Whether you and your aging pet have been together for years and years, or you’ve adopted a senior pet who needed a home, loving a pet in her golden years is an honor.
Between our Columbus and Marysville offices, we’ve seen our fair share of senior pets. Each has had a unique personality and special needs, but they all shared a few commonalities, so we are listing six facts your senior pet would tell you, if she could, to help you both enjoy her golden years.
#1: “Sometimes my body hurts, especially in the morning and after naps”
Whether your golden girl is a dog or a cat, she probably has one or more painful joints, according to statistics. She may not limp, but that doesn’t mean she’s not painful, since companion animals, especially cats, are experts at hiding pain. The numbers don’t lie—studies show:
- 40% of all dogs will be diagnosed with arthritis in their lifetime
- 60% of all dogs have evidence of degenerative joint disease on X-rays
- 90% of cats 12 years of age or older, who usually suffer in silence, have arthritic changes on X-rays
Subtle signs of joint pain include:
- Changes in gait or posture
- Excessive panting
- Rising slowly
- Withdrawing from family
- Vocalization or aggression when handled
- Urinary or fecal accidents, especially cats who find it painful to step over high litter-box walls
#2: “Sometimes I’m confused”
Your old dog or cat’s brain may not work as well as it used to, and she may forget her house-training or seem lost in her own home. Cognitive dysfunction, which is a degenerative disease characterized by gradual cognitive decline that occurs in dogs and cats, may be the cause. If your old pet is suffering from cognitive dysfunction, the following signs may be familiar:
- Disorientation, such as wandering, staring, or moving to unusual places
- Memory loss, which may lead to forgetting her house-training and learned commands
- Increased lack of purpose or repetitive activity
- Decreased or altered interactions with family members
- Altered sleep-wake cycles, such as nighttime waking
- Increased anxiety, irritability, or restlessness
#3: “Yes, I’m older, but I still want to play sometimes”
Your girl may have cognitive decline, but she is still your girl. She will have good days and bad days, and on those good days, you may catch a glimpse of the puppy or kitten you used to know. She may have been around awhile, but that doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy a playful romp every now and then. Watch for her cues, and try to engage her in play on a good day. Toss your dog her favorite ball or frisbee or take a short hike, or for your cat, spread out some catnip, or play with the laser pointer. You may be surprised to see the youngster hiding in your pet’s greying body.
#4: “Yes, I’m older, but that’s not always the answer”
We hear owners of senior pets say, “I thought she was slowing down because of her age,” all the time. Your older pet may be slowing down, but the cause is often a treatable condition, such as arthritis, hormone imbalance, or kidney or liver disease. We recommend twice-yearly physical exams for senior pets so we can keep on top of their health and find problems early. The sooner we can start treatment, the better the outcome.
#5: “When you don’t know what to do, look in my eyes”
The day, or perhaps many days, will come when you will not know what to do for your painful or unhappy senior pet, and we are here to help guide you with your decision about the process of humane euthanasia. The choices you make about your pet’s euthanasia are personal and individual, with no right or wrong answers, but we can help determine how much your pet is suffering or in pain. In many cases, your pet will let you know when she’s ready, so look into her eyes when you don’t know what to do.
#6: “Thank you for loving me so well”
You should always know your pet appreciates your love. An older pet knows you have loved her for a long time and given her a place as she slowed down, for as long as she needed. Loving and being loved by an old pet is a special prize.
Senior pets hold a special place in our hearts. If our veterinary team has not seen your aging pet for more than six months, call us to make an appointment so we can help keep her in top condition for as long as possible.