The greatest challenges of caring for a senior dog

The Greatest Challenges of Caring for a Senior Dog

The greatest challenges of caring for a senior dog

I loved my senior dog Red more than anything, and when she died I fell apart. I would be lying if I said it was always easy caring for her, and I’m honest when I say at times I wished it was over.

I know these are sentiments shared by many senior dog parents, particularly those of us who were and are dealing with serious health issues.

We love them, they’re part of our hearts and souls, and we’re blessed to have them another day. Many of us give up a lot to keep them comfortable and safe. You’ll hear a lot of people say they don’t go on vacations, would rather stay home with their dog than socialise with friends, and spend money on their senior dog’s care rather than on themselves or that they don’t really have.

I feel it’s important to write a post about the challenges of caring for a senior dog for one main reason, and that is so no one feels alone, like they’re the only one that has these challenges and finds it a struggle. That is also one of the reasons why I created my Facebook group Senior Dog Care Club.

Let me clarify – I am not suggesting every senior dog is difficult to care for, no way. This is specifically about those who are ill.

The Greatest Challenges of Caring For a Senior Dog

My biggest challenges caring for Red

In the last few months of her life, when chronic pancreatitis and kidney issues were making it tough for her to eat, and tougher for me to know what to feed her I found those times extremely challenging.

If I want to go further back the really tough times started 2 ½ years before she died when I realised she had dementia. The lead up to that – constant pacing, peeing on the floor, never settling even after hours of wandering. Trips to the vet and tests showed no explanation, and my vet never mentioned the “D” word until one day it popped into my head and I knew.

Times were so tough I would have to leave the house and let her wander. She was safe but I was losing patience and that was not fair to her, because none of this was her fault. It was the feelings of frustration, having no idea how to help her because I had no idea what was wrong with her. I would go for a long walk to the beach, or leave my husband in charge and go shopping for a couple of hours. Those breaks made me a better caregiver.

I would call this next point a stressor rather than a challenge but…my vet is amazing and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. Red was a very complicated case, one of the most he had ever dealt with, but he is so excellent he did a great job helping me. The stressor? He didn’t work every day, he would take vacation or go back to his home country and lecture at the university. I was petrified every time she didn’t feel well in case he wasn’t there to help. Yes there are a couple of other vets at his practice, but none of them could help me with Red if it was anything more complicated than an IV, or perhaps prescribing diarrhea medication. I didn’t trust them with more than that.

There are a couple of other practices in my small town but I wouldn’t take her there even if her life depended on it. So yes, that was a huge stressor for me, worried that we would need him and he would not be around. Thankfully he was there to help me when it was time for her to get her wings, and I was so grateful for that.

what are some of the greatest challenges of caring for a senior dog

 

What are some of the challenges facing others who care for old dogs?

The incredible members of my Facebook group very graciously shared their challenges for this article as a way to help others, so thank you everyone!!

Here they are

Caring for two at once that have major, serious illnesses (seizures, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke), keeping all the medications, foods, vet appointments straight, cleaning up after them and hoping I’m giving them good qualities of life. But knowing the time I have with them is not long is probably the worst. If I could have them forever, I would gladly take all the work involved; and that’s something I have to keep reminding myself.

Right now, in these early stages, it’s everyone getting a good nights sleep. One of us sleeps in the living room with Buck every night. His worse time is between 12 and 5. This is in spite of the meds he takes. During the day, he’s pretty much his normal self but in a slower mode. His tail still wags and his eyes still sparkle.

I think my biggest challenge is remembering that this is uncharted territory for him too. We’re both having to learn and adapt as we go. Also, trying to make sure I see the forest for the trees.

Incontinence and keeping her skin healthy around her back end. Getting to know the correct level of exercise needed to help arthritis but not exhausting the heart.

Besides facing the reality ‘that day’ is getting closer…. CCD is a sad emotional roller coaster.

For me like many others it’s the anxiety I feel every day, never knowing if I’m doing enough, wondering when she will go or need to go. I can’t even face the fact that one day she will not be with me. Wilma is very unsettled around 4pm and can pace and whine for 2 – 3 hours, I never know why but it’s the same most days. She’s great in the mornings and sleeps soundly through the night.

