As we age we are more susceptible to certain conditions and the same is true for our pets, especially as they age a lot more rapidly than people. Below the Doctors of Pinellas Animal Hospital have answered some of the most common questions asked when caring for a senior pet.
I’ve noticed as my dog ages he or she is slower to get up, doesn’t always want to go for long walks and is LAZIER. Is that just him or her getting old?
As pets age they can slow down, which can involve getting older, but many pets suffer from arthritis or joint pain. It can be due to previous injuries, genetics, or long-term wear on the joints. During the early stages, joint supplements such as Omega 3 fish oil and joint supplements can be beneficial. Depending on the patient’s severity or risk for inflammation certain medications like anti-inflammatories and pain medication may be recommended by your veterinarian to help reduce the pain and increase their comfort. It is important to note that human medications especially those containing Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen or Aspirin should never be given to your pet as they can be very dangerous and prove to be fatal even in very low dosages.
In addition to medications, your veterinarian may discuss other options including environmental changes. These can include non- slip rugs and/or stairs along with low impact exercises to keep them in shape, while also aiding their ability to move around in daily life. Often clients will notice their pets are acting much younger once their pain is controlled. If you notice your furry friend slowing down, talk with your veterinarian so they can work with you to isolate a cause and determine the best treatment for your pet.
Let’s not forget our feline friends. They often won’t jump as high or may be slower to get around and less active as well. While all pets can slow down as they get older, we have found a large percentage of cats end up with arthritis. They too can benefit from joint supplements as well as omega 3 fish oil supplements early on. There are also specific feline medications that can help with inflammation and pain that can be provided to aid comfort.
Lastly, a big change often includes environmental adjustments to make life easier for our elder cats. These include litter boxes with lower sides, placing litter boxes on each floor of the house for easy access, making the food bowl and water bowls easily accessible (ideally on the ground instead of a higher surface), and adding steps to help the cats get to a comfy bed or perch they enjoy napping on. So, if you notice your feline friend acting slower and not as active as usual, speak with your veterinarian to determine if arthritis is a concern. If this happens to be the case, they can advise you on the best treatment for your cat.
My pet has been losing weight or appearing THINNER Recently?
Loss of muscle tone and weight can also affect your pet as they age. However, weight loss can more often be a sign of a serious underlying condition. As pets age they are at an increased risk for thyroid conditions, kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, and cancer. A physical exam with your veterinarian can be a great place to start to see if they feel anything abnormal such as changes in liver or kidney size, heart murmur, thyroid enlargement, tumors, etc.
In addition, performing regular biannual blood work can also help your veterinarian catch underlying diseases in the early stages which can initiate dietary or nutritional adjustments that can prolong or increase the quality of your pet’s life. If caught early enough and with appropriate treatment our pets can often enjoy more time with us in addition to an improved quality of life. Even if the disease is discovered in the later stage, there are still medical therapies your veterinarian can discuss and work with you to find the best fit for both you and your pet.
How do I assess Quality of Life and when do I know when Humane Euthanasia (PTS) becomes an option?
Let’s start by saying you know your pet best. You have spent so much time with them and know when they aren’t themselves. Think of 5 things that your pet loves to do. If he or she is not able to do at least 3 out of those 5 things, then your pet isn’t feeling good and it’s time to reach out to your veterinarian. There are things they can discuss or offer to help with comfort. While working with your veterinarian, if you are not able to get your furry friend back to themselves, then that can indicate prolonged suffering and it may be time to consider humane euthanasia.
Another option includes placing smiley faces for good days and sad faces for bad days on a calendar. If the sad faces outnumber the smiley faces, then that indicates the pet maybe suffering. Please discuss these findings with your veterinarian to find out what options are available to help increase your pet’s quality of life or whether the time has come to consider humane euthanasia. This can be a very tough decision even when we are prepared or know our loved one is getting older. Please reach out and ask your veterinarian any questions you may have about your pet’s well-being – we are here to help and want to work with and help guide you in the best possible options for you and your pet.