to support joint health, digestion and eye sight. Look for foods enriched with glucosamine chondroitin and beta carotene. Also consider fish oil supplements.
5. Getting to the vet can be a chore if your dog can no longer jump into the car or if that leap causes the dog physical discomfort. Put the fun back into car adventures by having a stepstool or small stepladder on hand.
These tips are easy to implement. We are very grateful that Colin and Anna shared Mia and Domino’s stories, as their experiences will help us be better caregivers when our dogs become seniors. Following these steps with patience and love can turn our pets' golden years into their great years.