I’m Worried About Leaving My Senior Dog Alone During My Holiday Trip!

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I’m Worried About Leaving My Senior Dog Alone During My Holiday Trip!

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Are you afraid of leaving your dog during your holiday vacation? This is a valid, and surprisingly common concern for dog parents during these Winter months. With an extended absence away from your senior or geriatric dog, you may be feeling guilty or stressed about asking someone, even a close friend, to watch him/her. In some cases, you may even be considering saying a final goodbye before you leave town simply because the stress is too much on your dog, and the burden too great on a caregiver. 

Consider these questions when deciding what to do with your geriatric dog during your absence, and remember to ask your regular veterinarian or our team at Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice for guidance:

  1. What kind of stress is my senior dog in when I leave?
    Some dogs have a terrible time when their person is away! And stress, particularly for an older animal, is detrimental to their health. Make sure your elderly dog is stable enough to undergo your departure.
     
  2. Who can I trust to be in charge of my geriatric dog when I leave?
    This is a very important question. You have a few options: board your dog with your veterinarian or at a pet resort, hire an in-home pet sitter, have a friend come to your home, or ask a trusted person to watch your dog at their house. Each of these needs to be examined with your elderly dog’s comfort in mind. If he/she needs a great deal of medication and/or the health stability is of biggest concern, then consider intensive 24/7 care like a veterinary clinic. Conditions that involve the heart, lungs, brain, or anything that may rapidly decline like congestive heart failure, collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, hemangiosarcoma, or frequent seizures should be monitored closely by professionals. These dogs should not be left alone for any extended period of time as they can go from “ok” to “very bad” in minutes.  

If your dog is going to be left alone for any amount of time, make sure he/she is in a safe environment. Stairs, slippery floors, and pools can be deadly to a geriatric dog; while a friend’s expensive carpet near your incontinent elderly dog might be detrimental to your relationship!
     
  3. Will I be able to relax and enjoy my holiday time away from my elderly dog, or will I be too worried about him/her?
    

Commit to either the benefits of leaving (family time, vacation, etc), or commit to staying home. Leaving and remaining worried, stressed, or overcome with anxiety will be draining to your family and unfair to those around you. Most importantly, you may completely negate the benefits of leaving (being with family, relaxing) if you are worried sick about your furry family member at home! Commit to one, formulate a plan, and accept your decision.
     
  4. What if the worst thing happens while I’m away?
    

The best advice we can offer it to be prepared. Provide your friend/pet-sitter with a signed Power of Attorney and Directive that allow for medical care, with or without a monetary cap on the cost of care, and some kind of direction on how to make the decision to euthanize, should suffering be deemed untreatable. Talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s the specific condition and ask for common “stop points” based on the most prominent disease process affecting your elderly dog’s quality of life. 

If you chose to leave, make sure you are emotionally prepared for this possibility.  How would you feel if you weren’t there when your pet is euthanized?  Would it be a relief or would you feel regret for not being able to comfort him? Would this decision be too big of a burden for a caretaker to make without your guidance? These are difficult but important thoughts to ask yourself. 
     
  5. Should my elderly dog be euthanized before I leave?
    

This is a question that can only be answered with the help of your regular doctor or a veterinary hospice service like Lap of Love. Remember that your dog’s quality of life during your absence and your quality of life away from your dog (should you chose to leave) are both valid in this equation. If your dog will be in good hands and his/her medical condition stable, then do your very best to enjoy your holiday away. Try to bring him/her with you, shorten your trip, or find the best sitter you can possibly hire to help alleviate your guilt. However, if you feel your dog will be highly stressed away from you, his/her condition is unstable, and your guilt/grief over leaving will be too much to bear, you should consider requesting the advice of your veterinarian, potentially saying goodbye before you leave, and perhaps using your holiday time to grieve your loss with the support of family and friends. No, this is not a selfish decision. It is better to help a friend a day too early than a second too late. 

There are many factors to consider when leaving your geriatric dog alone for extended periods of time. Make sure you are properly weighing your options and discussing them with veterinary professionals based on the medical condition of your dog. We are here to help remove the burden of the decision and to guide you on the best, most peaceful path available.

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