As our aging dachshund, Winnie, has gotten into her golden years, we’ve had to make quite a few changes in her care. She’s now blind and deaf and she explores the world with her nose which makes it more difficult for her to do everyday tasks. That doesn’t mean however that the more she ages, the less we should do with her out of pity.
So here are some helpful things that I’ve tried with her that I hope you’ll find helpful with your senior pets!
The Nose Knows
With an aging pet’s nose sometimes being the only thing that keeps them going, they need that stimulation to keep their mind and body active.
When feeding Winnie I’ve found that she can tire of what she’s eating because she depends more on her sense of smell when other senses fail her. One thing you can do is try heating up their food for a few seconds in the microwave to strengthen the aroma and get them interested. I’ve also put things such as a stinky cheese to lure her to the bowl, or use a dollop of wet food mixed in. Use hot water to soak kibble for pets with missing teeth or teeth that don’t chew as well as they once did.. Cats sometimes like to be petted while eating, or even eat from your fingers.
Cats may also need a little more stimulus in hunting those toys that they used to love. If your cat still likes catnip, perhaps having a catnip toy would be best suited for them to play with. Some cats even like brain toys like treat balls or the small puzzles that they have for dogs.
Lend an Ear
With deaf dogs, find ways to do things that they can still be a part of without hearing you. You can wave your hands or use other highly animated gestures to give praise, stomp on the floor to get their attention, or even consider using a vibrating collar. Shower them with attention and learn ways to teach them old tricks with new signals. Blind pets can also be stimulated by stomping on the floor for attention, using smelly things to get them to come along, and clapping your hands to tell them where you are with lots of words.
Mind and Body
Winnie sometimes has accidents in the house but that isn’t because she’s lost her potty training. Some dogs get what’s called doggie dementia, or canine cognitive dysfunction. They can get confused and wander endlessly with no purpose, have a change in their awareness, deficits in learning and memory and a decrease in response to stimuli. As you can imagine this cognitive disorder can have an impact on everything – including their once bombproof potty habits. Though in the beginning the symptoms are mild, they can worsen over time. If you notice these changes in either your cat or dogs behavior ask your vet about treatments that can help slow down the decline.
Accidents can also be caused by muscle function not being as good as it used to be. Some dogs can have a urinary accident while sleeping and not even realize it. Cats may not be able to make it to the litter box in time, so it’s best to have a litter box on each floor if you have a multi-story house, or on each end of the house. For dogs, perhaps adding an extra potty break may help with fewer accidents in the house.
Arthritis may be a factor the older they get. With Winnie we’ve noticed she has a harder time getting around and seems stiffer than usual on some days. This can be helped with things you can buy from your local pet store but such as joint supplements and homeopathic remedies but it is always best to reach out to your vet first for the best course of action.
All in all our pets are loved by us and live longer because of that love and dedication to them. We continue to cherish Winnie and we’ll do everything we can to make her golden years bright and just as wonderful as they were when she was younger.