Graceful Aging in Pets
Aug 27, 2017 06:39PM
● By Jennifer Burroughs
Caring for our furry family members in their senior years is one of the most rewarding experiences for a pet owner. It is a time to cherish a well-lived life and do our best to ensure our pets are comfortable and happy in their golden years. As pets age, they experience many of the same difficulties as their human counterparts, including chronic pain, decreased mobility, nutritional challenges and diminishing eyesight.
Common subtle signs of pain such as pacing, panting, hiding or lying in abnormal positions or places, are often misinterpreted as simply “slowing with age”. More obvious signs include flinching when touched, snarling/growling, whining and limping or stiffness when moving. Pain management may include conventional routes such as anti-inflammatory medications or traditional routes such as acupuncture and herbal therapy. Veterinarians can develop a pain management program tailored to an individual pet.
Many older pets experience difficulties with mobility, exhibited by a slowness in rising or sitting, avoidance of stairs, slipping or falling, reluctance or lack of jumping and decreased activity. Difficulty with mobility often results in problems using the bathroom, which may lead to accidents in the home. Our canine friends will require more frequent trips outside and our feline friends will benefit from a low-sided litter box and a thinner layer of litter to improve stability.
Simple home modifications greatly improve the quality of life for our senior friends. The addition of non-slip rugs and mats to slick floors and regular nail and paw fur trimming will increase traction. Ramps or small transition steps improve access to cars and furniture, while limiting the use of stairs with baby gates can prevent an unwanted tumble.
Easy access to water and food is imperative, since many pets have a hard time making a long trip to their bowl. Consider adding multiple locations for food and water in addition to lowering a cat’s bowl, since jumping onto a higher surface can be difficult for them. Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet is important because aging pets lose some of their sense of smell. Heating the food will release more aroma, which may stimulate appetite.
Normal aging affects eyesight in the form of decreased depth perception. Often, pets have increased difficulty navigating in the dark or dim light so the addition of night lights in the home and outdoor flood lighting will increase their visual ability.
Recognizing the signs of aging and early intervention greatly enriches the quality of life of our beloved companions, and maximizes the opportunity for us to treasure our time together.
Jennifer Burroughs is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist and the owner of Sundance Veterinary Wellness, located at 14 Copperfield Cir., in Lititz. Connect at 717-917-0268 or SundanceVeterinaryWellness.com.