I never thought about it…at least not consciously. When Brickle and Digby came into our lives, they were young. And I could not let myself go down the path of imagining them older. I could not let myself go there. My previous dogs lived long lives, but let’s be honest. Time with our dogs, or anyone we love, is never long enough. Truly.
But if you are like me, you love your dogs beyond any else’s comprehension. I could never explain, or would I want to, the absolute love I have for my dogs. And yes, I would do anything for them. I would, and do, spend money I don’t have for the best food for them. I make sure they get enough exercise, even when I am sick. I put myself second, and maybe last, if they need me. But last week, as Brickle had a little bout of stomach issues because of the rain and his nervousness, and Digby was having some trouble with an eye infection, I thought a bit. Was I really taking care of them the way that I should? Was I doing everything in my power so that they lived as long as they could? Because truth be told, as they turned nine this year, what I had been ignoring all along hit me in the heart. I had senior dogs. I had older dogs. What was I going to do?
I heard one time that women have more than 70,000 thoughts per day. Well, combine that with being a dog parent, and I can guarantee that all of my thoughts would make anyone’s head spin. But the most frequent thought in my head the past few months is how much longer do we have left together? Should I count down the years? How is this healthy for anyone? It is not. And it is a big time waster of every precious minute. So, how can I take care of them in the best way that I know how, make sure that they are happy and yet recognize when I need to make changes?
So, I posed a question on our Facebook group page. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t alone. I asked, “If you have a senior dog, what are your biggest concerns?” Here were some of the answers.
“Mobility and pain.”
“My sweet 11 year old snoopy came to me with skin issues. I also worry about his teeth and his heart. I pretty much worry about everything. He is the apple of my eye.”
“End of life issues.”
“That my Fuzzy will die and leave me. She is almost 10.”
“Mobility is my biggest concern for soon to be 13 year old Snookie.”
“My biggest concern is mobility, as they are 100 lb dogs.”
“…Recently she seems to be having digestive issues and supposedly allergic troubles to so much stuff. I suspect allergies too but can’t afford expensive testing.”
“My Sunny is 11years old and I dread the day I lose her. The dog I had before her contracted Lymphoma at the age of 11 and died within a few months so I have been worried since her birthday.”
Everyone is different and every dog is different. I appreciated these answers and many others not only for the honesty in them, but for the admittance that we all worried. Simple. But for me, sometimes I feel like no one could understand how much I love my boys. I sometimes feel that I am crazy for loving them so much. But I also realize the responsibility that I have of putting my emotions aside and finding out what needs to be done, the tasks at hand, and make informed decisions. For Brickle and Digby, the changes lately are becoming more apparent. And I will discuss just the few that we are dealing with here in our family so maybe you won’t feel so alone too if you have a beloved senior pet.
- Mobility This might be the most frustrating part of getting older not only for dogs, but for people too. For us, hiking every day and keeping active has proven to not only be a great stress reliever, but I feel keeps everything going! However, a few months ago I noticed the difficult time that Digby had getting in our car. And then Brickle started having a harder time as well. I wondered if they were getting enough exercise, or not enough. Was I pushing them too hard? And guess what? I still don’t have the answers. So we learned to take it day by day. If we do a longer hike one day, we rest the next. I have started to listen to their body language, their demeanor and how much water they drink. I have began a regimen of different products and routines that we will discuss more next month. But I have adjusted their diet, started holistic supplements, and the results have been very encouraging. And isn’t that what we all need most of all as we are getting older…encouragement?
- Diet If you know our website, blog or missions at all, you know that we advocate fresh food for dogs. That is why we hold a live cooking class on Facebook every week. It is why we tell everyone to throw away their dog food bags, and I won’t ever stop! Although I am not a vet, and I certainly don’t know everything about nutrition, I have learned to trust my instincts, do my research, and be balanced in this regard. I love to eat, I truly enjoy food, and my dogs are no different. But for senior dogs, nutrition may change. Senior dog diets often should have lower calories, higher protein, lower sodium, and fewer carbohydrates. We personally alternate between a raw and cooked diet. I have learned to watch their appetites and adjust with our activity levels.
