While owning a bulldog is a wonderful experience, it will be full of changes. A puppy will grow into an adolescent and then into an adult. Eventually, that adult will grow into a senior. As is the case with humans, aging will bring a set of new challenges that can be difficult to endure. Fortunately, there are ways to manage these challenges so the effects are not as devastating.
The biggest change you’ll see is your dog slowing down. Because his body isn’t working as well, he’ll sleep more, walk less, and walk slower. His joints will ache, and he’ll stumble when he moves. He might also have problems keeping food and water down or regulating his body temperature. These changes might occur anywhere from age seven to ten, depending on your dog.
The best thing you can do during this time is to accommodate your dog as best you can. It’s wise to have semi-annual check-ups with your vet. You should also make sure to add glucosamine chondroitin to his diet, either in pill form or in his food. Additionally, make sure you lower your expectations. He will probably not be able to walk very far or play for very long, if at all.
If you didn’t establish a strong relationship with a vet you trust, now is definitely the time. You’ll want someone who is knowledgeable of these ailments to guide you through them.
Some ailments common in elderly English bulldogs include:
- Gum disease
- Vestibular disease
Some of these problems are normal signs of aging and nothing to worry about, although your dog may benefit from a vet’s recommendation for care or treatment. However, some signs require immediate attention. For example, if your dog suddenly loses balance, and you notice his eyes moving quickly side-to-side, go to the vet immediately. While these could be signs of vestibular disease, which is temporary and will subside, they could also be signs of a brain tumor. Any changes in weight, stool (e.g. the presence of blood or mucus), panting, or drooling should also be addressed with a vet, since they could also be signs of cancer.
When your dog does approach the end of his life, it’s important to assess his condition before making any major decisions. Dogs do not always express pain visibly or vocally, meaning you’ll have to look for other signs, including reclusiveness, weight loss, aggression, and changes in eating habits. Keep track of any of these changes and discuss them with your vet. Come up with a plan together so you do not have to make a hasty decision that you’ll later regret.
Deciding to have your dog euthanized is incredibly difficult. It is completely normal to want to delay this decision, and it is also normal to feel intense guilt and regret after making it. It’s important to remember that euthanasia is painless and quick, and that it ends your dog’s suffering. It is also important to remember that you are not responsible for your dog’s death, and that you made the best decision you could. While that might not bring much solace, it can help to lessen the pain. Some ways to manage grief include:
When your dog does pass, the grieving process will last for months, if not years. You might also have to endure difficult moments, like telling your children about about your dog’s death. If you have children, the following tips will make the discussion easier:
- Be honest. Don’t tell your child that your dog “ran away” or “passed on.” Use words like “death” so your child isn’t confused about what happened and doesn’t think your dog is coming back.
- Be brief. Avoid talking too much about the death to avoid further confusion.
- Don’t hide your feelings. Be a good model of grief for your children.
- Help your child move on. This might mean including your child in any ceremony or burial.
During this process, find ways to honor and remember your pet. However, make sure that you don’t make hasty decisions from emotion. Some companies can take advantage of your pain and charge exorbitant fees for urns and other memorials. Sometimes it’s best to take a step back, let yourself mourn, and then make decisions on how to best remember your pet.
Caring for an elderly bulldog and seeing him to the end of his life will have challenges. But it will also bring greater appreciation for your dog and will bring you closer to him and others in your family. Loss often reminds us of what we do have, and while it isn’t easy to endure, it brings wisdom and perspective.