Aren’t puppies and kittens adorable? Who doesn’t love young pets? The problem is that our furry friends have much shorter lifespans compared to us and we’re often not ready for them to grow old, even though this is when they need us more than ever.
We owe it to our beloved companions to learn how to best care for them as they enter their senior years. Older pets can develop many of the same problems that are seen in elderly people, ranging from mobility issues to life-threatening diseases. Foremost, we should talk to our vet when our pets start to age, so that we know what to expect. Beyond this, there are ways that we can help our pet(s) by making appropriate changes to environment and diet, as well as by watching for changes that might be warning signs of sickness.
Last week at LAA Pet Talk, guest blogger Hindy Pearson told about the joys of senior pets. (She has an entire website dedicated to senior dogs, which I encourage you to check out.) Over the next few weeks, LAA Pet Talk will share her posts about how to care for senior pets. I’ll also put together some ideas about how to care for senior cats and guinea pigs. If you’re an owner of a type of pet we neglect to cover here at LAA Talk, we’d love to hear from you. Just post in the comments below and I’ll get in touch.
Obviously, when it comes to illnesses and diseases, pet owners should seek the advice of vets. That said, most owners who have helped an ailing pet through medical situations will say that self-education is also critical. When my third guinea pig suddenly stopped eating, I read up on gastro statis and how deadly it can be to these exotic creatures. Likewise, when my cat was diagnosed with kidney failure, which is one of the leading causes of death in older cats, I learned as much as I could about that condition. In an upcoming post I will talk about my personal experiences with both of these illnesses. Finally, when my husband and I recently cared for a dog with Cushings, I came into contact with a wonderful group of pet owners at K9 Cushings who know far more about Cushings than I probably ever will. I asked them about their experiences and for advice for others dealing with Cushings. They were only too glad to help spread the word about how to maneuver this challenging disease, and I’ll share their info and stories in an upcoming post.
Shelter workers see it every day: a dog is brought in because he can’t jog with his guardian anymore. Or he needs a little time to get up the stairs. Or he’s simply not a puppy.
Last week, here are LAA Pet Talk, Hindy Pearson talked about why senior pets deserve to be adopted. I’d be remiss as an animal blogger if I failed to mention that there are thousands of senior pets living in shelters. Why do I bring up this issue? Because old pets are at great risk of being euthanized or of spending their final years in no-kill shelters. Yet many of these seniors are there simply because their owners passed away, got sick, couldn’t handle the financial responsibility of caring for an ailing pet, or sadly stopped caring when their pet lost their youthful vitality. All of us owe it to our own pets to not pawn them off on shelters when they slow down and become less entertaining or their health becomes more difficult to handle. We also owe it to seniors already in shelters to not pass them over and thereby condemn them to spending their final years in the absence of a loving family.
It kills me when an old dog comes in, they‘ve given someone their entire lives, and here they sit.
–Cecily Joque (Adoption Coordinator), Grey Muzzle
A few ways that animal groups across the country are working to get old pets out of shelters and into homes include sharing biographies and photos through social media, publicizing organizations that specialize in helping older pets, and even setting up senior sanctuaries. I won’t be writing anything else about this topic in this series but, if you’re interested in learning more, you can check out links at the end.
The most difficult part about older pets in shelters is that many have gone from a comfy couch to being stressed in a dog kennel by absolutely no fault of their own.”
–Justin Scally (Director of Animal Emergency Services), A Note from the Author
I do want to emphasize that when we take a pet into our home, caring for that pet throughout his life is part of the package. When our pet begins to enter her twilight years, we need be kind and learn how to help her through this transition. LAA Pet Talk’s upcoming articles on caring for seniors should provide some basic ideas. In addition, other pet owners, online forums, and vets can all help us to maneuver through the challenges of pet illnesses and diseases. Finally, those with the resources should consider a trip to the local shelter or rescue where a senior pet is waiting for someone to make a difference.
If we had our way, no dog would spend its last days in a cold, dark shelter. There is so much love and joy in these dogs! Bringing these special dogs into a home is not only good for the dogs, but such loving, mellow dogs transform the quality of life for the people who adopt or foster them.