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“Watching my senior dog struggle in her old age is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to experience in my life thus far, but the thought of ever abandoning her or giving her up makes me physically ill.”
These are the thoughts of Brooke, a loving and caring pet owner that is doing what she and her family feels is best for her pet. Brooke’s comments were in response to a Toronto Humane Society ad on pet abandonment that had a fictitious Puppy Swap campaign. In the ad, you would subscribe to a service and once your puppy begins to age and have problems you would trade it in for a new puppy.
The question that nags at us is, “Are we doing what is best for our pet throughout their life?”. So many of us get a puppy, we train them, feed them an expensive diet, give them love and buy them gifts. We play with them and take them for walks to make sure they are getting enough exercise. We bring them to our local veterinarian to keep them healthy. We do all that we can do for them.
Over time, our puppy grows up and the walks begin to get slower. We may find our dog sitting closer to the fire or heating duct in the winter and it may take a few minutes for them to get up when we call them. They may even decide that “getting up” isn’t worth the effort.
A visit to the local veterinarian has many different outcomes. Too many times, clients will come home being told that their pet “is just getting older and slowing down”.
I don’t buy that! My friend Billy ran a marathon for his 70th birthday. George Burns was 100 years old when he died. Many of my friends are in better shape now than they have ever been. We cannot relegate a decreased quality of life to “just getting older”.
So what can be done for the older pet? There are many possibilities and many of them can be done at home without a major expense. Simple changes such as orthopedic bedding, raised food and water dishes, no slip surfaces to walk on, and ramps to get in and out can make a huge difference in an older pet’s quality of life.
To step up the game, a veterinarian certified in pain management and physical rehabilitation can greatly improve daily life. After a full physical exam and review of medical history, a program can be implemented to improve our pet’s quality of life. Beginning with proper nutrition, supplements and medications, we often see improved energy and mobility. A physical medicine program will make your pet stronger and enable them to enjoy life more. Often getting your pet into an underwater treadmill can make your pet feel years younger. For some patients, laser therapy, manual manipulation, and myofascial trigger point therapy can alleviate some of those aches and pains. In certain cases, stem cell therapy and platelet enriched plasma (PRP) are utilized for quality of life improvements.
These different treatments are also utilized to help pets, regardless of age, recover from injury or surgery. Many dogs may slip and fall injuring their back or knees. A pain management and physical rehabilitation program can help them return to their pre injury fitness level. Often after completing a program, clients will say that “this is the best shape they have ever been in”.
We live a life with these precious pets. They are important to us on so many levels. Not only are they dependent on us, we are often dependent on them as well. They are with us during joyous times as well as difficult times. Nothing is as soothing as a senior pet. When your cat can no longer jump on the counter or your dog no longer wants to play ball, see your veterinarian. If you are told that your pet is “just getting old”, find other answers.
Dr. Zinderman has been a practicing veterinarian for the past 24 years. He is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist and a Certified Veterinarian Pain Practitioner.