As Your Labrador Retriever Grows OlderLabrador Retrievers can, on average, live 12 to 14 years. However, to live that long and remain happy and healthy, your Lab will need your help. Aging in dogs, as in people, brings some changes and problems. You will see your dog’s vision dim, her hearing fade, and her joints stiffen. Heart and kidney disease are common in older dogs. Reflexes will not be as sharp as they once were, and your dog may be more sensitive to heat and cold. Your dog may also get grouchy, showing less tolerance to younger dogs, to children, and to things that may not be part of her normal routine.
An old dog who has lived her life with you is a special gift. Your old Lab knows your ways, your likes and dislikes, and your habits. She almost seems able to read your mind, and her greatest joy is simply to be close to you. Your old Lab may not be able to do the work she did when she was younger, but she can still be a wonderful companion.
Arthritis is common in old dogs. The joints get stiff, especially when it’s chilly. Your Lab may have trouble jumping or getting up in the morning. Give your old dog something soft to sleep on and keep her warm. Talk to your veterinarian about treatment; there are pain relievers that can help.
As your dog’s activity level slows down, she will need to consume fewer calories. However, some old dogs have a problem digesting foods, too, and this may show up in poor stools and a dull coat. A heaping tablespoon of yogurt with active cultures will aid her digestion.
Your Lab may need to have her teeth cleaned professionally, and this is something you should not put off doing. Bacteria that build up on the teeth can infect the gums, get into the bloodstream, and cause infections in other parts of the body, including the kidneys and heart.
Exercise is still important to your older Labrador Retriever. Your dog needs the stimulation of walking around and seeing and smelling the world. Tailor the exercise to your dog’s abilities and needs. If your dog can still chase a tennis ball, great! If she likes to swim, even better. However, as your dog ages, a slow walk about the neighborhood might be enough.

When It’s Time to Say Good-bye

We have the option, with our dogs, not to let them suffer when they are old, ill, and infirm. There will be a time when you will need to decide how you are going to handle putting your dog out of her pain. Some feel the time has come when the dog is no longer enjoying life, when she’s incontinent and despondent. Only you can make the decision, but spare your companion the humiliation of incontinence, convulsions, or the inability to stand up or move around.
If your Lab must be helped to her death, your veterinarian can give an injection that is an overdose of anesthetic. Your dog will go to sleep and quietly stop breathing. Be there with your dog. Let your arms hold your old friend and let your dog hear your voice saying how much you love her as she goes to sleep. There will be no fear, and the last thing your dog will remember is your love.

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