My medical specialty is taking care of elderly people, but lately I’ve become attuned to problems taking care of an elderly dog. Parsley, my 18 pound Norfolk Terrier, is now fourteen human years, or 98 dog years old. He’s had his share of medical problems including knee injuries, bladder stones, and metal objects in his stomach, but age-related issues have developed in the past 2 years. Once able to hike mountains and endlessly chase squirrels, Parsley can barely get around the block and is suffering from late night anxiety and insomnia. I don’t mind the long, slow walk, but keeping me up at night has left me and my wife bleary eyed.
Parsley always had anxiety problems during thunder storms – panting, pacing and trembling – but about six months ago these symptoms started to occur when the lights went down in the evening. At first his anxiety attacks were fierce. Parsley would wake us with panting and the sound of toenails on hardwood floors as he paced from room to room. On the suggestion of our veterinarian we controlled this successfully with aromatherapy, lighting incense every night and whenever he woke us up. We used to keep the bedroom door closed, and realized that he needed space to wander, so we left the door open and this helped. We felt that Parsley may be losing his sight, so we put night-lights in each room where he wandered.
Parsley’s anxiety attacks went away, but he still suffers from occasional insomnia and early morning awakening. Could it be from pain? Parsley’s behavior during the day has been no different – he’s been playful and loving. He’s also been enjoying his food and ice cream treats. We’ve been taking him on longer walks in the evening to tire him out, and that has helped. I’ve found lots of helpful resources on geriatric dogs on the internet.
He was my first dog, and Parsley has given a lifetime of loyalty and joy that taught me a lot and helped me through some tough times. In better days he was a great therapy dog, coming with me to nursing homes and helping to comfort residents. Now that he’s old and his eyes are clouding up, I will help him as much as I can, even if it means some sleepless nights.
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