There are so many things but mostly am I doing right by them and doing everything I can. I research and research in case there is something new to try. One has dementia and the other has cancer. Some days are exhausting for sure but I just love them both so much.

the biggest challenges of caring for a senior dog

Getting them to finish their dinner

Getting them to keep their dinner in💟

Having accidents on herself & her not even knowing she did. Struggling to walk due to arthritis. Not wanting to take her medication. And knowing our time grows shorter every day with new struggles. Seems to be good one day and then completely different the next day.

Seems like ever since my boy got older he thinks rules don’t apply to him anymore. Like when we sit on the couch with any kind of food he will get up next to our face & stare. He never did that til about 6 months ago. We tell him to get down & he just goes to the other side of the couch. Lol stinker

Guinness does that with his CCD, it’s like his brain short circuits because the focus is on “what’s that!?” and disregards boundaries/tasks. He does it on our walks outside too, so if a leaf blows you can bet he’s not going to do his business. Ha!

Deciding on when is the right time for them to go to the rainbow bridge…. hoping it happens while he’s sleeping … no pain , just an old man ❤️

Not worrying too much about how much longer I will have them💕

I sometimes get impatient with my girl Hanna, she has incontinence and have to let her out often! Also worried that she’s in pain, but I don’t think she is yet!

Being patient .. it’s like it was when I was my mother’s care giver .. you do not get angry at them you get angry about the situation.. and you have to learn to accept that some days are harder then others.

Figuring out what mixture of treats and food will convince her to eat her breakfast. (2) Feeling new and growing bumps every time I give her rubs even though every one tested has been nothing more than a simple lipoma (3) knowing that she’s 10 and she won’t be here forever (4) every new white fleck on her face equates to another day older.

the greatest challenges facing senior dog caregivers

Sleep! I have had several senior dogs before, but none of them had CCD. Thanks to this group and the CCD one, we are doing much better overall, but the thing that is still the hardest for me to manage, is the lack of sleep. With all the herbal support we are getting, on our good nights, about 5 hours, if we are lucky sometimes 6 hours. On our bad nights we get from 30 minutes to a couple hours of sleep. This started back in October last year. With all the things I have learned here, things have improved. But since you asked, the hardest thing for me to manage is the lack of sleep.

Lack of sleep and worrying about making the final decision

Heavy panting middle of the night, waking up to take her out 2am, missing the days where she could run across fields, trying to get her to walk just a little bit longer, watching the deterioration, always rushing home from work and worrying about her, crying when I think of life without her one day… but there is the joy of how loving and sweet and devoted she is, and how blessed we are to have her so long.

Every time those tears come when you think of not having her, make it a point to make one memory with her and take a photo of it. Get her pawprint in plaster, sit with her on the grass, even just looking into her face and telling her how much you love her.

The niggling thought in the back of my mind as we enjoy the sun, love and joy of a perfect day of how many such days we may have left. The wonderful days win – I would do it a million times over always together no matter what now and forever after.

Just knowing that I am doing all I can to give him a good quality of life.

Patience

your greatest challenges caring for a senior dog

Biggest challenge is when they start failing physically but still have a lot of life left. I wish I had known of the things that make things easier! Belly bands to help with incontinence and lift straps and harness with handles. A nice doggy stroller is a must!! Just like with people, you don’t stop living because of some physical problems. There are so many things out there now and many people don’t know about them..

Knowing where it ends. I let no moment pass. No treat withheld. I lost the sister of my sibling pair 2 months ago. I regret nothing. Not the vet bills. Not the missed work. But the end….that was hard. I’m a nurse, who once was a paramedic. I’m no stranger to death. I knew what was coming and I had to be strong anyway. That’s the hardest. The end.

Never knowing if I’m providing the help they really need, instead of what I think they need.

Dealing with the slowing down and changes associated with her aging. And trying to figure out the best solutions for these problems as they arise. She has arthritis and trying to determine when we have walked enough, when she might be in pain, and how to best care for her.

Definitely eating, general nourishment and taking medication he may be on. Just when I think I found a consistent food he likes, he stops eating it!

