Frequently Asked Questions about caring for an older pet.
Excerpts from the AVMA article
Due to improved veterinary care and dietary habits, pets are living longer now than they ever have before. One consequence of this is that pets, along with their owners and veterinarians, are faced with a whole new set of age-related conditions. In recent years there has been extensive research on the problems facing older pets and how their owners and veterinarians can best handle their special needs.
Q: When does a pet become “old”?
A: It varies, but cats and small dogs are generally considered geriatric at the age of 7. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans and are considered geriatric when they are approximately 6 years of age. Owners tend to want to think of their pet’s age in human terms. While it is not as simple as “1 human year = X cat/dog years”, there are calculations that can help put a pet’s age in human terms:
Q: What kinds of health problems can affect older pets?
A: Geriatric pets can develop many of the same problems seen in older people, such as
Kidney / urinary tract disease
Joint or bone disease
Q: My pet seems to be in pain, and isn’t as active as they should be. What should I do?
A: First, talk to your veterinarian and have them examine your pet. Your pet might have arthritis. Older pets, especially large dogs, are vulnerable to arthritis and other joint diseases, and the signs you see can vary. This chart provides the basic signs you might see if your pet has arthritis; you might see one or more of these signs in your pet.
Q: When should we euthanize a pet? How will we know it’s the right time?
A: This can be an incredibly difficult question for both the owner and the veterinarian, and is often a very tough decision to make. Sometimes, euthanasia is obviously the best thing to do for your pet. At other times, however, it can be less clear. An open discussion with your veterinarian, including an honest evaluation of your pet’s quality of life, should help you make the decision.One way to determine if your aging pet is still enjoying life and can remain with us a little longer is by using a “Quality of Life” scale to determine if the animal’s basic needs are being met. This scale can be very helpful for the veterinarian and pet owner when deciding what is best for your pet. In this scale, pets are scored on a scale of 1 through 10 in each category, with 10 being the highest score for quality of life. Again, only an honest evaluation of each category will help with the decision.
The AVMA offers several additional resources for pet owners, including brochures that are available online.