# 6 What to Expect with an Aging Dog
Senior Dogs = More Housework
More Laundry. This may come as a surprise for answering: What to Expect with an Aging Dog, but its’ true. I think the extra laundry can be explained by the fact that your dog will sleep more as she ages and her bedding will soil faster. And by that, I don’t mean she will literally mess in her bed (though she may), it’s because her extra sleep means more drool, more oil, more skin cells and the like to build up now that she’s in bed more often.
Even though my dog’s bed comes with a nice quality washable cover it makes more sense for me to top his bed with cotton sheets (summer) or wooly throws (winter) and swap them out a few times a week. Disassembling his bed and washing the zip-up cover every few days became way too time consuming and he didn’t appreciate not having his downstairs bed for the duration of a wash and dry cycle.
Now maybe you’ve got a tiny dog and can get away with pillow cases, but for larger sized dogs you’ll be using sheets and blankets and they take up a lot of room in the laundry area! Get a system now for doggy blanket “dirties” such as baskets or hampers and an area for storing clean sheets, blankets and towels just for your pup.
I’m a great advocate for high quality dog beds because I’ve noticed a tremendous improvement in my dog’s living with arthritis with his high quality bed. But for sheets and blankets, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. I downgrade my own, I ask friends and family for theirs and you’d be surprised what you can find brand new, unopened at garage sales for pennies!
One thing I will caution you on though is to make sure you don’t cover beds with sheets or blankets that have holes, including those wide-stitch crochet afghans. One time I came home to Frodo greeting me with a sheet dragging behind. His foot got stuck in a small rip and the sheet got wrapped around his ankle.
More Dishes. As your dog ages they might become picky eaters. As you try to entice their appetite you will, inevitably, have more dishes. Also, their teeth and mouths aren’t as clean and fresh (article on Defeating Senior Dog Breath). This causes their water bowls get dirtier faster, with debris and that doggie-bowl slime. You’ll be swapping these out daily, if not more.
More Floor Mopping. One thing you can expect to see more of as your dog ages is tiny throw-ups of food and water. I’ve actually changed his water bowl access to never before eating and not for an hour after eating. When a big dog tosses his water, believe me, it’s a real scene!
And it goes without saying that your dog will have more urinary leaks and they cannot hold their bladders like they used to. Investing in washable throws and a spot mop/vacuum that can deal with liquid spills is a real life saver. You’ll go through more Lysol that ever before!
Tip: You know those annoying junk mail postcards that are printed on heavy stock paper? Usually a Store ad, oil change promo, or political pieces at election time? Don’t toss them! Keep those in a special place because they are awesome at picking up throw-up and bad accidents. Use two at a time, one in each hand and slide them on under the problem. Scoop and toss the problem, and the mailer, into the trash. They are free and work way better than paper towels.
# 5 What to Expect with an Aging Dog
As Your Dog’s Age, Your Décor Changes
Bet you didn’t anticipate this when searching: What to Expect with an Aging Dog? Well it’s true. My house is no longer trendy and cool because it’s safe for my dog.
Maybe you’re in love with your gleaming hardwood floors, but they’ve never done Fido any favors. When a dog is young, it may seem fun to watch him slide across the floor with wild abandon while barking at the mail carrier. However, once your senior dog takes his first spill and can’t get up, you’ll realize what a safety hazard this really is and it will change your view.
Senior dogs lose their footing and don’t have near the agility required to navigate slippery floors and stairs. If you’ve got a lot of hardwood floors or ceramic tile, it’s time to get some rugs. It doesn’t have to be wall to wall, but they do have to be good enough to stay in place and provide your dog with good footing.
Inexpensive options come in the form of rubber bottom bathmats and restaurant type rugs with the short nap and rubber backing. Another great option that is super easy to clean is foam tiles that you piece together like a puzzle. They are easily washed or replaced and for the most part, urine can’t get through to the real floor.
Same goes for outdoor steps. If your dog has a few steps to navigate in order to relieve herself outside, consider some stair treads to make it easier.
# 4 What to Expect with an Aging Dog
You Will Turn to the Internet for Support
Maybe you’ve been lucky with your hands off approach and your dog has been free of issues and incidents. But as your dog ages, you will become an important pillar in her health.
As your role expands it is very common to look outside the box of “traditional veterinarian medicine” especially if your senior dog has issues that won’t resolve. You’ll meet pet owners who are resisting the norms (or at least questioning them) and taking their dog’s health in a more holistic direction.
This is me…I have a lot of respect for people who practice DVM but as issues went unresolved, I started to see the cracks in the system. My dog is having every test known to man, one by one (lots of office visit charges), as I grow disenchanted with the structure of it all.
