When you think the word "Dog", what image comes to mind?
In my minds eye,
I see a verb,
an action word,
a creature in motion.
Running, digging, crouching, sniffing, wagging - dogs hold such joy in their hearts. Expressing that exuberance in activity and motion is a big part of who they are.
When I talk to clients about quality of life indicators in their older dogs, of course we talk about mobility, pain control, appetite, elimination habits and other biological functions. But quality of life also involves a dog's spirit - the behaviors and activities that create the special bond we have with our canine companions and the daily adventure that is a dog's life.
Can she still spend quality time with her people? Does she still want to? Where does she sleep? What happens when you go on family outings?
After a decade or two of being house trained, is he able to choose what instinct and habit tell her is the right & dignified place to eliminate.
What are the things he's always loved to do? Does he still enjoy doing them? What about those people or noises that always gets her riled up? Does a knock on the door still mean an opportunity to alert and protect?
The answers to these questions don't necessarily determine whether or not it's time to give up, but it may suggest we owe it to our dog to look for ways to improve that quality of life. We can be creative to find ways to play within your dog's limitations and adjust routines to accommodate. We may want to consider pharmaceutical or alternative therapies to recover some mobility or cognitive health.
We are our dog's keepers and they give so much to us in return. As they age, we owe it to them to help maintain the quality of their life in the final stage of life to ensure that they are able to still be a dog, a creature in motion.
Mary Craig, DVM, MBA
Dr Craig is a mobile veterinarian with a house call practice focused on end-of-life care.