I don’t even know where to begin. My baby boy has bone cancer which the vet said is aggressive and gave him a few months to a year. He’s big and I live on the second floor and what will I do when he can’t do the stairs but he is otherwise ok?? I have cried so much and each day is a challenge. I say this is my new norm. This is my life. It’s mentally and physically exhausting at times and I feel guilty saying that. Finding this group has been the best thing for me. I will need support of others who can identify with me. 🐾💙

Getting my senior not to climb out of the ”chair “she has to eat in because of her Mega Esophagus.

Especially with my CCD guy who is unknowingly annoying at times – and sadness as I watch him decline – and hoping we have more time😢😢❤️🐾 feeling Helpless too. I can’t “fix” him😢😢

Seeing my mostly healthy dog struggle with some physical stuff without an answer to really help. Also preparing my kids that our dog won’t be here forever – she was here before them 😢

Long hair between paw pads on timber or smooth floor, failing eyesight at night on stair an inability to run and play like used to with her younger sister🙏❤

Reading all these posts makes me so grateful to be part of this group. I know it will make the next few years with Hope better for both of us. Thank you again for adding me.

biggest challenges facing caregivers of senior dogs

My 15 year old toy poodle Rocky becoming blind almost a year ago. Seeing him bumping into things and going around in circles a lot, stepping on his own poop when I’m not home and coming out positive for heartworms and not afford to get treatment. He has dental problems that needs teeth to be extracted. Everyone says I’m selfish that he’s “suffering” to just put him to sleep

Wondering if her panting means she is in pain.. Worrying worrying

My beautiful 17 yr. old Gigi is mostly blind past few months. Hearing still good but wanders around now bumping into walls, furniture, etc….softly, but still bumping. Can’t leave her alone on my bed…she walks right off. So sad but we cope & support her with love.

Just accepting that my babe is elderly and right now feeling like we are on borrowed time

Dealing with her dementia…it really hurts to see her not hardly ever herself anymore.

I’m having difficulty accepting her mortality. She’s like a kid to me and shouldn’t die before I do.

Getting good pictures. 😂

Hardest part for us is that Miss Gretel doesn’t like to be cuddled anymore as she “never” stops walking these days …… I would love to cuddle up in bed with her :'( :'(

Keeping my worries to myself so Shadow doesn’t feel them. But, she’s been doing great mobility-wise since the stem cell infusion, which has given her back her youthful spunk and sassiness. My other big challenge is not so much with her as it is with hubby, who has some dementia and can’t always understand that Shadow’s super-sensitive GI tract cannot handle all the “people food” he sneaks to her when I’m not there to stop him.

$$$

Not knowing if I am doing the right thing and/or if I am giving her what she needs.

My 18 1/2 year old is starting to dribble/wet at night. I have him on a pee pad. I got diapers i didn’t like them. Now i got belly bands i like them but they get wet on the sides. Kotex with them??

Could you relate to some of what was said?

It’s tough reading what so many people are going through, yet I am happy there is a community for everyone to share their experiences, ask for and offer support, and discuss treatments and options that have helped.

Are you experiencing something similar? Why not share your story in the comment section below.

 

 

**I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.**

 

 

 

 

Must have senior dog supplies

Must Have Senior Dog Supplies

Must have senior dog supplies

I see so many lists for new puppy items, but not so many for senior dog supplies!! What’s up with that…senior dogs also need stuff!!

If you’ve shared your life with your dog since he was a puppy, I’m sure there’s no shortage of supplies, but have you adapted them to his changing needs? If you’ve just adopted an old dog, congratulations you’re amazing by the way, then you’re definitely going to need to do some shopping.

I put together this list based on my experience living with seniors, and figuring out ways to keep them as comfortable as possible. Oh did I forget to mention active as well?

This list is as extensive as possible, but don’t worry…it doesn’t mean you have to get everything!!

Must have senior dog supplies

COMFORT

senior dog supplies you must haveOlder dogs may feel the cold more than their younger counterparts, so having outerwear handy is a good idea. As Red got older and we moved to a colder climate, she wore a sweater indoors and out a good part of the year. Whether yours will need one will depend a lot on the temperature and how much hair he has!!

