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When you have an older pet, the most important thing to remember is this: Dying isn’t optional, but suffering often can be.
In other words, don’t assume that a sick or elderly pet can’t enjoy many weeks, months or even years of pain-free, comfortable and joyful living. And your veterinarian can help make that possible, because we understand why that’s important, and we know how to make it happen. Working with your veterinarian to help a pet in the twilight of life will add a glow that will make the time precious for you and your pet both.
To help your older pet enjoy a high quality of life, you’ll need to make sure his health problems are addressed. That starts with a complete physical, which likely will include basic diagnostic testing. The tip-of-the-nose-to-tip-of-the-tail exam your veterinarian provides will also include a dental exam and a careful evaluation of all tests for signs of problems in vital organs such as the kidneys
After the check-up — and older pets should get them twice a year — you and your veterinarian will go over the results and set priorities for care. In many older pets, years of “deferred maintenance” when it comes to dental care have resulted in broken, rotting teeth and infected gums. I’ve seen cases that looked as if a blowtorch were passed over the pet’s gums. These pets are in constant pain, and are often not eating well. These urgencies and emergencies must be addressed, and you may be shocked at how much happier your pet seems once they have been.
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