Q&A: How can I help my senior pet adapt to old age?

It’s inevitable.  Your pet will get old.  These days our pets are living even longer because we have learned how to take better care of them throughout their lives.

 

The downside of our pets living longer, however, is that most pet owners just aren’t aware of how to best care for their senior pets.  The good news is that with just a little bit of effort you can easily help your pets adapt to old age, and continue to provide them with a good quality of life.

Here are ten easy tips that you can easily implement to help your pet adapt to old age:

1.  Give them a runway.

Elderly pets often have mobility problems, and may not be very steady on their feet anymore.  Giving them a walkway with good traction over tile or wood floors will help increase their confidence while moving around the home.  Choose a material that is non-slip and easy to clean, such as a runner rug, bath mat, or yoga mats.

2. Move their food and water bowls to a better position.

For cats, put their dishes on the floor in a quiet area, rather than on a raised surface.  For dogs, consider elevating the dishes so they don’t have to reach so low to eat or drink.

Also, put multiple water dishes around the home so your pet doesn’t have to walk as far to get a drink of water.  Dehydration can be a major concern for senior pets.

3.  Make potty time easier for your pet to minimize accidents.

Senior cats may need a litter box that’s easier to get in and out of.  Get one with lower sides so they don’t have to jump to get in, and keep the level of litter lower as well so they don’t “sink” as much.

Senior dogs may have difficulty holding their urine for long periods of time and may need more frequent trips outside.  You could also consider an indoor “potty” area, using puppy pads or artificial turf in case of emergencies.  Don’t scold your dog if they have an accident indoors at this age; they will be just as upset about it as you are.

4.  Resist the urge to redecorate.

If your elderly pet has vision impairments, either partial or complete blindness, this one is important.  Your pet has likely memorized where everything is, so try to keep furniture, pet beds, and food/water dishes in the same places they’ve always been.

5.  Change their food.

Yes, I said change their food!  Senior pets have different nutritional needs than adult pets.  Seniors don’t need as many calories or as much fat as younger pets, but do need more fiber.  Most older pets will benefit if you switch them over to a “Senior” diet formula.  Senior pets who have diagnosed medical issues may benefit from specialized diets, which your veterinarian will recommend.

6.  Give them more spa days.

Elderly pets aren’t as good at grooming and keeping clean as they might have been when they were younger.  Brushing your pet’s fur will not only give you some important quality time with your pet (which they will love!), but will keep their coat and skin healthy.  Also pay attention to trimming the hair around the anal area to help with hygiene.  Some elderly pets will benefit from fatty acid supplements which help support healthy skin and fur.

7.  Stimulate their brain with fun activities.

Just because your pet is a senior doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy some fun!  It may look different now than it did when they were younger, but enrichment activities are very important to keep your senior pet young at heart.  Here are a few ideas for easy ways to stimulate your pet’s mind:

  1. Short, low-impact walks or swims during nice weather.
  2. Food puzzles, which are readily available at pet supply stores or can be made at home.
  3. Indoor games, such as hide-and-seek, rolling a ball, or find the treat (make it easy and encourage them when they get close to the treat)
  4. Hang a bird feeder outside your cat’s favorite window.
  5. Play a tamer version of catch the laser or string with your cat.

8.  Make their comfort a priority.

Most people immediately think of getting a comfy bed or blanket for their senior pet, which is great!  Also keep in mind that your senior pet can’t regulate their temperature as well anymore, so keep your pet warm, dry, and indoors when they’re not out getting exercise.  In the hot months, be sure to keep them from overheating.

9.  Don’t avoid your veterinarian.

Yes, I know, senior pets generally have more medical issues, and it is hard for some people to allot finances for an elderly pet.  But continuing to see your vet regularly (I recommend every 6 months at a minimum) will help you provide the best quality of life for your pet. Your vet will not only be checking up on their physical and mental health, but will also be able to provide you with  valuable advice and support as your pet grows older.

Please don’t automatically assume that a visit with the vet will mean spending thousands of dollars; discuss your financial concerns with your vet, and be honest about what you are willing and able to do for your pet.  I guarantee you that your veterinarian has your elderly pet’s quality of life and best interest at heart, more than anything else.

10.  All they really want is love.

Having an elderly pet can be tough.  Caring for their needs and seeing them get older before your eyes is a challenging part of your life together.  But remember this:  your aging pet only desires your continued love.  And they may not be able to come to you to get it.  So take some time every day to love on that senior pet.  It will mean the world to them.

 

 

Do you have other concerns about your elderly pet?  Dr. D specializes in in-home veterinary care, including geriatric pets.  Contact her by going HERE.