Warming mats: self-heating or electric – Another way to keep your pup warm on a cool night is to have a warming pad on the bed. Available in a self-heating style or plug in, the choice is up to you but do be careful of cords.  Call me paranoid but I prefer self-heating, and I used to keep one on Red’s bed all year round.  

Orthopedic bed – If your dog is experiencing joint pain, an orthopedic bed may provide the comfort he’s looking for. Some also come with magnets, which you may have heard are used to help relieve pain in human arthritis sufferers.

Bed with raised sides and low front – Another style your dog may like is one that has 3 sides raised so he can lean against them like a pillow, and an open front to walk right onto the bed. No leg lifting needed!!

a comforter is a great senior dog supply

A big comforter – Another option for a relaxation spot is a single or double comforter. I don’t know about you but my senior dog always liked variety so if she wasn’t in the mood for one style, there was always another to try. This turned out to be her favourite the last few years because it was so poufy, yet flexible enough for her to shape into the style she wanted.

Fleece blankets – comfy and cosy, I never have too many! When one or two were in the laundry I always had another I could grab. I kept one on every bed in the cooler months, and they were perfect for cuddles on the couch.

Waterproof dog bed cover – if your dog has accidents, a waterproof cover may cut down on the number of times you have to wash the bed, and it’s certainly easier to wash.

Raised food and water bowls – I found as Red got older I wanted to raise her water bowl so she could get to it a lot more easily, and I do believe it made her more comfortable. I did the same with her food bowl but I held it for her so she could find the food more easily. She was blind, and it was particularly helpful when she wasn’t as interested in eating as she had been.

more must have senior dog suppliesCooling mat/bandana/shirt/jacket for the hot weather – This is a must if you live in a hot climate. I have the bandana for Jack who doesn’t do well in the heat and it makes a big difference. My neighbour bought a cooling jacket for her senior Shepherd and she couldn’t get over the incredible results. She was able to go back to taking her walks in the warmer weather.

Nanny cam – A nanny cam is a great tool for keeping an eye on your senior dog when you’re out. Perfect if you’re curious about what he gets up to, or he’s not well and you want to check up on him.  

Pee pads – I always say I wish I had bought stock in the company, I could not live without this product. Whether I line the carriers with them when travelling, or cover my entire floor, they are a “must have” if your dog is having accidents. They are available as disposable or washable.

Doggie diapers – A very popular item for dogs with incontinence, diapers come in disposable or washable versions. Many pup parents put a sanitary pad in for better results.

Carpet stain and odour remover – A necessity for cleaning up accidents, and believe me they somehow find a way to pee in between the pee pads!! As with any product, not all are created equal so you may have to try more than one to find what works best for your carpet. If you prefer natural products there are plenty on the market, or you can make your own.  

MOBILITY AND SAFETY

Ramps and pet steps – They serve the same purpose as a mobility aid, but the one you choose will depend on the need. For help getting into the car, a ramp is typically what you want, just check the incline isn’t too steep and be sure it’s foldable for easy storage in your vehicle. Steps are most often used for getting onto the couch for example, as a ramp would take up a lot more floor space and be too steep.

a pet stroller is a must have senior dog supplyDog stroller – My all time favourite invention, and a product I can’t say enough great things about…so rather than repeating myself I will let my previous articles do the talking.

Non slip socks/booties – If your dog is having mobility issues, is less steady on his feet and seems to be slipping on your hardwood or tile floors, non-slip socks or booties may be the answer.

Carpet squares or yoga mats – If your dog won’t let you near him with a pair of booties, as mine never did, a perfect solution is covering your slippery floor with some carpet squares or yoga mats.

Wheelchair – Whether your dog has lost the use of his legs, or is having trouble standing and walking on his own, a wheelchair can drastically improve your dog’s quality of life.

Sling or harness – An option in many mobility cases, I used one when my dog was recovering from spinal surgery due to paralysis. I couldn’t have taken him for walks without one!