Let me reiterate: I am not anti-veterinarian,. In fact my dog Frodo has 3 Vet’s. I just decided to take the reins and become a pillar and advocate for his health. I do not follow vet advice blindly. I take their advice, research benefits and consequences and then get back to them (usually with more questions),
Here is the latest example of that: I live in NY state and last spring we had a huge problem in the area with ticks. This is not normal for NY so my senior dog’s flea and heartworm regimen did not include tick preventative.
Our vet recommended a tick collar ($80) which we bought from them on the spot. After getting home and reading the warning label, I decided to do a bit of research and, as expected, a handful of horror stories of dogs having serious complications and even dying from this tick collar were readily available. And the kicker: the worst stories were regarding older dogs.
So my choices are, put the poison around his neck and hope it doesn’t kill him, or, take my chances with tick season (which could also be deadly).
So as an owner of a senior dog, you will absolutely find yourself reaching out to other owners and using the internet way more often than before.
# 3 What to Expect with an Aging Dog
You’ll Probably Have More Unplanned Vet or ER Visits
Your best friend’s aging process is outpacing yours. Not only do you have a front row seat, but you’re in charge of noticing changes, going to the vet, and trying to find solutions that can help make him comfortable.
One day you’ll come home and he might be limping or unable to move in a certain direction and you’ll be scared. You’ll take him to an emergency Vet and find out something serious, or you’ll learn it was just a bad day. Anything goes with a senior dog. Do your best to stay calm for him and get him the help he needs.
One way to stay on top of your dog’s health is to get in the routine of checking your dog for lumps, bumps, eyes, smells and recording their weight. Detecting a smelly area early can help identify infection. Finding a small lump is way more promising that your vet finding a large one.
Look into your dog’s eyes and check for dots and clarity. And develop a habit of weighing your dog at regular intervals as sudden gain or loss is an early indication of a possible health problem.
# 2 What to Expect with an Aging Dog
Senior Dogs Will Alter Travel
Caring for an older dog involves a lot more thought. Slowly but surely, your dog will have lots of things she “needs” scattered throughout the home which means; traveling on a whim will have its challenges.
In the early stages of her senior years you’ll have to consider things like: can she still jump into the SUV or do you have to help? Can she make it up the staircase of a 2nd floor hotel room or do you have to remember to reserve a ground floor?
Do you have enough medication to last your entire vacation? Do you have clean bedding to take? Do you need a cooler for her special food or medicine?
As your dog progresses further into her old age, you’re vacations might turn into “staycations” where you spend your time off at home enjoying your backyard. This comes as a result of you not wanting to put her through a long car ride or just knowing she might not do so well anymore.
Things to start considering now are qualified pet sitters. It’s great if you can drop your dog off with trusted family members while you enjoy a few days of vacation. My parents are perfect! They love him and he loves them and I can rest easy for a few days knowing he has constant supervision.
I also have a friend, John, who is absolutely amazing with dogs and I’m so thankful that he will live in my home and watch Frodo if needed. John knows the pill routine, is a great companion and knows Frodo well enough to spot a change.
Establish these trusted pet sitting connections early. If you have friends or family members who would watch your dog for a couple of days, try it before your dog gets further into the aging process.
Traveling with an aging dog is absolutely still possible and loads of fun awaits you both. Just know that and older dog has different needs and new limitations which require some extra planning. If you travel with your senior dog like I do, I LOVE this back seat hammock for large dogs: link to product.
My favorite feature of this hammock is the car door protectors and the mesh window. Our last hammock (which was not as well made) did not protect my car doors from slobber and it also didn’t have the mesh. This hammock here is a real upgrade and I highly recommend!
#1 – What to Expect with an Aging Dog
An Aging Dog Will Bring to Surface Feelings of Guilt
We are parents to our dogs and something all parents have in common is the ability to feel guilty about a decision we’ve made. What makes the guilt sting worse when it comes to dogs is that our dogs can’t say things like “hey mom, the food in my bowl gives me a stomach ache every day” or “hey there dad, I don’t really like when you tug that stick out of my mouth…it hurts.
No, a dog will pretty much go with the flow as long as the two of you can be together.
You will learn things at vet visits that will very obviously point to the fact that you could have done something better or you should have observed something sooner. Maybe you learn that rawhide was awful for your dog and now she’s suffering from a painful mouth. Perhaps you find out that the prong collar you used all these years could be what damaged his thyroid.
As you go through this journey with your senior dog you will, no doubt, come to realize areas where you fell short. My advice: take a lesson from your dog and forgive yourself.
You’re obviously a decent dog owner if you actually care enough to search the internet and learn information about your aging dog. Do you know what bad dog owners are doing right now? I don’t either, but we can probably agree that they are not reading this article.
Just remember that today is not written, and either is tomorrow. Move forward with your new knowledge, promise to share the information with a fellow dog owner who could benefit from the discovery, and give your dog an extra hug.
Thanks for stopping by SeniorDogDays!