Grow old along with me- THE Best is yet to be!

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Varsha Verma with Rocky
Life with a paw friend is full of surprises, unconditional love and happiness. Seeing your dog grow old with you is a blessing. Yet, there are instances where pet parents abandon their pets in old age. Here’s how you can have a meaningful and harmonious paw-time with your senior pet. –by Varsha Verma

A recent news of Spain to consider pets’ welfare in divorce battles is good news for all. Similar decisions have already been taken in France and Portugal, where the judges have started considering pets as family members and not objects which can be owned by any of the partner. Now the law says that couples can obtain shared custody of their pets. The judges also ensure that the pet goes to a person who can take care of the pet properly. So, the well-being of the pet has become a major concern.

Also, during pandemic, when people were huddled in their homes, many new pet parents emerged. Needless to say, they had more time at hand and pets kept them company when they were secluded from rest of the society. But, there is a bad news too. After the offices started opening up and people went back to their normal lives, it became difficult for few pet parents to take care of their pets. And then the abandonment started. So many pets landed in animal care centres!

Why abandon?
Abandonment also happens to senior dogs as many people are not able to care for an old or ailing dog. This is very inhuman to dogs as their world is the people they live with. They cannot adjust anywhere, especially on streets as they are not used to living on streets. Ageing is a normal process for all living beings and dogs are no exception.

When does a dog become senior?
Mostly, people calculate their pet’s age in human years by multiplying it with 7 or 8. That’s not true for all dogs. Different dog breeds have different life span, and hence different ages when they become seniors. In general, large breed dogs age faster than small ones. A rough guide based on breed size is that small breed become senior around 10-12 years; medium size breeds age around 8-9 years and large and giant size breeds become senior around 6-7 years.

What happens when a dog becomes senior?
With age, dogs become less mobile and their hearing and vision decreases. They fall sick more often. They get tired easily and need lesser calories, else they become obese. But, these are all general symptoms, which even we as humans go through. We can make the golden years of our pets happy and healthy because genetics and lifestyle of your pet play a significant role in their overall health.

How to take care of a senior dog?
Dogs will always behave like a child. So, while they must be at their ripe age, they will continue to amuse you and love you to the core. Here are a few tips on how to take care for them during this time:

  • Spend quality time: The best thing you can do for your paw-companion is to spend quality time with him. Sometimes, all they need is a pat on the back and your presence near them.
  •  Give age-appropriate balanced diet: Time and again, we have stressed upon the need for age-appropriate balanced mean for your pet. Since they are less mobile now, they need lesser calories. Consult your vet for a diet plan for your ageing dog. You can also gradually shift to a well-balanced pet food, especially formulated for senior dogs. They are low in fat while being nutritionally-balanced.
  •  Give food supplements: Talk to your vet to give your dog supplements as per his age and health.
  •  More water bowls at different places: Senior dogs may forget where their water bow is placed, so consider keeping several water bowls around the house so that he can reach it whenever he feels thirsty.
  •  Give them regular exercise: Even if your dog is old, he needs regular exercise to maintain their weight and health. The sessions can be shorter as they might get tired easily. Have patience! Let them walk at their own pace.
  •  Play games with your dog: Even when dog grows old, he loves to play and please his human parent. So, play with him – hide and seek, stuff a kong toy, do whatever he likes.
  •  Groom them regularly: Grooming is important to keep them healthy and take care of their hair and skin, which may become dry and flaky. Regular brushing is a must!
  •  Take care of oral hygiene: Give him dental treats and take him for a dental check to your vet.
  •  Keep vaccinations up to date: Getting your pet vaccinated is important for responsible pet parenting. Make sure he does not miss any shots.
  •  Make his abode cosy: Senior dogs might not be able to jump onto beds or sofas to sleep. So, give them a warm, quiet, cosy place to sleep.
  •  Let them rest when they want: Do not disturb your dog while sleeping. He might need rest. Give him his space.
  •  Make changes as per their need: Some dogs might not be able to climb stairs, you might have to build a ramp to make their movement easy or avoid stairs at all. Some older dogs lose their vision, at that time, you need to avoid shifting furniture inside house so that they do not bump into things and get hurt.
  •  Look out for warning signals: Always keep a check on your dog, his eating and sleeping patterns. If you find he is in discomfort, take him to your vet ASAP.
  •  Take them for regular health check-ups: Since dogs cannot tell us what they are going through, it is important to take them to their vet for regular check-ups, maybe once in six months if not more. This will ensure that your pet receive medical attention as soon as any ailment arises.
  •  Give love and attention: Dogs thrive on love; even if they are unable to see or hear you, they can feel your love through your actions.