Toe grips – Another mobility aid in your arsenal, made of rubber they slide over your dog’s nails and add traction on slippery surfaces.

product for a senior dog supplies list

Foam padding for table and chair legs/doors – If you have a blind dog, or one suffering from dementia who’s confused and bumps into things, some foam padding is perfect for table and chair legs. As you can see in the picture, I put them at head height on the door as well. You can likely find the foam at a DIY store or maybe even cut a pool noodle lengthwise and use that.

Adjustable pen – If you worry about your dog’s safety when you’re out, an adjustable pen will give him some space to roam, but limits it. They come in various sizes so you can create as big or small a space as you like.

Bike basket or trailer – There were many times when I would take my senior dog Red with me on my bike, and she would sit so nicely in my basket. I’ve also seen many other cyclists who have a trailer for their dogs and they’ve loved it! What a great way to do something you love, and include your older dogs too!!

NUTRTION AND SUPPLEMENTS

Diet – I always say senior dog nutrition (actually pet nutrition in general) is an absolute minefield, filled with conflicting information from “experts” and pet parents who are convinced their recommendations are the best. Senior dogs don’t necessary need to eat senior dog food, but when choosing the best diet I would start with a check up to determine your dog’s health status, if there are certain foods he should stay away from…

List of foods for when your dog won’t eat – It’s not uncommon for there to be some challenges getting a senior dog to eat when they’re not feeling well, or suffering from health issues. I know from my own experience how frustrating and worrying it can be. Do yourself a favour and have a list of possible foods that are safe for your dog, in the event he loses interest in his current diet. It will save you a lot of last minute scrambling. For my dog’s condition I know that boiled chicken, rice, Skyr, white fish such as cod and no fat cottage cheese were some of the options.  

Mobility – In addition (or instead of in some cases) to the medications your vet may have prescribed for your dog’s joint pain, natural supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels and turmeric golden paste are known to be extremely helpful.

Anxiety – There are many reasons your dog may be experiencing anxiety, including dementia, so here are few things that can help –

  • Thundershirt
  • a Thundershirt should be on the list of senior dog suppliesAdaptil plug in/spray/collar
  • CBD oil
  • Valerian
  • Skullcap and Valerian
  • Calming dog music
  • Lavender essential oil (it can be diffused by lighting a tea light than adding a few drops to the melted wax then relighting the wick to diffuse the scent)

 

**Before changing diets or adding supplements, I highly recommend you speak with your vet first.**

PHYSICAL EXERCISE AND MENTAL STIMULATION

Sling or harness for extra support – I mentioned this in the mobility section but it’s worth mentioning again. If your dog is having trouble walking, please don’t just leave him on his bed to sleep his life away. In addition to any pain medication, supplements or physical therapy you may be doing, having a sling or harness will give him extra support so he can get out there and get some exercise which, believe it or not, does help joint pain.

Exercise indoors – There are times when your dog may not be feeling up to enough of a walk, or the weather is so miserable it’s not going to happen. Finding exercises to do indoors is the perfect solution. They include –

  • Rolling a ball down the hallway
  • Playing hide and seek
  • Create a bit of an agility course even if you don’t have much room. A broom can be slightly elevated so he has to lift his leg to walk over it – a couple of pillows spaced widely on the floor he has to walk around.


Snuffle mat – Perfect to keep dogs entertained and a chance to expend some energy and even challenge them mentally. Typically made of rubber with a lot of fleece strips attached, treats are hidden amongst the strips and your dog then has to find them.

Puzzle or treat dispensing toy – Another great tool for mental stimulation, find a toy that’s challenging so he has to figure out how to get the tasty treat inside. Too hard and he’ll lose interest, but many can be adjusted to various degrees of difficulty.

GROOMING

Shampoo and grooming wipes – There are plenty of reasons why your dog may not enjoy the groomer as much as he used to, or finds it difficult to stand for any length of time. Giving him a bath at home means shorter visits!! Grooming wipes are also handy for a quick clean.

Brush – Brushing your dog is a wonderful opportunity to bond and just hang out together…and most dogs love it!! Some senior dogs develop lumps, bumps and growths so a soft bristled brush may be best.  

