As a pet owner, I still believe the best pet is a senior pet. Their whole demeanour is so beautiful. By this time, they understand you almost more than you do. They are good pets, they know their place in the family and they are over the naughty stages of digging up your whole garden, biting your furniture or being a fuss in the family. All they ask for is a comfortable bed, good food and love and care during a time when their aches and pains start to become a more regular occurance (and often one they are so good at hiding away from you). Adopting a senior pet is probably the most beautiful thing you can do for that special soul in their time of need. Here are some health tips on how to care for a senior pet:
- See the Health tips for Adult Dogs - also applicable to senior dogs.
- An age appropriate diet is extremely important in the senior dogs. Feed her the best quality you can afford.
- Geriatric screening is recommended once a year – this entails doing a blood and urine test at your vet to detect early changes in organ function. Picking up diseases like diabetes mellitus, kidney and liver disorders in the early stages make long term management more successful.
- Test your dog for brain ageing every 6 months with the easy online tool available at www.maturedogs.com. If the tool detects symptoms of brain ageing contact your vet.
- Dogs rarely cry out in pain. Withdrawing from the family, reluctance to go on walks, change in sleeping patterns, growling and licking specific areas can all be symptoms of pain. Get a dog specific pain medication from your vet.
- Ensure your house is old dog friendly. Open stair cases and swimming pools pose a threatening risk to a dog with impaired vision. If she battles to get up on to beds or in to the car build a ramp. Make sure slippery surfaces are covered with rugs.
- Keep her nails short to prevent ingrown nails or slipping.
- Make sure young dogs are not causing her distress.
- Add another layer of padding to her bed to support ageing joints and to keep her warm and dry.
- Once a month run your hands over her whole body to feel for any new lumps. If lumps appear take her to the vet for a fine needle aspirate to detect cancerous changes quickly.
- Know how to assess quality of life. Online tool available at http://www.pawspice.com/downloads/QualityofLifeScale.pdf
When your pets quality of life deteriorates be prepared to let them go with dignity.