What to Expect with an Aging Dog

senior dogs aging

Most people know the obvious things when it comes to “What to Expect with an Aging Dog” because, let’s face it, we can draw more than a few parallels between the way our dogs age and how we humans age. 

Our senior dog may start to lose her hearing, he may have bathroom accidents, she’ll get arthritis and have difficulty standing, his breath starts to smell….all of those things we know instinctively because we share these in common.  However, there are things you don’t know about an aging dog until you have and are living day to day with a senior pup and that’s what we’ll explore today.

In this article I will attempt to illustrate exactly how all of these obvious changes are going to impact you and your daily life and we’ll also talk about the not so obvious things you can expect to come face to face with when caring for an aging dog.

Once you have an understanding of how your life will change, you will likely feel much more in control and empowered to help your best friend as he or she begins their journey through the senior years. 

We’re going to do this – Top 10 Countdown Style; here we go:

# 10 What to Expect with an Aging Dog

Expect to Limit Activities Your Aging Dog Loves

One of the hardest transitions as a responsible senior pet parent is to make the decision to stop doing an activity you both love.  I’ll give you an example: 

If you don’t already know, my senior dog Frodo is in between a large breed and giant breed.  One of our favorite things to do in the winter, after a very heavy snowfall, is to run around off leash in the middle of an abandoned golf course.  We’d trudge through knee deep snow, play snowball fetch, race around in circles, and roll around in the snow together.   

senior dog having fun in the snow

As much as we both loved this activity, the last time we did it, he had a hard time getting out of bed the next morning.  My heart sank as I helped him rise and assisted him out the door. 

Even though he recovered by the next evening, I made the decision to stop this activity because it’s no longer in his best interest to trudge through knee deep snow and run around in the cold. His arthritis flares up more frequently even though we keep it under control with movoflex and other supplements, so he’s as pain free as possible. If you’d like to see my dog’s Arthritis Regimen: Click Here.

As our dog ages, our responsibility to keep them safe grows even more.  A slip on an icy sidewalk could be just the thing that triggers a horrible sequence of mobility issues.  A bad run in with an alpha-dog at the dog park might lead to separation anxiety.  

Deciding to forego a favorite activity that could injury your dog is not a punishment.  Let go of thinking “but he loves it” and replace it with “what can we do instead?”   How about making a new activity such as making him find 20 delicious treats  that are hiding all over the house? 

# 9 What to Expect with an Aging Dog

You Will Accumulate Huge Quantities of Medicines & Supplements

If you’re lucky enough to journey through years and years of senior hood with your dog, the day will come when you say to yourself, “these pills have taken over my kitchen!” Here is a picture of our arthritis supplements so you can see how it all adds up:

This image show my senior dog's supplements

Supplements will work for a while, only to get replaced by the next best thing.  You might have a stash of “just in case” medicines or supplements you’ll give only if certain symptoms appear.  And these will all be in addition to the medicines and supplement that your senior dog will begin taking regularly to maintain optimal health and a have a pain free quality of life.

Instead of dedicating cupboard space or letting them all sit on the top of the fridge, consider storing these is in a decorative tin or basket that’s large enough to fit ALL medicines and supplements (even the emergency meds).  That way, if you have to leave your home in a hurry, you grab the basket or tin and go. 

# 8 What to Expect with an Aging Dog

As Dogs Age You Develop New Routines

Out with the old and in with the new!  It will be a good motto to hang somewhere now that your dog is getting older.

Perhaps a dog that has slept with you for years now finds comfort on the sofa or her new dog bed.  Maybe he was always up for shaking paws and now he’d rather not.  She used to eat at 5pm, now her belly is rumbling at 4.  He used to love your crazy friend Lisa, but suddenly he doesn’t welcome her.

Nighttime and bathroom breaks will also fall out of routine because she’ll  have to urinate more frequently.  Expect to be woken earlier than normal or even several times per night.   

The point to remember here is that on any given day be ready for a new routine and as long is no one is getting hurt, follow your dog’s lead.

# 7 What to Expect with an Aging Dog

Spending Money Doesn’t Slow, But You’re Wiser

So if you’ve come this far with your dog, no doubt you understand that responsible dog care costs money and it doesn’t slow down once your dog gets older. 

You’ll be curious about new foods, medicines, supplements and merchandise that can make your dog more comfortable and maybe even make your life easier.  If you’ve got a large breed dog you’ll also be facing the added expense of buying helpful mobility products because you cannot easily lift him without assistance. 

Obviously we all have to live within our means and it’s okay if you have to slowly accumulate these helpful items.  Start with the problems that are really bothering your dog right now and incorporate things that will make him better.  

For instance, my dog had a chronic skin problem and was always considered a “stinky dog.”  He was a regular with the vet and steroids were his go to treatment.  I got really tired of it.  Not just the cost, but really disgusted with the prescriptions that did absolutely nothing to solve the problem. 

He was a different dog on steroids…anxious, yet tired, looked wary and peed buckets all over the house.  I got really fed up and began to learning about canine nutrition (a sorely lacking topic in the US veterinarian curriculum). 

To this day, the very best thing I’ve ever done for my dog is 5 years ago,  I stopped feeding him manufactured dog food.  While the cost of the actual food for a raw diet isn’t all that much more than the grain-free, premium kibble I was buying, the equipment and containers I purchased to make the job easier was several hundred dollars.

In the end though, all of this cost is justified by the fact that his raw diet cured his chronic skin condition, solved his stinky dog problem and I’ve saved thousands by eliminating vet bills and controversial steroid treatments.   He lost weight, gained muscle, has a beautiful coat, no more diarrhea and he absolutely LOVES meal time.

raw dog diet example
This is what raw dog food making day looks like at my house!

If you’ve every thought about going RAW, Here is a great beginners guide: Raw Dog Info for Beginners

Little by little, you can work toward making your dog’s life better. Here are a few things you can do to soften the blow of these extra expenses.

Besides waiting for items to go on sale, make sure the items have positive reviews by people who are ACTUALLY using them.  If you cannot find a good review in this day of the internet, it’s probably not worth buying.

Another great way of saving money on needed supplies is to ask for these items as Christmas presents or birthday presents.   If someone who normally buys you a birthday present asks what you need, you can mention things like you’re looking for a special harness to make your life easier when walking your dog. 

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