My old mate Murphy is off for his annual walking holiday with some of my sons this week and each year recently I have wondered if it might be his last one and worry a little that he might not be able to keep up the pace.
Murphy is 13 and for a cocker spaniel that puts him squarely in the later years of his life.
Different breeds of dogs age at different rates, for larger dogs the aging process starts earlier and a smaller breed is likely to live longer. The average age for a dog is around 10 years, for a cocker spaniel it is somewhere between 12-15 years.
Do you know the lifespan of your chosen breed?
Just like us, our dog’s needs change as they get older and whilst I take some time to consider how Murphy is going to cope this year climbing mountains and swimming lakes on his mini adventure I thought it might be useful to share some thoughts about the considerations we all need to take into account as our dogs start to decline.
Murphy has started to lose some of his senses, he has lost the sight in one eye and has suffered some hearing loss. He is easily startled and often slow to respond it’s worth recognising that your older dog deserves more patience.
A soft bed in a cosy position is a must in older years. Arthritic joints need this kind of nurture. Perhaps your older dog could do with more help getting in and out of the car or climbing the stairs.
The older your dog the less able they will be to cope with extreme temperatures. On a hot day be extra vigilant with trying to provide shade and water and on cold days perhaps your oldie would now like a coat. When you have walked your older dog make sure they are thoroughly dried on their return.
On every cocker spaniel’s mind is food. Where is it and can I have it? Older dogs of all breeds need less food than they did before and it may now be kinder to feed little and often.
Making sure your dog doesn’t become obese could help them to live much longer and perhaps you might like to choose a food that is specifically balanced for a senior dog.
When considering food think about how easy it is to chew. On average dogs have 42 teeth but if like Murphy your dog has thought he is far too good to have a knaw on a bone over the years they may have lost a tooth or two making some foods hard to chew.
Maybe your older dog has started to go off their food, obviously check this out with the vet but perhaps also consider adding a few extra tasty bits to their dish to encourage them.
As a general rule of thumb go with what your dog is capable of. Murphy will walk for hours. In his younger days as well as coming out for every walk with me he would come out running helping me train for the London Marathon at one point, so his heart health is still very good. However sometimes he will try to keep going when I can see he is struggling. Older dogs don’t need as much exercise but they still need the routine of walks and are likely to need more frequent toilet breaks and of course just like humans mental exercise is a must in older years so perhaps it is worth teaching an old dog new tricks.
I know that I may only have a few years left with Murphy, I have been here too many times before and I know how difficult it can be to say goodbye. Part of me prays that I will wake up one morning and find that he has passed peacefully in the night but if that isn’t the case I need to be prepared to make the decision for him when he is in too much pain and his quality of life is too diminished. Dogs are a massive part of our lives, they are constant in their unconditional love and loyalty, it’s obviously a hard decision to make when we know they have had enough but it’s one I am always prepared to make. My dog deserves the dignity of a death without too much suffering, just please not yet…………………………………………………………………………..
Tail Chasers is a Tunbridge Wells dog walking business run by a team of experienced and professional dog lovers who are able to accomodate dogs of all ages.
Why not get in touch and see how we can help.