Owning a dog brings us years of joy, happiness, and love. We put a lot of effort into caring for our dogs from the minute we get them. Unfortunately, all good things do come to an end. When your dog is a senior and you’re faced with his or her upcoming demise, you may not be sure what you should do. After all, you don’t want them to be in any kind of pain or discomfort, but you do want them to be with you for as long as possible.
If your dog is close to the end, read on to learn more about the care you should be giving in order to make sure he is comfortable and dignified in his last days.
Is Your Dog in Pain?
It’s very important to figure out whether or not your dog is in pain. Remember, animals react differently than humans when it comes to their level of pain and discomfort. They may not show as many outward signs as we do, so you will want to pay close attention to their actions. Many dogs will still drink or eat while they are in pain. If your pet displays the following actions, they may be hurting:
- Excessive panting
• Not wanting to move or be moved, reluctance to get up and walk
• Picking at their food
• Gasping for breath and rapid, shallow heartbeat
• Growl or yelp when touched
• Become sensitive to normal handling
• Hide from humans
• Aggressive behavior
• Changes in sleep habits
• Loss of balance or motor control
If your dog displays any of these signs, you will want to have your vet check them out as soon as possible. It’s important to understand, as much as possible, about their quality of life now that they are elderly. Even if your dog isn’t in constant pain, they may not have the best quality of life anymore. Have they stopped playing and interacting with others? Do they display signs of depression, such as sleeping a lot and not participating in activities like they used to? Do they hide from others? If so, again, take them to the vet. While it is a hard decision to make, your vet can help you figure out if it’s time to put your dog down for his own good.
End of Life Care
If your pet is dying, you want to make sure they are as comfortable as they possibly can be. Implement the following tips to make their end of life is as happy and comforting as possible.
Bedding – Your dog will likely spend most of his time sleeping. Make sure his sleeping area is as comfortable as possible by giving him a well-cushioned dog bed that is big enough to stretch out on. If he normally slept on your bed but can no longer jump up, consider getting a dog ramp that he can use to go up and down at his leisure.
Toys – Comfort items are a must when you are caring for an elderly dog near the end of his life. If he has a favorite toy, blanket, pillow, or other item, make sure it’s always around him. Some dogs also enjoy sleeping with an item that smells like their owner. Consider allowing your dog to sleep with an item of clothing you have recently worn and haven’t washed.
Incontinence Issues – Elderly dogs very often begin to have problems with bladder control. Additionally, they may not be as fast as they once were to let you know they need to go out. Always make sure to check your dog often to make sure that they are not wet or otherwise soiled. If they are having a difficult time getting up, use a sling or a large towel to help them rise.
Check for Sores – An elderly dog that sleeps a lot can easily develop pressure sores. A warm, soft sleeping spot that has lots of cushioning will help keep them from developing. However, you should periodically check that none have appeared on your elderly dog.
Pain Management Options
One way to increase your dog’s quality of life is to provide him with various pain management options. Your vet may prescribe medications that can help him if he has muscle aches, arthritis, or other joint problems. There are also over-the-counter medications that will be useful in managing pain. Some pet owners also turn to gentle exercise regimens, such as hydrotherapy, when their dog has difficulty moving on their own. This form of treatment allows your dog to gently exercise in the water, taking the weight off of his muscles and joints.
Talk to your vet about diet options at this point as well. A different diet may greatly improve your dog’s quality of life and even minimize any pain he feels. Just remember, an elderly dog will need to be gradually introduced to any new diet or exercise regimen, so be patient with them as they learn something new.
Pet Hospice Care
Pet hospice care may be a choice if your dog is dealing with a terminal illness with no cure. With the use of pain medications, human interaction, and dietary changes, the goal is for your dog to be as comfortable as possible in the end. If you do consider hospice care, be sure that you are not prolonging the suffering of your dog. Again, your vet can help you make the right decision for your situation.