I love old dogs, I have a soft spot for them and foster/adopt them when I can. They didn’t ask to be dumped in their later years, and with puppies and young dogs barely making it out of most shelters alive, what chance do these more experienced pups have?
While it’s true there are many lovers of seniors out there, I don’t think it’s a leap to say most people have an attitude about them that is less than favourable. They hear “senior dog” and the image that flashes in their mind is of a feeble, frail, skinny old thing that can barely walk.
Of course in some cases that’s true, but that is hardly the norm. Have you seen some of those dogs running around lately? I have and if I didn’t know how old they were I couldn’t have guessed. They’re doing well and looking happy.
Senior is a number and not something upon which an entire being should be judged. A vital healthy active dog does not suddenly morph into someone on his last legs, the day the number on the calendar changes.
[bctt tweet=”Senior is a number and not something upon which an entire being should be judged.” username=”petcrusader”]
Advances in veterinary medicine both traditional and alternative, means longer and healthier lives for our furry companions. An otherwise life threatening condition does not have to mean the end, and a dog with painful arthritis, for example, does not have to be confined to his bed, unable to enjoy a walk in the fresh air.
Change your attitude people
Let’s take a look at some of the myths or misconceptions too many humans have regarding old dogs.
All changes are natural signs of aging
Wrong! I’ve heard this statement way too many times so I’m on a crusade to change that belief. Yes things, but not everything should be attributed to the natural aging process and ignored. I always encourage pet parents to take their dogs to the vet when they notice something “off” no matter how subtle it may be. Sometimes it’s nothing, and sometimes you’re lucky enough to have caught an issue early enough to treat or at least manage.
Senior dogs only need yearly checkups
That would be incorrect. Seniors should see their vet twice a year, more often if necessary. Minor issues can become major problems more quickly in an older animal, so a thorough check up twice a year is a good idea to keep our pals healthy.
You can’t train an old dog
Of course you can train an old dog, why would you possibly think you can’t? It may be more difficult than training a puppy or younger dog, imagine years of running riot with no rules at all, but please don’t’ let that put you off. Dogs love a schedule and routine, combine that with a loving home, proper nutrition, physical exercise and mental stimulation and you will be amazed at how quickly they adapt to their new life.
Have patience, be consistent and get everyone in your household on board and you will have a lifelong, well behaved companion.
Nothing can be done about health issues
I can’t possibly understand why so many guardians believe nothing can be done for an older dog that is sick or just slowing down. They see their dogs struggle to get up or walk as “normal” and do nothing, which leads to considerable suffering for these animals.
Bad breath is a sign of dental disease, which left untreated can cause a variety of serious health issues, not to mention leave your dog in a lot of pain. A quick trip to the vet will determine what’s going on and dental surgery may be required. Problem solved or at least managed.
A dog that is stiff, having trouble walking or getting out of bed is likely experiencing some arthritis. I’ve heard too many people tell me there’s nothing they can do. Medications, alternative treatments and acupuncture are just a few ways to reduce pain.
You won’t have much time together
If you choose to open your home to a dog that needs hospice care than yes, it’s likely you won’t have much time together but how beautiful that time will be for both of you.
Here’s an example from my own life –I adopted Red when she was around 8. It’s now 7 ½ years later and she’s still lighting up my life. Old does not mean dead and you may still have many many years together.
Even if your time together is shorter than you would like, the quality of that time, the memories you create, the compassion you show and teach others, and the love you share is immeasurable. Sounds corny perhaps, but it’s the truth.
Anesthesia is too risky
Yes anesthesia is riskier in old animals than young ones, but that is no reason to avoid a necessary procedure. Using another example from personal experience – Red had dental surgery about 6 weeks ago. Of course I didn’t like the idea of a 15 ½ year old under anesthesia, but I would never allow her to be in pain, and the benefits of getting her mouth, teeth and gums in tip top shape and the problems it will prevent, far outweigh any “risk” there might be. Of course I have a vet I have complete faith in, so I wasn’t worried he would screw up.
Pre-op blood tests and advances in monitoring equipment have made procedures safer than ever. Just make sure you trust your vet.
You can’t bring a new dog home if I have a senior
Don’t think because you already share your life with a senior, you won’t be able to adopt another dog while he/she is still with you. Not every golden oldie will appreciate a puppy jumping all over them, but some might! It’s a question of finding a dog with the right temperament who your older dog will be comfortable with.
I have had many dogs come and go since I’ve had Red, but I also know what type of dogs she will tolerate. She’s happy if they ignore her or want to sleep next to her so that’s who I bring home. Other seniors may want more of a playmate.
You can’t bond with an old dog
Do people actually think that? You bond with people you meet at various stages of life, why wouldn’t the same be true for a dog? You don’t need to live with a puppy from birth to feel that incredible bond. Open up your heart and home and experience it for yourself.
Old dogs are no fun
They’re not? What’s your definition of fun? Physical exercise and mental stimulation are as important for seniors as they are for any aged dog. There are tons of games you can play together not to mention walk, jog, hike and cycle. If your dog can’t keep up on a run get yourself a pet jogger stroller, and when he’s done put him in and carry on. Love a bike ride and want to share that with your dog? Fantastic, hitch a bike trailer to the back and bring your dog. That sounds like fun doesn’t it? Going for a day out with the family? He’s happy to join.
There are plenty of adventures you can have together, so get creative.
Ignore these myths about old dogs – conclusion
Wow 9 myths I’ve had to debunk and there are probably a few more I could have added, but I think you get the point.
Old dogs can still have lots of life and spunk left in them, so don’t let a number dictate who you share your life with. Go down to your local shelter or contact a rescue group and ask about their old dogs. They deserve a loving home as much as anyone, so save 2 lives (theirs and yours) and go have some adventures.
Do you share your life with an older dog? What do you think of these myths? Did you feel the same way before you rescued an old dog? Share your story in the comment section below, or on my Facebook page and let’s change the way people see the elderly (of all species…).