One sad reality in life is that everyone, everything gets old. Yes, our pets will grow old and they age faster than us. In comparison, a year in a dog’s life is equivalent to 7 of ours. They reach maturity faster and therefore become senior animals earlier than us human beings.
The best we can do is make sure that we care for our pets from a young age to their twilight years.
Like us, as our pets get older, they also show signs of becoming vulnerable to injuries, diseases and the effects of fatigue.
Cats & dogs are usually considered geriatric at the age of 7. The breed, genetics, nutrition and environmental influences will play a part in the ageing process so it isn’t exactly the same for all types of pets.
Physical challenges your older pet faces
The physical challenges older pets face are basically the same as what older people also experience. Taking care of your older pet involves almost the same type of treatment as those of a senior human being’s. Still, a visit to the vet to ensure proper care is given is advised.
- Bone & joint challenges - Arthritis is a painful condition that is present in most old dogs & cats.
- Muscular Atrophy - Protein loss leads to muscular atrophy for most dogs and cats in their older stages in life. This can slow down your animal companions immensely.
- Hair loss - as your pets grow older and their metabolism and endocrinal process slow down, their hair will fall off eventually.
- Kidney failure - This is one of the most common ailments that affect cats & dogs as they grow older.
- Incontinence - an involuntary outflow of urine is bound to happen when the sphincters are weakened by age and lose their elasticity.
- Lessened sex drive and reproduction ability - as your cat or dog ages, its ability to reproduce will have lessened and giving birth to offspring is going to prove challenging. Male cats or dogs are also prone to having an enlarged prostate.
- Intestinal challenges - the ageing gastrointestinal tract might begin to show signs of reduced efficiency & intolerance to excesses. For this reason, flare-ups of gastritis, colitis and constipation can become more prevalent as your pet ages. This makes it more difficult to metabolize nutrients and detoxify wastes within the body.
- Weakened immune system - one reason why elderly dogs and cats easily get sick is due to their weakened immune state. Preventive health care is important at this stage in your pet’s life to protect him or her from cancers and/or viruses.
- Endocrine challenges - a compromised endocrine system can have disastrous effects on your pet’s health. This can lead to hormone-related challenges like hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus and pancreatitis. At this point, seeking the help of a veterinarian is crucial to address your pet’s health issues.
- Vision challenges - older cats and dogs will develop a slightly greyish white or bluish haze to the lenses of one or both eyes. This is called nuclear sclerosis and is different from a cataract although they look similar. This will severely limit their vision so approaching them slowly will help reduce the risk of surprising them.
- Hearing loss - hearing loss will also develop as your dog gets older. This is due to the irreversible nervous changes in the inner ear.
- Dependence on the sense of smell over other senses - because the sense of smell is the last to go, most cats & dogs will start depending on this over their ability to see or hear.
- Senility - yes, cats and dogs become senile too. This can cause your pet to become increasingly anxious, disoriented, have changes in their sleep patterns, lack of desire to socially interact with other pets or humans, uncontrollable soiling. Senility is more evident in dogs than in cats.
What can you do to ease your pet’s transition to old age?
Now that you know that your pet’s physical condition is going to slowly deteriorate, taking a proactive approach to caring for your pet is the highest priority at this point. Adjusting their diet, level of exercise and frequency of veterinary checkups should be observed. Grooming should also be increased to help with your pet’s skin condition as well as reduce its anxiety.
Increased attention given to your pet at this stage is normal as their physical condition gradually deteriorates. Because life is finite, everyone in your family should make it a point to spend time with your pet as well to continually reassure it that it is loved and appreciated.
This one is for you, the owner:
Losing a pet to complications brought about by old age is natural. It’s a painful experience that no one will ever get used to. Each individual pet is unique and the interactions they’ve had with their owners will always be different from other pets. Here’s how you can cope with the loss of your pet.
- The Denial Stage - in this stage of grieving, coming to grips with the impending death of your pet is going to be difficult. Some owners will find themselves refusing to believe that making a serious decision like euthanasia can lead to the second stage of grief which is the anger stage.
- The Anger Stage - anger can be directed inwardly (towards one’s self) or outwardly (towards others especially the attending veterinarian) for even presenting the idea of putting down an old pet.
- Depression - this is the third stage of grief. Depression can be exhibited through crying, missing your pet and others. This is normal as long as it is not experienced long-term. This eventually leads to the Resolution Stage or the Acceptance stage.
- Acceptance or Resolutions Stage - you will eventually get over the death of a pet. It takes time but you will reach the acceptance or resolution stage.
We have an excellent team of veterinarians with the facilities, equipment, medical products & others to deal with geriatric pets properly.
Click on this link to find the services we offer for you and your pet: https://www.vetforpet.co.nz/Pet+Services.html