Lifelong Commitment

Dogs Require Care Without an Expiration Date

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Jill Showalter

In the Dog House with Jill Showalter

Getting excited about puppies is easy. They're little furballs of energy which bring out the softie in all of us. Knocked over the garbage can? "That's OK. Mommy's baby doesn't know how strong she is." Chewed through your favorite shoes? "You just like to be close to me when I'm at work." But for some dogs, that love fades as they get older. Owners get less patient, less loving and less attentive when their dogs begin to slow down and show signs of aging.

Unfortunately, for many dog owners, the amount of attention they give their dog actually seems to fade right when their dogs need it the most. As with humans, dogs need the most care at the beginning and end of their lives. As your dog ages, she needs someone to ensure she's eating a proper diet, living in a safe environment and getting enough exercise. In fact, a dog's day-to-day functions during the later years of her life often become dependent on others.

Aging with dignity

If your dog is getting older or if you're planning on getting a puppy soon, here are a few things to keep in mind that you, as a responsible dog owner, will need to keep in mind as your pet ages:

-Don't treat her like a second-class citizen. If you spent years taking your dogs for walks and playing with her in the yard, there's no reason why you shouldn't maintain a modified version of that same behavior when your dog gets older. Just because she can't run with you anymore in the morning doesn't mean she might not enjoy an evening stroll around the block. As your own physical needs change as you get older, so will your dog's. Don't stop doing the things that bring her happiness.

-Keep up his appearance. There's an expectation that older dogs smell and have a generally unkempt look. This is certainly not the dog's fault. If your dog is getting up there in years, that doesn't mean you neglect your primary responsibilities as an owner. Brush and bathe him regularly, make sure his nails are clipped, his teeth are clean and take him to the groomer so that he can get a thorough treatment. Remembering, there is skin under all that fur and as dogs age their skin can greatly benefit by the special care and moisturizing of a high quality oatmeal bath administered by a professional bather.

-Maintain their health. It's easy to begin overlooking primary medical care when dogs age. While it seemed important to take your dog to the vet when he was a puppy, it seems less imperative to do so once they achieve senior status, that's a mistake. Just like with people, it's essential to get proper medical assessments and care as your dog gets older. What you may think is an unsolvable medical problem may be easily fixed.

-Be ready for the end. Knowing what you can afford during your dog's later years is essential. Don't be guilted into care that you can no longer afford if your dog has a terminal illness or serious injury. It's difficult to admit, but there is no glory in keeping a dog alive for selfish purposes. You'll know when your dog has reached the end of his comfortable, enjoyable life. Once you realize that his days and nights will be filled with pain and discomfort, it's often best to give him a peaceful, tranquil exit. While it's difficult to let go of a lifelong companion, we've all known dog owners who put their own feelings ahead of their dog's well-being. And that's completely understandable. No one wants to willingly give up on a living creature who has brought them years of happiness. But no one wants to have that lifelong companion needlessly suffer. When it's time, give them a dignified farewell.

While it's true that we've given our dogs great lives, it's also true that they've repaid us many times over. Throughout our time together, we should do whatever we can to make sure our loyal friends enjoy a pleasurable and peaceful life.

If you have specific questions please go to our blog at or send us a question on our Facebook page at

Jill Showalter owns Yuppie Puppy and Doggie Day Play in Oak Park. She has personally tended to more than 100,000 dogs since 2007 and has shared stories and advice with numerous dog owners.

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