Senior Pet Care Part 2
Top Five Tips for Senior Pets
The most important aspects to senior pet care are:
Diet- Diet is key. It is important to feed a high quality senior diet. Take extra care to the pet’s feeding patterns. And if it likes to eat at night, feed at night. If you have multiple pets, make sure that the senior pet gets to eat all of his/her food because it may take longer and other pets might try to finish it for them. Feed small meals several times a day if possible. It’s a good idea to add some canned food because that increases daily moisture which helps with hydration. Often soft or canned food is easier for senior pets to chew. There are many available options now for senior cats… tuna, chicken or fish in a pate or broth are some good options.
DID YOU KNOW? If detected earlier, 63-75% of common diseases in pets can be prevented by dietary modifications alone over a one year period.
Wellness examinations and lab work- It’s important to bring your senior pet in for physical examinations by a veterinarian every 4-6 months to help keep you abreast of your pet’s needs and to diagnosis any medical issues early. Early diagnosis and management of diseases can help your pet to live a longer more comfortable life. Lab work is also important. This includes, blood work (CBC and internal organ Chemistry) as well as a urinalysis. Because not all medical conditions can be diagnosed by a physical examination, lab work looks at internal organ function and other blood levels that may help lengthen your pets life.
Audrey Lewis, RVT drawing a blood sample from a senior patient.
DID YOU KNOW? Kidney disease is a leading cause of death and illness in pets, but symptoms do not appear until 2/3 of kidney function has been lost. Blood work can show earlier signs.
Pain Control- Keeping your pet pain free is a little more challenging. The last thing that we want as pet owner is for our beloved pet to be hurting, but the truth is that its’ difficult to tell if your pet is in pain. Pet’s usually don’t show signs of pain that we as humans are used to recognizing as pain. That’s why it’s so important to have regular physical exams with a veterinarian to diagnosis if the pet is having any arthritic pain or pain associated with dental disease. Reluctance to get up or move around, decrease in appetite or reluctance to chew food, and any limping at all are some of the signs of pain in animals. Your veterinarian can offer many options for pain control, from laser therapy and acupuncture, to supplements and daily medications. Unfortunately there aren’t any over the counter options. It’s best to discuss your pet’s needs with your veterinarian.
Injectable Pain Medication
Hydration- Fresh water can not be stressed enough, especially for a senior pet. For dogs, offer several bowls of fresh water and change daily. For cats, consider a running pet fountain or dripping water. Also adding canned food to a senior pet’s diet can help with hydration and increase interest in eating if needed. Ultimately your pet may need fluids under it’s skin periodically either at the veterinary office or they can teach you to do it at home.
Assessing your senior pet’s quality of life is the last, most difficult part of our responsibility as pet owners. Having a good relationship with your veterinarian is important so that they can help guide you when to consider euthanasia as a humane end to suffering. I try to look at several aspects for quality of life; first, eating and drinking; second, mobility or discomfort; third, bathroom habits and fourth mental status and interaction with family members.
FACT: Cognitive decline, or geriatric dementia, is something that is most often associated with human seniors, but pets are prone to age-related dementia, too.