Dental care – Brushing our dogs’ teeth is as important as brushing our own and there are a lot of products to help.

finger toothbrush on senior dog supplies listToothbrush – There are many styles of toothbrush including long handled, electric and one to fit on your finger.

Toothpaste – Toothpaste comes in a variety of flavours and textures, you’re bound to find one your dog likes.

Dental wipes – If your dog won’t let you near him with a brush, perhaps a wipe will be acceptable?

Dental chews – If you can’t get near your dog’s mouth to brush his teeth, how about a dental chew?

Water additive – Whether all else fails and it’s your only option, or another dental care tool, pour some in your dog’s water and he will get some benefit.

 

You may be wondering what’s so special about this list, you have almost everything on it!! A senior dog is still a dog, and the majority of the supplies you have for a puppy will be the same for a senior, with a few differences.

Having said that, a first time dog parent, or someone who has never raised a senior dog before will find this list very handy.

 

Tell me, do you have anything for your senior dog that’s not on this list? Sharing helps others so please leave a comment below or come chat on my Facebook page.

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.

 

 

*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running.

 

 

Eight things I learned caring for a senior dog

Eight things I Learned Caring For a Senior Dog

Eight things I learned caring for a senior dog

I shared nine fantastic years with my dog Daisy who sadly crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in April when she was 13.

She had arthritis from the age of four when I first rescued her, but was so lively and only slowed her down in her final few months.

Two months before we lost her, Daisy was diagnosed with dementia, and a week before she passed her vet suspected she had a brain tumour.

Caring for a senior dog is both rewarding and heartbreaking and I found the advice on this website so helpful and comforting.

You go through so many emotions and it can be difficult, so I wrote this article about some of the things I learned caring for Daisy in the hope it will help other owners.

Eight Things I Learned Caring For a Senior Dog

Ensure they have quality sleep

All dogs love snoozing in the day, but I learned not to let Daisy sleep for long periods. One of the signs of dementia is restlessness at night.

Before Daisy was diagnosed we had a few nights where she woke up at 2am and wouldn’t settle. I took her to bed and she either sat shaking, wide awake or circled around the bed.

So we’d go for a walk and eventually she would go to sleep.

Her restlessness and insomnia were on the list of unusual characteristics that we took to her vet who said it was most likely she had dementia.

In the final months, she would settle in her crate on a huge soft pillow, or sleep on a comfy bed, with blackout blinds or with me in the human bed.

I also monitored sleep quality with her FitBark activity monitor.

Make walks/playtime fun

Like many owners, I was guilty of using my phone while out walking with Daisy until I learned how our pets hate it.

I made sure walks were special time for the two of us. Sometimes I’d take her ball and do very small throws for her – a modified version of something she really enjoyed.

Some dogs might not want to walk quite so much, or not fancy going out in the cold weather but it’s important to keep them mentally stimulated.

Play games at home with them. Daisy liked her tug toys and games where we hid treats under cups for her to find them, and we used a Ruffle Snuffle enrichment mat and a Lickimat too, both were really reasonably priced and gave her a lot of happiness.

Your dog might not be bounding around like they used to or tend to sleep more but giving them your attention often is still really important.

Give them food they really enjoy

When Daisy was diagnosed with dementia I was recommended a book called Whole Pet Healing by an American vet, Dr Dennis W Thomas.

He talks about the benefit of giving dogs wholesome, balanced meals rather than processed food and explains that as dogs age, their body temperature can start to cool.

They seek out warmth, for example lying in the sun or by a fire or radiator. Daisy did this and Dr Thomas said to give her food that is warming in nature to offset the cold imbalance.

As I work from home I had the luxury of being able to cook for Daisy so I made her slow cooked casseroles with chicken, beef or lamb and rice or potatoes and veg served warm.

She had wet food so she had the nutrients she needed. It meant she enjoyed her food, took her medication without a fuss and was a happy girl.

Warming foods are chicken, beef, lamb, venison, white rice, oats, asparagus, carrots, potato, pumpkin and butternut squash.

Eight things learned from caring for a senior dog

Hide their medication as much as you can

I read a book called Remember Me by Eileen Anderson with lots of helpful advice including tips on how to minimise the stress of taking medication for your dog.

