You’ve spent precious time with your furrbaby, been their companion and their trusted friend… You’ve loved them and they’ve loved you, unconditionally…
And now, during their golden years, they’re still depending on you for the love and companionship they’ve grown accustomed to. But they also need all of the things that will keep them healthy, happy and as free from pain as possible, for as long as possible.
Thanks to improved veterinary care, our pets are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. Like humans, aging pets have special requirements. Purdue University veterinarian Lorraine Corriveau, a wellness veterinarian in the School of Veterinary Medicine says, “Improvements in veterinary care, diagnostics and earlier intervention make it possible for us to enjoy our pets longer, but key to that enjoyment is helping them to enjoy their later years to the fullest.”
She explains that, “the attitudes of both veterinarians and pet owners toward our senior pets are changing. The belief now is that age is not a disease, and veterinary medicine is emphasizing senior pet health through preventive and wellness programs.”
Just like us, our pets are prone to debilitating ailments as they get older. While many small breed dogs are considered seniors at 15, large breed dogs such as Mastiffs and Great Danes are referred to as geriatric when they are only seven. Indoor cats, on the other hand, tend to outlive most dogs and experience an overall longer life.
As your pet gets older, just like humans they may experience age related problems such as heart disease, kidney failure and cognitive dysfunctions. Early warning signs that your senior pet may be experiencing problems can include:
• Repeated vomiting
• Changes in behavior such as excessive whining or disorientation
• Losing or gaining weight
• Increased thirst and frequent urination
• Noncompliance with house training
• Frequent constipation or diarrhea
• Bad breath
• Change in appetite, eating more or less than normal
• Lumps or changes in skin color
• Loss of bladder control
• Excessive panting
Thanks to innovative health care resources, pets have access to alternative therapies like herbs, acupuncture and homeopathics. They also have new generation medical options such as non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, which help manage aches and pains. One of the most important things you can do for your pet is to schedule regular veterinary exams.
Dr. Corriveau explains, “young pets need regular exams once or twice yearly, however, as dogs and cats approach middle age, these exams should be more frequent. Remember, every year in a pet’s life is equivalent to five to seven human years. So, waiting to see the veterinarian a full year would be like seeing your doctor every seven years, and these exams are crucial for disease and problem intervention.”
You can choose the experiences you have with your dog at this phase, and the choices you make will impact your memories long after they are gone.
As your dog is quieting down in this stage of life he may require different things from you. For instance, he may benefit from:
1. A quieter home – small children, a rambunctious puppy or kitten, street noise, etc, can all make an older pet more anxious or nervous, especially if he/she is experiencing pain, vision or hearing problems.
2. A different diet – older pets often have a harder time digesting food and eliminating waste. Changing the mix and/or type of food or adding supplements like probiotics and digestive enzymes often help their aging digestive system cope better.
3. More stable routine – as your dog or cat age, they may be more fearful of you leaving or of unexpected changes to the home environment.
4. Less change in the home – you may need to put things away so they doesn’t trip or become disoriented or confused. Leave their food and water in exactly the same place each day.
5. More frequent outdoor time for doggies and more litter boxes for kitties – this will lessen the chances of them soiling in your home.
6. Help with changing sleep patterns – some older pets may become restless at night, and stay awake, pacing through the house, or vocalizing. They may need help with pain, may experience the need to urinate or defecate more often. Sometimes the loss of vision or hearing and other neurologic conditions can make it hard for them to sleep well too.
7. A voice in their end of life decision – pets are intelligent creatures who know more about what is going on with their health issues than you may believe. They know what hurts, what they are afraid of and how they feel about their own recovery process and even death. They definitely want to share all of this with you. It is important for you to actively communicate directly with your dog or cat to get their feedback on how to deal with health, emotional and euthanasia decisions.
Just as we humans age and become wiser but also more frail, so do your animal friends. Making changes for their health and in their environment can make for a much happier, more comfortable pet in their senior years.
Instead of leaving you with guilt and regrets, being proactive and taking the right actions now during this important time in their life can give you memories you’ll love and treasure for the rest of your life.
Author: Val Heart is a leading animal communication expert, speaker, bestselling author & master healer. Val is often called The Real Life Dr Doolittle™ and Animal Communicator to the Stars. Author of the bestselling book Don’t Screw Up Your Dog!, she is also the Founder of The HEART System™ for solving problems with pet and the Heart Catalyst for underperforming show horses to achieve their true potential. Learn how to talk to animals yourself! Get your free Quickstart to Animal Talk Course.
Don’t Screw Up Your Dog!
Purdue University http://www.purdue.edu/
US National Library of Medicine: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=corriveau%20LA