Vet examining senior dog

Your dog may breeze through years of senior citizenship without any significant health issues, but sooner or later age always catches up. You may discover that your dog can’t see or hear anymore or that he’s developed an irritable streak or, worse, incontinence.

Any time a new health issue develops, the best course of action is to have it checked out by your dog’s veterinarian. The good news? Many problems are treatable at any age, including cognitive dysfunction (doggy dementia), which can be eased with medication.

Remember, this is an animal that adores you; this pet lives for your approval and affection. As he begins to lose his health, he needs your assurance more than ever. Time, of course, will not be denied. But even for problems that your vet can’t cure, there’s plenty you can do to help your dog age gracefully and comfortably.

Helping Blind Dogs

Maintain your blind dog’s environment with minimal change. Dogs actually adapt amazingly well when they lose their eyesight — as long as you don’t start rearranging the furniture. If your dog knows his way around your house and yard and has a walking route that suits him, try to keep these things constant to prevent injuries and put him at ease.

Helping Deaf Dogs 

For a dog living in a soundless world, sudden contact can be unnerving. It can also be dangerous for the person who delivers the shock (your dog may nip out of fear!). Learn how to let your dog know you’re coming, and teach your children, neighbors and friends as well. Many dogs are hearing-impaired, but not completely deaf. In those situations, a few simple hand claps are enough to get his attention. If your dog is completely deaf, step loudly as you approach — your footfalls will cause a vibration that can be felt even if it’s not heard.

Helping Leaky Dogs

If your dog has overnight incontinence, the situation probably upsets him even more than it upsets you. Take him out right before bedtime, and then place a water-absorbent barrier in his bedding. You can use a puppy pad, cut-up pieces of a water-resistant mattress pad or an upside-down, rubber-backed bath mat. Whatever you use will need to be washed or replaced daily, but the extra loads of laundry are a small price to pay.

Once again, be sure to work with your veterinarian as you address the challenges of age. Be especially keen on the combinations of prescription pain medications and so-called "neutraceuticals" — over-the-counter supplements like glucosamine and omega-3 oils — that can make life comfortable.

Slow down, be patient, be helpful. Your sweet, older dog will appreciate it more than you can imagine!