- Health Care This may be one of the most frustrating parts of caring for an older dog, at least for me. For all of the wonderful vets out there, there are many more that I feel don’t see our dogs as individuals, but numbers. Yes, it may not be very professional of me to say this, but I would rather tell the truth. And knowing when certain aspects of care are necessary or not, plus weighing costs involved when you don’t know if you trust your vet is so maddening. This has proven the case in our family. The last vet we visited in Bodega Bay, California made it clear to me that there were still great ones out there, but some of us never find that perfect vet. So what can we do? I truly believe that there is a balance between using our own heads, doing our own research, and trusting our hearts when it comes to care for our dogs. Yes, professional care is needed. But never let anyone, whether they are a vet or not make you feel bad for decisions you make. They are YOUR furkid. You know them best, you will take care of them best. And you can do it. You can. And you are not alone. Others are going down the same path with different feet.
So, as I asked at the beginning…am I too concerned about my senior dog? At this moment in time, this week, I will say that I have been. I have been analyzing every breath, every groan. Last week? I didn’t worry so much, but the fact is, nothing changed. I have began to realize that is is how I deal with them getting older that will probably make the most difference in their quality of life, beyond any treatment, any pill, any vet. We are the world to our pets, no matter how old they are. Cherish every day that you have with the ones that you love. And never doubt that you will make the best decisions that you can. No one else could make them for your dog as good as you.
-Rachael Johnson, Owner, 2 Traveling Dogs
Catch our daily dog blog at www.2travelingdogs.com
12 thoughts on “Am I Too Concerned About My Senior Dog?”
I’m concerned about mobility. My Jakie is mine. A few years ago he hurt his hip because he was a jumper. He doesn’t jump any more. I had to put my lab, Shadow, down because f mobility. I have never forgiven myself. I don’t want to go through that again
Huny (pictured) is going to be 11 this year. Chihuahuas can live up to 22 years of age (although the only one I ever knew that lived that long was in terrible shape when his owner finally made the hardest decision any furkid parent can make). I expect another 6-7 years with her, but the vet discovered she has an enlarged heart this year. Which is causing her problems with other internal organs due to the heart’s size. She’s on rather costly medication now. Thankfully her mobility is fine, which cannot be said of me. We don’t get many walkies any more. Just FYI (and I don’t know what the cost is now, it hasn’t become an issue for me. Yet. But it WILL). There is pet insurance. Usually doesn’t cover all that much, but when you have a senior pet, it at least takes care of some of the cost, which can be shockingly expensive. After Huny passes, I’m not sure I’m going to get another pet. The loss of two within the past three years due to old age and infirmity, have shown me what a broken heart one gets, even if one only has the pet a short while. I’ve had Huny for nine years. I’m pretty darned sure it’ll take a long time to get over her. Your boys are so funny and I love the photos. Where did you ever come up with the names? Digby Pancake (deputy)? I sort of understand the Sheriff’s name….his coat is sort of Brickle isn’t it? And NO. In my opinion, you are NOT “too concerned”. Is one ever concerned enough about one’s babies?
My baby girl is 13 and the light of my life. I brought her home on Christmas Eve and named her Noel Joy. She is blind and being a dachshund, she has IVDD with partial paralysis. There have been adjustments along the way, for both of us. Instead of taking walks on a leash, I walk and she rides in her stroller. She *sees* the world with her nose and can still play fetch. Ok. I fetch and she rolls it back in my general direction.
I don’t know how much time we will have together, I just consider every day a gift.
I worry about my corgi, Maggie, rescued from a backyard breeder 10 years ago. She is 12 and I know corgis average about 14 years. We give her daily joint suppliments and carprofen for pain. She has arthritis in her spine. Her back legs have been showing some slight weakness. We have a great vet, but I always wonder if we are doing enough.
You put into words pretty much exactly how I feel about my girl Lily. I’m constantly worried about her health and issues. She is the reason i work to make money to pay for vets and supplements and meds and treats and travel for her. But she is overweight. And I can’t exercise her enough daily as I often work 12 hour days. And she seems to have food allergies. We learned years ago she was allergic to chicken. Yet that’s the most common ingredient in dog foods, especially ones for diets. Sadly i cant fo the raw food or any home cooked meals for my dog for certain factors and reasons. I do choose the highest quality canned and dry foods though after extensive research. Meanwhile Lily has developed various issues that seem to be food or supplement related. Despite frequent visits to holistic vets, and numerous meds and supplements and recommendations, we still haven’t nailed down the perfect balance of diet and supplements and treats. I am extremely interested in any new supplements that reliable sources suggest. I believe that more and more honest and caring people are developing actual beneficial cures and aids for the health and well being of our critters. Though these are often harder to find as they don’t have huge marketing and advertising budgets like the criminal corporations that are ONLY interested in profits. There is no simply answer to these problems. But I believe that people like Rachel are helping us find those solutions that work and are beneficial. Thanks Rachel…and Brickle…. and Digby. And not to be left out… Boy Person who keeps everything going for all of you.