Ten Things Your Veterinarian Wants You To Know

Recently I was inspired by an article I read on this topic, so I decided to share with you my own list of 10 things I want you to know:

 

Lay some knowledge on me, Doc!

Lay some knowledge on me, Doc!

 

1.  Annual exams are important.

Not only because dogs and cats age much faster than humans (of course you knew that!), but because early detection of disease gives your pet a better chance at a longer life with you.

2.  Dental care is more important than you think.

I know it sounds silly when your vet recommends that you brush your pet’s teeth at home, and you hate the idea of your pet under anesthesia for a proper dental cleaning.  But trust me when I say that when it comes to oral health, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

If you want to save money on your pets life-long medical care, invest in their teeth NOW, before you have to spend thousands of dollars having all their teeth extracted because they are so diseased, and/or treating their heart/kidney disease that was secondary to their dental disease.  Seriously.

3.  If you love your pet, keep them lean.

Pet obesity in our country rivals the human obesity epidemic.  We are literally loving our pets to death.  An overweight pet has an average life span of TWO YEARS LESS than their healthy counterparts!  Make sure you are feeding your pet the right amount of a high quality food, giving them the right kind of exercise, and not giving them too many treats.  If you don’t know what is appropriate, guess who does…

(uh, that would be your veterinarian, if you didn’t know.)

4.  Microchipping your pet could save their life.

It might sound extreme, but it’s the truth.  Imagine your pet gets lost – they may end up in a shelter, where they could be euthanized or adopted by another family if they aren’t microchipped.  That little $50 investment will tell the authorities where your pet really belongs!

5.  You play an important part in helping your pet have a good experience with the vet.  Start desensitization at home.

If you want a big gold star from your veterinarian, teach your pet to enjoy being touched all over, having their ears and muzzle manipulated, their mouth opened, and their tail lifted.  Teach your cat to think the carrier is fantastic.  And by all means, be sure your dog knows his manners (sit, stay, come, down, heel)!  These are first steps which will allow your pet have a fear-free experience at the vet.

6.  Cats need special treatment.

Many think that cats are low-maintenance pets, and that’s true to some extent.  But they have species-specific needs that must be addressed if they are going to live long, happy, healthy lives.

Environmental enrichment, mental stimulation, appropriate litter boxes, and places to scratch are just a few things to think about.  Medically speaking, you should know that cats are the masters of disguise.  They will keep disease hidden, and even if they are showing signs they will be very subtle.  Any changes in appetite, behavior, weight loss, or litter box habits must be brought to your vet’s attention right away.  And please, OH please, have your cat examined EVERY YEAR.

7.  Make your home environment safe for your pets.

Please keep prescription and over-the-counter medications completely out of reach.  Educate yourself on which foods and plants are toxic to pets.  Pet poisonings are one of the most common preventable emergencies seen by veterinarians, and we would love it if that were not the case.

8.  Marijuana is BAD for your dog.

Okay, this one is specific to Colorado, but important nonetheless!  Marijuana, in ANY form, is toxic to your dog.  If you notice your dog losing his balance, walking like he’s drunk, leaking urine or losing complete bladder control, take them to the vet right away.  And keep your stash, as well as any paraphernalia, far away from Fido.

9.  Don’t self-diagnose.  Dr. Google is not a good veterinarian.

There’s a ton of information out there on the internet…some good, and some not so good.  If you’re concerned about your pet, just call the vet.  Your vet’s knowledge, eyes, ears, fingers, and diagnostic tests are vastly superior to Dr. Google’s.

10.  Don’t wait too long to see your vet.

There is a good chance that whatever medical issue your pet is experiencing is not going to go away on its own.  And even if it might, your pet will suffer needlessly in the meantime.  Early intervention not only gives your pet the best prognosis and care, but could save you money in the long run.  And who doesn’t want to save money?

 

Do you have any questions or thoughts for Dr. D?  Leave ’em in the comments below!

Did you know that Dr. D does house calls in the Broomfield area?  If your pet needs to see the vet, give her a call!

The Top 10 Reasons Why Microchipping Your Pet Is Awesome

10.  1 in 3 pets goes missing, including those with responsible, vigilant owners.

Your indoor cat slips out through the door left open by accident.  Your dog’s leash breaks and he takes off after a rabbit, getting lost in the neighborhood.  It can happen to you.

9.  90% of lost pets without proper identification (like a microchip) never find their way home.

Like this dog who found himself over 1,000 miles away from his owners four days after he escaped from the back yard – he would not have made it home without his microchip.

8.   Getting your pet microchipped is fast.

As fast as giving a vaccination.  Super fast.

