Caring for My Elderly Dog is Pushing My Physical, Mental Limits

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my mid-50s looking for advice about my dog. I have a 16-year-old mixed-breed dog that I keep outdoors.

About a year ago, it started losing weight, and is down to half of its weight from before. Since last summer, my dog has been crying at night, frequently waking me up to comfort it to prevent it from disturbing my neighbors. Because of this, I can’t sleep well at night and often don’t feel well.

Since the end of last year, my dog has been unable to stand on its own. Whenever it falls over during the day, feels thirsty or has the need to relieve itself, it barks to call for me. It’s gotten difficult for me to go out, and my chores are often interrupted.

I’m not sure when my dog will call me, so I feel anxious and nervous. My family would help if I asked, but they’re away from home from early morning until late at night because of work or school.

I went to a nearby nursing home for elderly dogs and found that they could admit my dog. However, since it’s not in such serious condition that it can’t move on its own, I worry that my dog would be lonely away from our family, so I’m hesitant to leave it there.

But I also feel like I’m at my physical and mental limits, and I want some relief from this situation.

E, Chiba Prefecture

Dear Ms. E:

Your dog has truly become a member of your family, having spent 16 years together. I understand that you are worried about your dog and, at the same time, completely exhausted by caregiving.

It is perfectly reasonable to want to care for your dog at home as much as possible, but it is too much to handle it all on your own. I suggest you consider sharing the caregiving responsibilities with your family and seek help from others if necessary.

Although your family members are working or studying, I recommend setting up a schedule where you can all share the caregiving duties on their days off or whenever possible to create a supportive environment for caregiving.

If it becomes difficult to manage, it might be worth considering placing your dog in a care facility. Think about making arrangements for your family to share the responsibility of caring for your dog.

I believe that sharing the work of taking care of the dog you have lived with for so long will help your family members create new, stronger bonds.

A friend of mine, a veterinarian in Germany, said that people in Germany do not hesitate to place their pets in facilities if they can no longer care for them due to health or other reasons. This approach helps ensure that owners do not become overwhelmed, indicating that attitudes toward pet care can vary across cultures.

Discuss the situation with your family to ensure that you do not feel an undue sense of guilt about deciding to place your dog in a care facility.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist