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3. Is he too old for anesthesia? It’s a reasonable question, but one that’s increasingly less applicable to modern veterinary medicine. That’s because our anesthetic drugs, techniques and monitoring tools are safer and more effective than ever before.
Indeed, at our hospital, not a day goes by that we don’t anesthetize a geriatric patient (or several). And that makes sense: Geriatric patients are more at risk for diseases that may require surgery, such as cancer and dental disease, are they not?
That said, pre-anesthetic blood work in older pets is always recommended, because it helps your veterinarian identify underlying conditions, so she can better tailor the anesthesia to your pet’s needs.
4. Is she sick or is she just getting old? It’s a great question! In fact, I wish more owners would ask it. While plenty of pet people have learned this the hard way, others have yet to learn that personality changes, changes in activity level, altered bathroom habits and even abject pain are not “normal” functions of advancing age. I’ve seen way too many treatable diseases and mitigable conditions inadvertently get swept under the rug when they could have been alleviated or even cured.
5. Is it a good idea to get him a new puppy or kitten? It all depends on a pet’s personality and, to some extent, his species. Well-socialized dogs often come to life when new pups (or even kittens) are introduced into a household. In these cases it’s undoubtedly a good thing. For multi-cat households, however, the addition of new cats can often prove more stressful for everyone — not just for the geriatric pet. Any addition should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Indeed, pet owners might consider fostering pets first to see if all personalities mesh well in advance of undertaking a lifelong commitment.
6. Apart from medicines, procedures and supplements, what can I do to help her joints? After embarking on a veterinarian-approved plan for treating the arthritis, making her feel as safe, secure and comfortable as possible is the goal.
Here are a few tips and tricks for the arthritic: Add stairs or ramps to help pets access furniture beds or vehicles. Consider offering one or several kinds of orthopedic beds. Make sure your pet's muscles stay as strong as possible by keeping her mobile (using no-slip flooring, slings to help them up, etc.). And help keep her safe by ensuring she stays far away from pools or wears life vests near bodies of water, for example.
7. What else can I do to improve his quality of life? Oh, lots! Making the world easier for aging pets isn’t as hard as all that. All you have to do is be mindful of how they’re changing and alter their environment to follow suit. For example, pets who lose vision and hearing need simple considerations like stable routines, cues that take advantage of their remaining senses and careful attention to things like not moving the furniture around a whole lot.
For those with diminished appetites, consider heating up food slightly to bring out its aroma. For those with less coordination, try using floor runners, stabilizing booties or toe grips. And for those whose loss of body fat makes them more susceptible to the cold, ensure their bedding is appropriately padded and close to safe heat sources.
Consider all of the above only the barest of primers — the tip of an iceberg of information you’ll doubtless discover if you just keep digging. And you should. After all, your aging pets aren’t getting any younger.
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