ABC-Animal - Health Chronicle

Aging Healthily!

Pets’ life spans have increased dramatically in recent years. In fact, improved health care, food and life conditions have promoted the emergence of a new category of animal – geriatric patients! But like people, living to an advanced age has both advantages and disadvantages.

Animal Geriatrics
Below are some problems associated with normal aging:
* loss of mobility
* decreased acuity of the senses (sight, taste, hearing, smell)
* mood changes and the need for solitude
* senility (physical and mental deterioration)
* an increase in the number of hours spent sleeping
* changes in body temperature
* tooth loss and pain
* urinary incontinence
* generalized discomfort

Of course, there are more serious conditions:
* tumors
* heart and kidney problems
* hyperthyroidism among cats
* and many others.

Aging may seem like a dark prospect…
But here’s how you can make their last years more pleasant. Make some simple adjustments to their care and well-being, both indoors and out.

• Observe your pet’s habits and notice any changes. When an animal is aging, any change is important.
• Let your vet know if there are any changes in the following:
  * weight
  * gait
  * water consumption
  * stool texture and amount of urine
  * sleeping habits
  * cleanliness habits, etc.

Regular Exams
• Especially make sure to have your pet examined regularly. Animals age more quickly than people and some conditions can deteriorate rapidly.

Food and Teeth Go Together
• Pay particular attention to your pet’s food. As time goes by, needs change. Poor tooth conditions make chewing difficult and even painful.

Comfort, Comfort and More Comfort
• Make sure to always provide your pet with a comfortable cushion containing thick and dense foam. This cushion absorbs his weight and promotes better joint aging.
• In the colder seasons, your aging pet will appreciate a coat and booties.
• Arrange the environment to make your pet’s life easier:
  * Stairs and furniture : install access ramps to make going up and down stairs easier and to decrease the need for jumping.
  * Slippery surfaces : install an anti-skid carpet.
  * Outdoors : provide your pet with a good outdoor cushion for enjoying the fresh air in summer or winter alike.
  * Indoors : Raise water and food bowls, set out several bowls of fresh water and litter boxes on different floors of the house.
• If your pet is having trouble going up or down the stairs, place a towel under his abdomen and slightly support the weight of his back legs as he goes along.

Living with an older animal is exactly like living with an older person. With a little imagination, these last years in the company of your faithful friend will truly be the golden years!

Nathalie Gauthier, D.V.M.
L’Arche de Noé Vet Clinic
St-Rémi, Québec, Canada