When you have a senior pet, one of the most important things to remember is this: dying isn’t optional, but suffering can be. In other words, older pets can still enjoy life, be active and pain free, and stay healthy for weeks, months, or even years to come. And your veterinarian can help make this happen.
Working with us in the golden years of a pet’s life can make that precious time happy and healthy for both of you.
Start With A Veterinary Visit
If you’ve been noticing your pet “slowing down” you may be chalking it up to old age. But, age is not a disease! The first step in giving your senior pet great care is to address any health concerns. This starts with a complete nose to tail physical exam, and will likely be followed by diagnostic testing. By checking for abnormalities in body systems, we can treat disease earlier, resulting in a happier pet and less expense for you.
Some of the diseases we can catch early with screening tests include:
- Dental disease
- Kidney, heart, and liver disease
- Addison’s disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Arthritis and other joint disease
Follow Up With Creature Comforts for Your Senior Pet
Once your pet’s urgent health problems have been addressed, you and your veterinarian can work on a plan of supportive care, most of which you can provide at home. Small changes can make a big difference in your pet’s comfort.
Manage their pain – Like people, often older pets are suffering from aches and pains caused by arthritis or other conditions. Help your pet with changes at home such as litter boxes on every floor, supporting them on stairs, and providing soft pet beds. If your pet is overweight, you must help her lose weight to relieve pressure on the joints. Supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine can also help. And, if needed, your veterinarian can provide medication or a combination of medications to help relieve chronic pain.
Support their brain – Dogs and cats in their golden years often have mental changes or cognitive dysfunction resulting in anxiety or behavioral changes. Older dogs, even without these changes, appreciate their routine. Keep feeding, bathroom breaks, and outings consistent. Consider giving your pet a few options for where to be in the home; a quiet space out of the hustle and bustle, and also a spot where he or she can feel a part of the household. As our pets age, spending quality time with the people they love goes a long way toward maintaining their quality of life.
Keep them hydrated – Water is the elixir of life, and senior pets can become dehydrated easily. In some cases senior pets have trouble getting to the water bowl as easily as they need to. Pain medication and making sure water bowls are easily accessible may be necessary. Pet drinking fountains can be a great tool to encourage drinking, and your veterinarian may also recommend adding canned food to their diet, for its higher water content. Giving fluids at home may also be a good option to help senior pets feel their best.
Dental care daily – In many older pets, years of “deferred maintenance” when it comes to dental care have resulted in dental disease, cracked teeth, and infected gums. After your veterinarian fixes any dental problems, be sure to maintain great dental health for senior pets by brushing teeth every day. If you can’t brush, talk to your veterinarian about chews and rinses so your pet has some form of dental care at home.
Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital is your partner in compassionate senior pet care. Give us a call with any questions or to schedule an appointment for your senior, and help make their golden years the best yet.