Senior pets have special needs. As with older people, geriatric pets can develop problems, including:
- Kidney disease
- Dental disease
- Endocrine disease
- Heart disease
- Cataracts or other eye problems
- Weight problems (obesity or underweight)
Although we usually refer to pets 8 years of age or older as “senior,” this is just a general guideline. For example, cats (who often live to be 15-18 years of age) may not reach “senior” status until 10-12 years of age. Giant breed dogs, on the other hand, may be classified as “senior” by age 5 or 6.
Depending on your pet’s health, physical exams are recommended every 6-12 months during the senior years. Pets with chronic health problems may require visits even more often. The doctor may recommend any of the following as a means of screening for geriatric diseases:
- Geriatric blood profile
- Thyroid blood test
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Radiography (X-ray)
Senior pets are living longer due to advances in healthcare. Be sure to bring your senior pet in at least once yearly!
Although having a pet put to sleep is something no one wants to think about, it becomes necessary for some pets who are suffering from incurable diseases. Euthanasia should be viewed as a final act of kindness that you are providing for your pet to end chronic pain and suffering. While some pets may die naturally rather suddenly, other pets may deteriorate for months — often going through a period of “wasting away.” This process of deterioration can be extremely unpleasant; euthanasia is a humane way to end this suffering and spare your pet from a long, possibly painful decline.
Euthanasia is performed by a painless intravenous injection. The injection takes effect quickly (within 10-15 seconds). You may be with your pet during the procedure if you wish. You may take your pet’s body home for burial, or we can arrange for cremation. Cremation services are provided by Pet Rest, Inc.
Two common concerns pet owners have regarding euthanasia include:
- Feelings of guilt
- Knowing when the “time is right”
Guilty feelings are quite normal; it is easy to feel like you are letting your pet down. We try to emphasize to owners that this is something you are doing for your pet — not something you are doing to your pet. Take comfort in knowing that you are sparing your pet from an extended period of decline and suffering. Following are a few steps that can help relieve guilty feelings:
Have your pet examined by the doctor. It is usually comforting to know that you have pursued appropriate diagnostics and treatments. Even if your pet is found to have an untreatable disease, it can help to know that you sought medical advice.
Call us for advice. Especially if your pet has already been examined, you may give us progress reports by telephone. We can discuss your pet’s symptoms and quality of life and help answer questions.
Discuss euthanasia with family members ahead of time when possible. Important decisions such as this are better accepted if family members are given time to think about it. Even though pets are part of the family, it is important to keep in mind that their lifespans are relatively short compared to ours. Young children especially can find this difficult to understand and accept.
Owners are often uncertain if their pet is suffering. Consider the following questions:
- Is your pet eating? Is the appetite good or just fair? Does the food stay down or is it often vomited?
- Is your pet interactive with family members? Is your pet showing signs of senility or dementia?
- Is your pet able to get up and walk? Does your pet limp or act stiff? If so, how badly?
- Is your pet maintaining a normal weight?
- Is your pet breathing normally? How frequently do you observe coughing?
- Does your pet have normal urinary and bowel control?
These questions can help guide you in understanding your pet’s quality of life. If you answered several of these questions negatively, this can indicate some degree of suffering — especially if these problems are not responding to treatment.