Having a senior dog is a wonderful experience. I adopted my cocker spaniel, Bella Bear, when she was 4. The image on the right is the first picture I received from Bella’s former family.  Fast forward 7 years and the photo below is Bella now at 11 years old. Don’t let the haircut fool you, she is still a chunky monkey. As you can see she’s changed a little over the years and her face has some extra gray/white hair now.

Here are seven things that I’ve noticed about Bella as she ages. Hopefully these will help other pet parents with aging dogs!

1. Skin Issues and Vet Visits

A few years ago a vet tech told me cocker spaniels are prone to skin issues like warts, skin tags, and pimples. I said, “not Bella, she is healthy and takes vitamins.” And now, a few years later she has 4 ugly little bumps. Each one sent me to the vet in a panic. The first was a bump on her back that looked like a mini-cauliflower. The next a skin tag on her foot which is like a flat gray raisin. And two pimples to add to the glamorous collection. All have been checked and are simply age-related and do not need to be removed.

Then there are the fatty tumors, or limpomas, which are soft-tissue masses that form under the skin. Bella’s lump looks like she ate a small but squishy ping pong ball and it got stuck under her torso.  Of course we ran to the emergency vet when I first discovered it and it turned out to be benign. Hers has not grown or moved over the years.

2. Shorter Walks

Walks are shorter and involve more sniff-breaks.  She still loves to go outside but now instead of hiking we take lots of shorter walks. She will also sit if she’s tired and needs a break.

3. Sleepless Nights

Late night potty breaks. Once in awhile I can be woken up at all hours with scratches at the door indicating she needs to go outside.  There were times when it was a few outings per night. Then sometimes when we go out she doesn’t even need to potty – she may have just heard something of interest and wanted to go investigate!

Again the vet has run urine tests and blood work and she turned out to be completely fine. She is just like an older adult human who needs more potty breaks.

4. Increased Stubbornness

They become more stubborn. If I want to walk to the right and she wants to walk to the left she will just stop and stare at me until I go her preferred way.  If she wants to take a break she will sit down on the sidewalk and it is usually 10 feet before the garbage can when I’m carrying her waste bag.

Also, the rain never used to bother her, now if we try to go out in the rain she’ll stand on the front step and needs to be bribed with treats to walk.

5. Less of a Guard Dog

The welcome-home greetings change. Sometimes she’s still exciting to see me. Sometimes I come home and say, “Hi Bella!” and she’s still sound asleep. Luckily I can follow the loud snores to find her.

6. Less Active

They have trouble jumping. Bella doesn’t do well with pet steps so I changed my furniture so that she is still able to jump up. If you allow your dog in your bed consider an adjustable bed frame that lowers in the front for easy climbing. To get to the recliner I’ve placed a bean bag chair in front of it so Bella will jump on that and then make the second jump into the recliner.

7. Family is Forever

Senior dogs become funnier with age and are still full of love!


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