One of the first things that often becomes obvious to loving owners is that their senior pets may start to loose their sight, hearing, and even smell. I’m sure that their sense of taste and touch may decline as well, but those are also more subtle for us to notice. Like us, as these senses gradually recede, they tend to rely on the others to compensate.
So how can you help? By being specific in your interactions, and thoughtful in your approach to other ways of communication
One of the first signs of a weakened sense of smell is a diminishing appetite. Of course, there are many reasons why your dog may turn away from food. However, if you have completed a full medical work up as suggested in part 2 of this series, then you have ruled out major medical issues already. Warming up meals allows some of the scents and smells to drift up in the form of steam, and the moisture helps a weakened sniffer. Mixing in healthy, more aromatic stuff will also help trigger those few scent receptors that might still be working.
Loss of sight is also very common. Some ocular changes can be helped with surgery, and some (like a cloudiness of the lens and lack of its elasticity) are normal with age. Keeping your home predictable with the placement of things helps a bunch! Another great trick is to mark certain things with traces of essential oils so your dog can “see” with their nose. We love using tiny amounts of lavender on the front of steps, chamomile to mark their “place,” and birch (if you don’t have a competitive scent work dog – LOL) to mark the opening side of doors.
With hearing loss, we can easily communicate visually and through their sense of touch. Dogs read body language very easily, so be specific in what your actions mean, rewarding them exactly like you would a verbal cue. You probably have already taught a ton of hand signals without intentionally doing it. It just comes natural. So be specific about it now. Gentle touching can communicate a great deal also – but be careful not to startle your pup. Some companies make vibration collars with multiple levels, from incredibly mild to pretty significant. These are excellent tools for off leash communication if conditioned properly. Honestly, we have found that just blinking our back light at night signals that its time to come in for bed, and Vader (our Sweet Senior) never needs to be “asked” twice.
Have you helped a Senior Pup with a creative idea? Please share it with us and lets help others enrich the Golden Years.
Again, we would love to see your Sweet Senior posted on social media with the hashtag #SweetSeniorSeries. If I may use your dog’s picture in future posts, please let me know.