Just like humans, our beloved Goldens suffer from the same aches, diminished senses, and other issues that inevitably come with growing old. And, like humans, Senior Goldens require certain lifestyle changes as well as additional TLC to help them cope with these issues.
Nothing if not adaptable, your constantly pleasing Golden Retriever will probably take to aging more readily than most people. But since there is no AARP for advice and help for them to turn to, it’s your job as a loving Golden owner to observe changes in behavior, determine if a particular symptom is problematic, or just to make the necessary adjustments to ensure your Golden's senior years are as safe and comfortable as possible.
Large dog breeds like Golden Retrievers are considered “seniors” at about age eight or nine. In general, it’s important that your Golden visits the vet annually --- especially if they’re slowing down, sleeping more often, have cloudy-looking eyes, or seem to have any loss of muscle mass. More serious symptoms can include arthritis, incontinence, lumps found on or underneath the skin, heart disease, and organ failure. Medical issues such as sight or hearing loss may require additional medications and possibly surgery. That is for your vet to determine.
Whatever symptoms your aging dog is currently experiencing, a few changes at home can significantly assist your Golden Retriever with getting around just fine. Below are some tips that you might find helpful with the most common senior dog issues.
Reduced hearing and complete hearing loss is very common in elderly dogs. While the adjustment phase may be frustrating for your Golden and heartbreaking for you to watch, dogs generally do tend to adapt quickly to the loss --- relying on their keen sense of smell and touch to get them in the right direction. You simply need to set the stage in your home for a speedy comeback. The moment you identify hearing loss in your Golden, (i.e., your dog stops responding to your calls or the sound of his favorite squeaky toy) it’s time to take immediate action.
Dogs who respond well to verbal commands can quickly learn hand signals with the proper training. Hand signal training a dog after it has completely lost its hearing is challenging although not at all impossible with a lot of patience. It’s important to remember your Golden can’t hear a loud car horn or even an aggressive barking dog at that point. It’s imperative to keep a deaf Golden on a leash and in close proximity while outside of the house.
Indications of possible blindness in your Golden include a cloudy film over the eyes, failure to notice movement if not accompanied by sound, or bumping into things. A grayish-blue haze over the eye is also common in elderly dogs, but is not always indicative of actual sight loss. You should consult a veterinary ophthalmologist immediately if you notice any of these conditions as certain treatments can keep a cataract at bay. For blind animals or those that are losing their sight, the first and most obvious rule is not to move around furniture, their bed, or their food dish. If you do move big furniture, walk the animal around the house on a leash a few times allowing him to brush up against the large pieces before letting the dog run free.
A few tricks to blind-proof your home include: Cushion corners and other surfaces that could injure your pet; Use different oil-based scents to mark the location of beds, eating areas, wall corners, the bottom edges of large furniture, etc.; Create paths around the house with textured carpet or runners; Use different textures to mark different paths; Put bells or jingling tags on your own shoes so your dog knows when you’re nearby.
The Double Whammy
Goldens that go deaf and blind obviously need extra special care. Hand signals and bells will be obsolete at that point and your dog will likely demand more personal attention due to their uptick in anxiety. To ease deaf-blind Golden woes, make sure they have a safe retreat and know how to get there. Use baby gates to keep them confined to certain safe areas that they are most familiar with. They must also be supervised closely or kept on a leash when exploring the outdoors especially by pools or drop offs. Provide affection often, but again, it's best to avoid the temptation to overly baby deaf-blind dogs. In a well-proofed home, your Senior Golden will eventually learn how to get along just fine.
Arthritis and Stiff Joints
If your Golden Retriever seems to be lame after exercise, appears stiff when getting up, walks more slowly, is reluctant to jump or climb stairs, has difficulty squatting or experiences pain when touched on his back or hip, he may possibly be suffering from arthritis. In all cases, you should consult your vet who may prescribe pain or anti-inflammatory medication. With or without medicine, you can make your Golden's life easier with raised eating platforms, ramps and steps, non-skid mats and booties, warming beds with soft pillows, and sweaters for any damp days. All items are readily available at your local pet store.
Light exercise and short walks are good for arthritic dogs, but refrain from forcing them to move faster than they seem comfortable with. Gentle animal massage in the problem areas can also be effective in easing arthritic pain.
Your Golden Retriever is smart, well-trained, and hasn’t had an accident since he was a puppy. So why now? Well, canine incontinence just happens sometimes with growing older. Refrain from punishing your dog. As a senior, it's not at all his fault. Instead, begin to use diapers and disposable puppy pads to avoid messes around the house. Make sure to trim their hair in areas that tend to get soiled. That will make them more comfortable. Also, consult your vet about available treatment options for this specific issue.
Aging is a natural, unstoppable process for your Golden ---- just like it is for all of us. But you can definitely make it easier on your furry best friend. Your aim is to give your dog the same lifestyle you’d like to have in your own older years --- calm, relaxed, and as healthy as possible. It’s just a tiny gift you can give back to the ones who’ve given you so much unconditional love in your life.
Do you have any Senior Golden Retriever care tips you'd like to share with other GRRA adopters? Have you tried something with your own GRRA Senior Golden that has worked wonders? Please let us know. We'd love to hear from you!