7.  It’s relatively painless – no worse than a vaccine injection.

Most dogs and cats barely flinch when I place their microchips.  It is implanted through a needle, just under the skin between the shoulder blades.  The microchips I use are even smaller than the majority of chips on the market!  Easy, peasy.

6.  It’s inexpensive!  

It costs less than $50 to microchip your pet.  But the peace of mind is priceless.

5.  It’s permanent.  

Like that tattoo you got on your 21st birthday after too many shots of tequila.  It cannot be removed, unlike a collar and tags.

4.  No maintenance required!

When your pet loses its collar, you have to replace the tags.  You won’t have to replace a microchip.  Just be sure that you keep your current address and phone number on file with your microchip company!

3.  It proves you are the pet’s owner.  

Unfortunately we live in a world where someone might take your pet, claiming they are the rightful owner.  Microchips provide the evidence that is irrefutable.  

2.  It could keep your lost pet alive.

Heartbreaking, but true:  Most of the pets who enter animal shelters are euthanized.  If your pet doesn’t have proper identification and is in the shelter for very long, you could lose them forever.   

 

And the Number 1 reason why microchipping your pet is awesome:

It works.  

If you don’t believe me, you only need to see these stories to be convinced:

Microchip Reunites Dog Missing For 2 Years

Cat Reunited With Owner

The Top 10 Reasons Why House Calls Are Awesome

10.  You don’t have to go anywhere.

There was a time, so long ago, when the doctor would come to your house, treat your illness, then have a cup of coffee with your family.  Up until recently, the only doctors who made house calls anymore were farm vets.  Now you have me, Dr. D – I will come to your house, take care of your pets, and leave you happier and less stressed out.  You don’t even have to give me a cup of coffee.

9.  You don’t have to get in the car.

Can’t drive?  Physical limitation?  Giant stubborn dog who won’t get in the car?  Little dog who vomits every time you drive them somewhere?  Multiple children (or just one) to cart around with you?  It’s tough sometimes.  As Bob Marley says, don’t worry about a thing.  Dr. D will come to you.

8.  It’s oh-so-convenient!

If you haven’t gotten that already with numbers 10 and 9, how about this – you pick the time and the day.  It can be while the kids are at school and before “Ellen” comes on.  It can be during nap time.  It can be when your spouse is home and you need to go out for a drink.  Whenever.  See?  Convenient!  Oh, and did you know that all of the medications I prescribe can be shipped right to your door?

7.  Less stress for you.

Ever been sitting in a waiting room while your dog is yanking on the leash and your child is knocking over a display?  Then you get stuck in a tiny exam room with your pet and your child, waiting what seems like eternity to be seen by someone?  Then your dog decides to do ‘his business’ on the floor because it smells like another dog, or your cat climbs into the cabinet and starts hissing like a fire-breathing dragon?  Yeah, me neither.

6.  No cat carriers.

This should be self-explanatory.

5.  You get your vet’s full attention.

In the clinic, my day was full of interruptions.  Emergencies, phone calls from specialists, technicians giving updates on hospitalized patients, the office manager needing to ask an urgent question…  These interruptions very commonly took me away from whatever dear client and pet I was treating at that moment.  I don’t know any veterinarian who wouldn’t love to give their full and undivided attention to each and every client and their pet.  But it is the nature of a busy clinic, and we vets are excellent at multitasking.  One reason why I love house calls is because I can finally give you my full attention.

4.  You and your pet get quality time with the vet.

If you wish, you can get to know me!  As the “other family doctor”, I think having a good relationship with your veterinarian grows from getting to spend time with them.  And I know for sure that your pet remembers me from one visit to the next…with less stressful house calls, I hope that they are actually happy to see me that next time!

3.  All your questions and concerns are answered.

I know how hard it is to feel like you have enough time to ask all your questions.  Any veterinarian will tell you that we would love to have all the time in the world to spend answering your questions, and properly educating you about nutrition, behavior, our recommendations, and why Buster eats poo.  Just one more reason why house calls are awesome.  I can answer questions to your (and my) heart’s content.

2.  Less stress for your pet.

My ultimate goal is fear-free veterinary visits for your furry angels.  Providing their veterinary care in the comfort of their own domain helps make this a reality.  


And… the Number 1 reason why house calls are AWESOME:

1.  Dr. D gets to spend time with you and your pets.

I know, the number one reason why house calls are awesome is really about MY enjoyment of the visit…but really, it is a benefit to you as well.  I LOVE what I do, and I LOVE getting to know you and your pets.  I LOVE getting to spend whatever amount of time I can with you, and I LOVE seeing you and your pet happy and stress-free at the end of our visit.  It’s a win-win.