Optimizing Quality of Life in our Senior Pets: How do I keep my aging pet as happy and healthy for as long as possible?
There are very simple ways that you can maintain a high quality of life in your aging pet, as well as potentially extending the length of life. It is best to be pro-active – Consider the list below, and keep a close eye on your older pet for any of the signs listed in the next section (Red Flags). Also, please take any recommendations from your veterinarian seriously. We genuinely want to help your old friend achieve a good quality of life during their last years with us. Along with the information below, it is helpful to gauge your pet's quality of life using a questionnaire - we like http://www.veterinaryteambrief.com/sites/default/files/attachments/QualityLife_D.pdf
Here are some basic considerations:
- Older pets should have more frequent veterinary visits – in the last few years of life, the body changes quickly. More frequent exams allow us to pick up on concerning changes as soon as possible. Furthermore, always consider the screening blood and urine tests for senior pets recommended by your veterinarian, even if your pet seems healthy. If all results are good, then we have a baseline that is very important for picking up small changes in the future. If we find abnormal results, this early detection of an abnormality is truly our best chance to effectively treat, or manage the problem.
- Do not ignore abnormal behaviours your pet is showing – Although screening tests are helpful, there are some disease conditions that can start and progress rapidly, meaning that we see outward signs of sickness before there are any abnormal findings on lab tests. Bring any abnormalities that you are noticing at home to the attention of your veterinarian in a timely manner.
- Diet and nutrition – See section Diet Recommendations. Older pet’s changing body’s (whether a healthy senior, or a senior with a known illness) benefit from diet plans specifically made for them.
- Maintain good dental health – There is no question that poor dental health reduces a pet’s quality of life. A diseased mouth is not only a source of pain for an animal, but the chronic inflammation and bacterial showering of the body also predisposes them to systemic disease. Diseases more commonly seen in pets with poor dental health include heart disease, stroke, liver disease, kidney disease and pneumonia.
- Weight control – keeping your senior pet at a healthy weight is one of the most important factors in keeping your pet happy and healthy. Furthermore, it has been shown that pets kept at a healthy weight will live, on average, 2 years longer than pet’s who are overweight.
- Mental Health – like humans, pets can show signs of brain aging. Stimulating them through various activities and interactions can help to keep them mentally active, which can slow the progression of senility. For more information see section Cognitive Dysfunction. Visit our Environmental Enrichment sections for more information on providing an enriched environment.
- Immune system strength - Older animal’s immune systems are not as strong as those of younger animals. This leaves them more susceptible to disease, including bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections. It also means it takes longer for them to heal from such infections.
- Mobility – Arthritis and associated pain is common in old age. There are simple ways we can manage and treat this common problem to keep your older pet active and comfortable.
- Environmental changes – it may become difficult for your old pet to climb stairs, or walk across a slippery floor, or it may become dangerous for your older animal to spend time outdoors unsupervised. Changes in their environment may become necessary to keep them safe and comfortable.