Sheila suggested I write some caring for geriatric posts on the facebook site for folks. I don't know how to post on there and not too into learning either. so I think I could post some stuff on here and if it is of any value, someone can link it to facebook if they want.
here we go...
Dogs live in the moment. What is going to happen in 5 minutes or 5 days or 5 weeks is not their concern. This is the one real benefit to them in living with humans. We can use our common sense and know how to protect them in their future.
Dogs are aging to greater years then they ever have before. At SAINTS we have small dogs living to almost 20, and even have (had) large dogs live into their very late teens. But the truth of the matter is, even tho the dogs are living longer, their bodies are still wearing out. Al, Manny, and Maude by living until 17, 18 and 19 years old, were the human equivalent of over one hundred. 16 year old dogs depending on size are well into their 80's and 90's.
We need to think about this and really understand what it means.
We humans who love our dogs so passionately sometimes forget what aging means. We would never expect our 90 yr old granny to take a long hike or run with us. The problem with dogs is they do not know they are 90 so they will go along with us where ever we decide, even if it is a bad idea. We believe they love those long hikes so well that to deny them would be unkind.
When I was in my 20's and 30's, I loved downhill skiing. Now I am in my 50's and pretty arthritic, it would be stupid to try to go back to the slopes. Even if I didn't break something, for the next week or so I would not be moving too well. Living is hard on the body, and aging bodies feel the pain of previous living pretty damn well.
I am forever counseling our folks to not let the old dogs over do it. Just getting them in and out of our vehicles can hurt them. Long, slow walks are still very far away from home. We have had volunteers here that I had to let go, they just could not comprehend that it was not safe to walk our old dogs for miles down the road. "The dogs like it," they say. Well of course they do because dogs live only for today. But when tomorrow comes and we wore them out, over stretched their arthritic joints and atrophied muscles, when we stressed their hearts and their lungs,,who pays the price for that hour of fun? They do of course.
Crash loves going down to the bottom field and chasing Buddy around. But Crash is a crippled moron, he simply can't do that anymore so he has to stay up at the house. Is Crash pining away because he can't go down and chase Buddy? Absolutely not, he just waits for Buddy to come home and then follows him around the house or the yard, barking his head off like he always does. And at the end of the day and the next day too, Crash can still walk.
I watch people with old dogs, throwing balls and encouraging their old dogs to jump and run. Look how joyful they are, well that joy may not last.
I think they are actually encouraging their dogs to suffer a major injury from which they might not recover. We can still play ball with our old dogs, but they don't have to run hard or jump high. They will still enjoy a scaled down version that won't hurt them. It is the ball and us together that they love, it is not the sprained back or torn knee, or hurt hip that is fun.
If we look at our 14, 15, 16, 17 year old dogs and think about how their age compares with humans. We realize that they do need extra concern and care to keep them healthy and well. They are not going to figure it out on their own. They need us to think ahead.
The other thing we can do for our aging dogs is actually admit they are aging. This means they need things like glucosamine, and cartrophen then regular doses of anti-inflammatories and finally even opiates for pain control. Don't wait until the dog is so crippled with arthritis that even the most in denial person can't ignore it anymore. Keep those joints healthy and comfortably moving by being proactive and helping them before its too late and the damage is done.
Dogs do not grow old over night. It is an insidious process. We know this, we only have to look at ourselves to feel age creeping up. Our job is to help our dogs age comfortably by understanding the aging process and taking steps to minimize the effects.
If we want our dogs to age well then we have to help them. Find the things that they like to do and help them do them in a safe and comfortable way. And when the time comes to slow things down a bit, don't feel like you are taking something they love away. Replace it with something else just as fun or exciting that won't cause them undue stress or pain.
Dogs live in the moment, but we want them to happily live for many tomorrows. All we have to do is think about it and come up with a plan to help them to continue to live really well..even when they are ancient and grey.