Care tips for your aging pet
Caring for pets as they grow older and recognizing our furry friends’ needs is what pet palliative care is all about. Whether it is the old creaky cat or the older canine companion newly diagnosed with a debilitating disease, palliative care can make your time left with them easier for both of you.
One of the first things clients tell me is that their pet is “just getting old,” and this is often the case. Even so, I will encourage them to stop in and see the vet, especially if it has been more than six months since their last wellness check up.
There may be a disease process going on or it may be arthritis or any number of medical issues. Veterinary medicine has seen some great advances over the years to enable us to care for our elderly pets, and the vet can make some great medical recommendations if they are needed.
Once the major medical needs have been addressed by the vet, take a look around your pet’s home environment. If your pet has mobility issues, consider adding rugs at the base of stairs to stop slipping, runners for long hallways with slick wood surfaces and even a rug in front of the doggy bed.
If your dog looks like a kangaroo trying to jump up on the sofa with you, adding a small step stool can take the literal pain out of their efforts. Most owners are quick to recognize the discomforts in their canine friends. The slower gait, the shorter walk or even the older dog who sits down half-way through their favorite hike is telling you something.
On the other hand, cats are master hiders of aches, pains and illness. Are they sleeping more than usual? Is that top shelf on the cat tree no longer used?
Sometimes an elderly cat will have difficulty grooming hard to reach areas due to arthritis, specifically their back. The once-litter box perfect cat can begin to miss the box around the edges because the box is no longer easy to use. They may even begin to urinate elsewhere in the home.
Changing the box to one with a lower entry can help, as can placing pee-pads under the box to catch the misses. I had one client resort to a large baking sheet with kitty litter in it for her elderly cat.
Sick pets will often appreciate a little personal peace, too. A quiet place with their personal items and scent on items can go a long way in improving their days with you.
Respect that your pet’s nose is more sensitive than yours and limit or eliminate additional strong fragrances in and around their personal space. If possible, try not to eliminate favorite activities.
Walks may need to be shorter, fetch a few less times, but if they are feeling up to some of their favorite things, indulge them within reason. If they can’t romp around anymore, even taking them outside and sitting with them on a blanket in the sunshine can do wonders for both of you.
We recently took care of a little dog that could no longer do steps. We carried him outside and sat with him on the grass in his backyard. His eye’s brightened, his ears perked up and his nose was working overtime sniffing the breeze. He can’t fetch the ball anymore, but we rolled it to him instead and he picked it up and dropped it in our hand.
Growing old and death are part of living life. Spending time with an aging or sick pet can bring out strong emotions. Taking good, palliative care of them can teach us how to face age and death, too.