By Josh Weiss-Roessler
Helping a senior cope with aging can mean taking care of their finances, medical care, and living arrangements. None of these responsibilities is easy, but one difficult decision that’s rarely discussed is when it’s time to place an older person’s dog with someone who can provide better care.
This can be an incredibly difficult conversation to have, but it’s important if you notice that the dog is being neglected. So what are the signs should you look for?
If you notice that the dog keeps getting skinnier and skinnier, there’s a good chance that his aging dog parent is forgetting to feed him.
Generally speaking, dogs actually help to keep seniors on schedule. In fact, they can even help people suffering from dementia to improve their memory, but at a certain point, there’s little that a dog can do. And they shouldn’t suffer because their elderly caretaker can’t remember to give them food or water.
Going to the bathroom indoors
This one is so noticeable that you have to be careful not to jump to conclusions if you visit a senior citizen’s residence and detect a problem.
It’s quite possible that the dog is suffering from some kind of issue that’s causing him or her to go inside the house. Before assuming that the dog parent is the problem, get the dog to a vet and rule that out first.
Urinating and defecating indoors, though, isn’t healthy for the dog or the senior, so if it’s happening because they are unable or unwilling to take the dog for walks, they probably can’t handle dog ownership anymore.
Even a well-trained dog may run off from time to time when distracted by any one of a million different things. You can minimize this tendency not only with training, but by using things like fences and leashes.
But if a senior’s dog continually escapes their grasp or yard and has to be retrieved by neighbors, something needs to be done. If the problem can’t be solved, finding a new home may end up being the best solution.
One of the scariest things that can happen is that a senior’s dog will ingest large quantities of some of the human’s prescription medication.
At best, this will likely lead to the dog becoming seriously ill, but it could mean that their stomach will have to be pumped and in some cases it may even kill them.
Obviously, this kind of accident is something that can happen to anyone, but since seniors tend to have more medicine and be less coordinated, spills and accidents only become more likely the older they become. Keep an eye out for medication that is left out at the dog’s level.
How you can help
A great way to ensure that the dog is being properly cared for is to take the dog to a vet. Many seniors lack the transportation to take the dog there themselves, so you could offer a ride and speak to the vet about your concerns. He or she can help guide you to the right decision for both the dog and the dog parent.
If you do identify issues, you may still be able to find ways for the dog to continue living with the senior. You can try to work out arrangements with family and friends to help with care, or contact elder care agencies, and even attempt to educate the dog parent if there are things they can do to solve the issue.
But if you do believe that finding a new home for the dog is necessary, do your utmost to involve the senior in the decision. You can let him or her meet with potential owners, accompany the dog to her new home, and even visit a few times in the beginning to help with the transition.
Can you think of other ways someone can help a senior who can no longer care for their dog? Share it with us in the comments.