I have had many senior dogs over the years. One of the was a Rottweiler named Moose who lived to 16. My current senior is a beagle/corgi mix named Max who is 9. He has heart issues so I watch him closely for signs of heart failure. He is fine otherwise. I naturally worry about his health especially after losing my beagle Snoopy to cancer a year ago. I also have 2 rescues that are 4 and 5. I will do everything I can to keep them healthy and happy. I am fortunate to have a caring and understanding vet that I began taking them to in February as my former veterinarian was only interested in how much money he could get out of me.
My sweet fur kid, Sheeba, turned 16 in March and we celebrated her 16th gotcha day this week. I am constantly worried about her because I want to make sure her quality of life is high. My biggest fear is not knowing it’s time and she suffers because of it. Mornings are tough but then her joints seem to loosen up and by the late afternoon / evening , she’s raring to go. She had a vet visit this week that went well so that made me feel better.
I have a fabulous eccentric (mad) chocolate Lab called Dudley who I blog about. I am (I hope) a good few years away yet from these thoughts, but they will eventually creep in. I feel for you. All I can suggest is that, whilst it is vital to give them every chance to live as long and happy a life as possible, never be tempted to hold on too long.
I just read your blog and I have to say this, no you’re not too concerned about your senior dogs. You are no different than a mother worrying about her child. I know because I worried about caring for my senior dog while my husband was dying. I had to make time for both of them so they would both get love and the best care I was able to provide. Now I’m getting older and I have the same issues that your dogs have isn’t it ironic that dogs and people are so alike! I worry about my kids every day and they are grown. Sometimes I wonder if I gave my dog the best care I could have and my answer is yes. One thing you have to not do is put yourself last. I did that and I’m paying the price now. If you aren’t healthy, how can you care for them? You provide so much love and care for those boys and they know it. They also know if you don’t feel well, especially Brickle. That’s not good! Please stop worrying about how much time you have with them and enjoy the time you have. You are an inspiration to many people and are an advocate for dogs who cannot speak for themselves. Please keep doing what you are doing, you are a blessing to many people and animals.
Zoe is my oldest Blue Heeler. She will be 13 on July 31st. She has slowed down so much as she has Arthritis especially in the hip/back leg she had surgery on six yr ago. She is my baby! Took her to our Vet and had Senior Wellness Check done🐶. Fortunately she is doing great👍 Gives me peace of mind! Keeps the six year old Blue Heeler in line😂
Our eldest is 15, the youngest is 9 and there are 3 more in between. The 3 in between are all larger dogs and yes all are facing mobility problems. Makes my heart hurt at times. We do all we can to make their lives easier even though it is so tough on us
Our Emma is 7 1/2 years old now, so not quite senior yet, but close enough for this post to hit home. Her environmental allergies are especially bad this year, and we don’t dare take her on walks because she is allergic to several kinds of grass. She gets Benadryl every 12 hours, which helps with the itching, but makes her pretty sleepy. She had a bad ear infection in January that keeps trying to rear its ugly head–because her allergies are so bad. So now I clean her ears with organic apple cider vinegar/water at least once a day. My biggest concern now is that she isn’t getting as much exercise as she used to. We replaced the carpet in most of the house with vinyl planks 3 years ago, which helped with all our allergies, but now if Emma runs in the house she slips and sometimes skids or falls. I don’t want her straining or spraining anything. So chasing a ball down our long hall is risky. It’s a Catch-22 situation that bothers me more than it does Emma. She’s a surprisingly laid-back Springer Spaniel most of the time, but I know she’d enjoy going for walks with us. Our holistic vet has told us that if we take her for a walk, we must give her a bath when we get home to remove all the pollen and other allergens from her coat and her feet. See what a complicated situation this has become?! My Hubby thinks I’m a bit nuts sometimes, but, GP, I’m sure that you can relate. I just REALLY want to improve her quality of life, but it’s not easy. We both love her so much that we can’t even imagine what we’d do without her. Well, you know what I mean. Sigh…. 😟