As our beloved pets enter their “Golden Years”, the list of potential health issues from which they might suffer gets ever longer.
Diseases such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, periodontitis, liver and kidney deterioration, cardiopulmonary disease, cancer, thyroid and other hormonal problems, vision and auditory impairment as well as senility issues are things that most younger dogs don’t usually suffer from, but now days, as our pets live longer, these conditions are very commonly seen and treated by vets.
Veterinary medicine and research follows closely on the heels of human medicine. Huge strides forward are being made in our understanding, diagnosis and treatment of hundreds of conditions and we now have the tools and expertise to help alleviate suffering in the last years of a patient’s life to a major degree.
It is very sad to think about many elderly animals living with constant pain and discomfort unnecessarily. Vets feel terrible frustration when a pet is brought in for euthanasia in a state of collapse, clearly suffering from a long-term condition that could definitely have been helped, had they been brought in when the condition first started.
Our primary goal as your pet’s health care providers is to alleviate suffering and improve quality of life. When we can’t do this for a patient, we suffer along with them! We never aim to simply keep an animal alive without being able to enjoy its life and will always take into account the individual situation, relationship and budget available in each case.
There is also an outdated belief that elderly animals don’t survive anaesthetics. Modern anaesthesia has come a long way and deaths on the operating table are extremely rare if correct, modern techniques are used- even for our most senior patients. Most 16 year olds sail through anaesthesia, in our experience!
It’s possible that some owners fear a visit to the vet with an elderly patient that is deteriorating, as they think it will be bad news. This “ostrich approach” is not fair on you or your pet! When an animal has been a companion and member of the family most of its life, you owe it to them to look after them in their final years when they need veterinary attention the most.
Signs that your older animal may be in need of veterinary attention include:
-Lack of interest in exercise or sleeping more than before
-Changes in appetite or drinking habits
-Taking longer to get up when lying or sitting/ general stiffness or lameness
-Bad breath or drooling
-Increased effort to breath or panting
-Change in bowel movements- diarrhoea or constipation
-Lumps, bumps or sores
-Dry, thin or matted hair
-Sticky, red or cloudy eyes
-Changes in behaviour or personality/ Anxiety issues
Remember: “Old Age” is not a medical diagnosis and is not a reason to give up on an animal’s health and well-being! Get your furry seniors and geriatrics checked by a vet every 6-9 months and make sure they are in the best shape possible to enjoy their last years comfortably.