It’s never fun to watch a beloved pet age, but Summer Huggins offers five tips for making the process a little easier.
Bugsy–my oldest “boy” and first puppy love–turned 15 this year. Sometimes it’s hard to believe. When I watch him chase his sister or shake for a treat, he still looks like the smart, vibrant and silly dog I’ve had all these years. Other times, when I have a hard time waking him to go outside for business, I realize that he is, in fact, 15 years old.
In the past year, I’ve really started to notice that he’s slowing down a bit. He seems to get grayer by the day, and he sleeps far more hours during the day than he’s awake. But during those waking hours, I’m doing all I can to make sure his “retirement years,” as we call them, are full of health and happiness. Here are the five areas that I’m focusing on right now:
- Food. Feed your aging pet the best quality food, keeping in mind any health issues. We have to keep an eye on Bugsy’s fat intake after a bout with pancreatitis years ago, and he’s also on a food specially formulated to be gentle on his kidneys. It may cost a little more, but it’s totally worth a few extra cents to feed him what he needs.
- Exercise. Unless your vet has said otherwise, your older pets still need daily exercise and activity. Bugsy does like to sleep more these days, but we still start every day with a walk and some fresh air. Some mornings I can even see a little pep in his step.
- Routine. Bugsy eats dinner every evening at 5:30 and goes to bed each night by 10:30. He likes to walk the same two routes in our neighborhood. We haven’t rearranged any furniture and don’t plan to. I don’t want to upset Bugsy’s routine. Since his eyesight and hearing are starting to go, we want him to be as comfortable in his environment and routine as possible.
- Vet care. Keeping a pet up-to-date on vaccinations and examinations is vitally important throughout their entire life, but it becomes even more critical as they age. Our relationship with our vet, Dr. Garza, goes back almost 10 years, so she’s very aware of Bugsy and his history and is almost as good at noticing new lumps and bumps and changes in his personality as we are.
- Love. I hate to even think about it, but we probably don’t have much more time with Bugsy. There’s just no way to guess at this point. So every day, I make sure he is loved and comfortable and happy, and he does the same for me.
It’s all about quality at this point. Quality of his food, his care and the love I give him. On all fronts, I’m giving the Bug-man all I can!