Older Pet Spotlight: Seniors Going Strong
Older pets deserve the spotlight! November is Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month so let’s focus on our older friends. We also want to focus on the unique needs of older pets and try to help pet owners that may be struggling, find some solutions.
What Constitutes a Senior Pet?
Pets have life stages just like people. Their life stages are a bit shorter in terms of how long they last since pets age a little more quickly than humans. What makes a pet a senior is really determined by their breed and their life expectancy. Generally speaking however, a pet can be considered a senior after turning 7 years old. This is when we start to see some subtle changes and when we start to screen for certain disease processes that show up in later life.
Some of these disease processes can include diabetes, liver disease, thyroid disease, cancer, arthritis, hearing loss and eye problems. Age is in no way a guarantee that your pet will develop any of these symptoms. Your pet may stay healthy for a very long time. Because we see these diseases and ailments in many older animals we do start to screen more vigilantly as your pet ages.
What Changes Should You Look For in Your Older Pet?
Our philosophy at Hill Country Animal Hospital is that we always want to work in concert with pet owners to help provide the best care for their pets. Because of this, we often screen for health issues based on feedback from owners. This feedback may include the following changes that have been noticed at home:
- Drinking more water
- Urinating more
- Less active/lethargic
- Limping or difficulty getting around
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Changes in personality and/or behavior
- Changes in sleep habits
- Difficulty hearing
- Changes in vision or any visible changes to the eyes (especially depending on the breed)
- New lumps and bumps
We encourage you to seek help for whatever problems you are having with your pets. Some issues may not seem health-related but we are in the business of helping you care for your pet and may have a solution. Let us know even if your problem is something like my pet is slipping on the floor at home. If we don’t have an answer we can try to find one or put you in touch with someone else who can help you.
Managing Medication with Older Pets
As our pets age, we often find ourselves managing chronic diseases like arthritis or thyroid disease. These require daily medication. If your schedules are anything like ours it can be challenging to know if someone in the family gave your pet his medication. That is when an item like a pet medication reminder comes in handy.
These can be purchased on Amazon and are very helpful when managing pet medications with a busy schedule.
Maintaining Exercise in the Golden Years
We recommend exercise for all pets from an early age. Exercise helps maintain overall health by keeping weight in control and keeping muscles strong. Many times as pets age they develop a bony appearance but haven’t lost as much weight as their appearance leads you to believe. This change in appearance can be attributed to muscle loss. Pets lose muscle just as we do if they do not remain active. For this reason, exercise is extremely important.
Don’t try to start a strenuous exercise regimen if you have not always exercised your pet. If you are just getting started, start slowly and build. Some exercise is better than none and will provide mental enrichment for your pet as well.
If your older pet acts like he is feeling a bit stiff ask your vet about laser treatments. Laser therapy can help with many conditions and is painless and drug free.
Communicate Your Older Pet Concerns
Remember to always communicate your senior pet concerns with your veterinary team. Maintaining an open dialogue about your concerns as well as your desires and expectations is helpful for all concerned. Your veterinary team needs to know what your expectations are so that we can tell you whether they are realistic based on what is going on.
Don’t ever be afraid to share with us what your budget is either. We will try to formulate treatment plans that fit into your budget. Remember, it is our job to provide and offer the best diagnostics and treatment that we can provide. It is your job to let us know what you can afford and then we will adjust our plan to try to do as much as we can while respecting your budget. This is when communication is paramount. We are not in the business of judging. We just want to offer the best care for our patients.
When It Is Time to Say Goodbye
Aging pets bring about the sad realization that we may not have our best friends around forever. This doesn’t mean that we can’t make sure that the rest of their lives are lived in comfort and happiness. When this is no longer possible, we will be there for you and your pet at this time too.
This is not an easy process or decision to navigate but rest assured that we will be there for you during this time to help with answers and suggestions. We have many tools that we can provide to help you know when it’s time to let go.
We are not going to tell you that you will “just know.” We will however provide you with quality of life scoring systems and advice that will help you make the necessary decisions.
It’s Not Always Easy but It’s worth It
Caring for older and then geriatric pets is not always easy. It can be expensive too. Pet insurance purchased when your pet is young can help the most when they get older. We consider it an honor and a privilege care for pets from the time they are young until they are senior citizens. We love watching your pets grow up.
As pet owners, our pets bring us so much love that it makes it all worthwhile. Don’t try to bear the burden of care all by yourself if we can help. We are going to be making some changes to our website and will be featuring some items that may help you care for your older pets at home, so stay tuned. Make the most of every day with your pets whether they are babies, adults or seniors!