Find a food your dog loves – Eileen suggests all kinds of things from meatballs to peanut butter.

Daisy had two Vivitonin tables a day which ideally should be taken on an empty stomach.

Her vet said they could be put in a tidbit so I’d wrap them in a piece of slow cooked meat or inside a sausage. I kept tablets in the fridge too – it helps disguise their taste.

You don’t want to distress your dog when they take their medication. Her Activait and YuMove supplements were mixed in with her food and I ensured her food was so nice she didn’t care!

Daisy also had Metacam for her arthritis, and I gave her this in a syringe just as I put out her food bowl. The excitement of her food distracted her.

Create a safe space for them

Daisy never used a crate, preferring to sleep on the sofa, but when she reached the stage where she could no longer jump up, she grew to really love her crate.

We kept the door open and it had a cover so it would be dark at night, with a huge comfy bed, a soft blanket and toys.

We put down rugs, runners and carpet tiles so she didn’t slip as recommended by vet Hannah Capon who runs the Canine Arthritis Management website,  which is full of helpful tips.

Daisy had a pet carrier/bed and a pup-poose for when we were out if she got tired.

What I learned from caring for a senior dog

Expect the unexpected

A week after Daisy was diagnosed we went for a walk along the canal. She was scampering around as normal, and went for a wee at the side of the water, lost her balance and slipped in.

Thank goodness she was OK and I had her out of there in a nano-second.

I very quickly learned that cognitive function is affected by dementia and Daisy’s behaviour wasn’t as logical as it was.

She would lie on the edge of the couch for example, so I’d coax her to her normal spot so she didn’t fall off, and had soft rugs on the floor.

Daisy would sometimes walk along walls or on the edge of paths, or very close to me so you have to watch your dog at all times.

This may sound silly but even things like grids at the side of the road become a hazard. Daisy’s legs were so slim they could get trapped in them and before, she knew to walk around them so I’d ensure she didn’t step on them.

Make sure you’re always scanning your walks for things that could present danger.

Enjoy every moment

It’s natural to be upset when you learn your dog has a degenerative illness.

But life doesn’t stop with an older dog, it simply changes.

Celebrate the good times and help them enjoy life.

If Daisy was having a good day, we’d seize the moment, pack up the car and take her on an adventure.

We didn’t walk for miles and miles like we used to, but she still enjoyed a run out.

Daisy loved new smells so I’d take her to different places and see her spring around like a pup.

She enjoyed home cooked food so I’d sneak her tablets in there and watch happily as she wolfed it down.

When Daisy growled at us at night we knew it was her illness, not her, so we’d give her a cuddle and tell her everything was ok.

We treasured each day we had with her.

Things I have learned about how to care for a senior dog

The hardest part is goodbye but it is the kindest too

I knew when Daisy wanted to go. As well as dementia, she had a brain tumour and it was a ticking time bomb.

Our vet told us that around the corner was a haemorrhage or seizure which would have been terrifying for Daisy.

We took some time to digest the news and in those few days, she declined quickly.

On walks she was frightened, darting around as the tumour was pressing on her optic nerve and she couldn’t see.

We’d return home and I’d cuddle her for hours, playing music to calm her down.

Her frightened episodes became more and more frequent, and even though she was eating, going out to the loo and walking, I knew this wasn’t how she wanted to live.

Daisy had been a tough, independent dog who survived on the streets and had so much spirit. The light in her eyes had gone.

So on April 17th this year, the vet came to our home and put Daisy to sleep.

It was peaceful, with us sitting next to her stroking and cuddling her and telling her how much we loved her.

I still question myself now. Did we do it too soon or too late? I will never know but I feel I did my best for her.

For nine years Daisy gave me so much love. She was my best friend, my rock. I still can’t imagine life without her.

I never wanted to say goodbye and even though it was the worst moment of my life when we did, I think it was the kindest thing.

 

 

 

Rachel Spencer and DaisyRachel Spencer is a freelance journalist and specialises in writing about pets and animals. She lives in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and runs a pet blog, The Paw Post which was inspired by Daisy and will continue as her legacy.