Geriatric and Senior Wellness – “It’s not how old they are, it’s HOW they are!”
Our goal is to not only manage symptoms but to create a platform where pet owners can help to keep their pets symptom free for longer as they age.
Here are some common issues that can be seen in the geriatric patient:
- Pain Issues – Talk with our veterinarians and staff about signs of pain that may be seen with disease process(es) your pet may be suffering from. Some of the most common signs of pain are heavy panting, pacing, whining, growling, lying in an abnormal posture, decreased appetite, aggression and/or isolation. At Belton Animal Clinic and Exotic Care Center our doctors and staff have taken advanced courses that allow us to use alternative therapies (see Mobility below) as well as traditional western medicine (see Mobility below) in order to help your pet to be more comfortable for longer.
- Appetite Issues – We have some appetite stimulants that may help your pet become more interested in food. Acupuncture can also help to stimulate appetite and adds to the general well-being of your pet. High calorie tasty foods like Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d may help to stimulate appetite. Canned foods can also be warmed slightly and/or have warm water or low/no salt beef or chicken broth added. Adding warm water to the food helps to increase hydration levels in older pets as well. Digestive enzymes and probiotics may be helpful in allowing your pet to absorb nutrients better so discuss this with one of our veterinarians.
- Mobility Issues – As pets age, they often have difficulty with walking, getting up and down from sleeping, and more frequent lameness issues and you will want to do whatever you can to make him or her comfortable. There are many medications and treatment modalities that can help reduce pain and inflammation when mobility becomes an issue. Our veterinarians at Belton Animal Clinic and Exotic Care Center can help you to determine which medicines best suit your pet based on mobility issues present, age and other medical conditions that your pet may have. Special joint and mobility diets and joint health supplements and products are also available.
At Belton Animal Clinic and Exotic Care Center many of our doctors have advanced training that allows us to offer alternative therapies that will help your pet to be more comfortable for longer and to help with mobility as well as other health issues. These include Acupuncture, Cold Laser, Veterinary Medical Manipulation (animal chiropractic), medical massage, Alpha Stim, Microcurrent Electrical Stimulation, Herbal Therapies and E-Stim (like Tens) and other Rehabilitative Therapies. Your doctors and staff can discuss which will be best for your pet(s).
If the problems progress, you may find your pet pacing and panting, particularly at night time. Anti-anxiety and/or pain medication as well as alternative modalities listed above may help him or her sleep more soundly. Pets who experience mobility issues may have difficulty urinating, having bowel movements, and interacting with family and housemates which can make them anxious. Many of these therapies are used in human medicine and rehabilitation.
The following is description of modalities that we have available. Our staff can help you to decide which are most appropriate for your pet(s) conditions. These treatments are often used together for best and quickest affect.
- Acupunture – helps move the body’s natural energy flow to aid healing, decrease inflammation and pain, decrease anxiety, address disease issues, and increase general well-being as well as immune function. Many research studies have shown this to be an effective therapy for both people and animals.
- Cold Laser – this laser therapy uses a low level laser to stimulate cellular activity and increase immune function (known as photobiostimulation). In doing so it increases circulation, decreases inflammation, helps eliminate infection and speeds healing of wounds. This therapy can be used for any inflammation (“itis”) such as otitis (ears), cystitis (bladder), osteoarthritis (joints), enteritis (intestines), etc.
- Veterinary Medical Manipulation (Animal Chiropractic) – a gentle motion palpation is performed to find areas of restriction in your pet where vertebrae may be slightly out of place affecting the nerves as they leave the spinal cord. Most people think of this manipulation for lameness issue and pain, but it can help with several medical conditions, and really adds to quality of life and general well-being so animals may move and resume activities that keep them healthy.
- Medical Massage – massage helps to increase circulation, decrease pain and inflammation and , as it does in people, adds to the general well-being of the patient .
- Alpha Stim and Microcurrent Electrical Therapy – uses a low level electrical current to increase circulation, decrease pain, stimulate healing and decrease anxiety.
- Electrical Stimulation – uses a low level electrical current to stimulate muscle activity and circulation to speed healing and help to restore muscles that have atrophied from lack of use.
- Herbal Therapies – a mix of 6-12 herbs based on Traditional Chinese Medical diagnoses are available that are individualized for your pets’ medical needs and are provided to balance the whole body while working on the cause of the medical issues and the entire pet.
- Rehabilitation Therapies – we have exercise equipment available to help strengthen muscle groups, increase proprioception abilities and stimulate healing.
Here are some things that you can do at home to make life easier both physically and emotionally for your treasured friends:
- Provide good traction: Tile or wood floors can be very challenging for a pet with mobility issues. Use rug runners, bath mats or yoga mats to give them a nice ‘runway’ to walk on. Use something that is easy to move (but doesn’t slide) and is easy to clean. Toe grips can be used as well as stick-ons for the pads to create more friction and less slipping.
- A beard clipper for people can be used to clip the hair around their pads and toes to help expose their pads so they have better traction.
- Water/Food Bowls: Move your pet’s water and food bowl to a location that they can get to easily. Providing multiple water bowls around the house will allow your pet make shorter trips to get a drink. Dehydration is very common and dangerous in older pets so easy access to water is essential.
- Stairs and Elevated Perches: Stairs can be especially difficult for a dog or cat that has arthritis. Try to make the bottom level their ‘home’ so that they don’t have to go up the stairs too often. If they do, make sure there is good traction or that you give them assistance. Providing multiple small steps to get up to favored elevated surfaces (bed, couch, window perch, cat tree).
- Harnesses: Harnesses are preferred over collars to keep pressure from pulling on the neck. For those with extreme difficulty walking, however, there are great harnesses available now that you can purchase that can give your dog a little bit of assistance. The ones with handles on them are particularly helpful as up can assist them in standing and posturing for urinating and defecating if needed (see list of recommended harness sources in the Mobility Section of Hospice Care). You can also use a beach towel under their abdomen as a sling. Orthotics and braces should not be used without the advice of a veterinary orthopedic surgeon or a veterinarian certified in Rehabilitation.
- Potty issues: Difficulty walking and posturing, or pain from arthritis may cause your pet to hold their stool and urine for longer periods. When they do go outside abnormal posturing may cause them to not go as much as they should which can in turn cause them to need to go out more often Make an effort to let your dog go outside more often. Also, you can provide an area that is ‘ok’ for them to use to potty on in the home in case of an emergency. This will not only help them physically but also emotionally – because they KNOW they aren’t supposed to potty indoors. Puppy Pads near the door they are usually let out of, or artificial turf made for this purpose, make great choices. Remember though, as frustrating as accidents may be, do not punish your pet if they happen to have an accident in the house as it makes them as anxious as it does you.
- Litter boxes: Some litter boxes for cats and small dogs can have very high edges and your older pet may have difficulty jumping into them. Purchase a litter box that has lower sides or cut one side lower to help them get into and out of the box more comfortably. Also, older pets may struggle with sinking into the sandy surface so a thinner layer of litter can help them feel more stable. Providing more boxes throughout the house and making them easier to access will increase your success and help to decrease your pet’s anxiety. Litter pans and boxes should be placed on the same level of the house that the pet spends most of its time so they don’t have to climb stairs to get to them.
- Cats and Food bowls: Place the cat’s food bowl on the floor (barricade it from the dog(s) if necessary). Most cats do not show signs of arthritis – so if you see your cat’s appetite decrease try to make the food bowl more accessible and provide food in several places.
- Senility/Dementia: Signs of senility in aging pets include isolation, barking or howling at inappropriate times, staring into a corner or at a wall, inability to navigate through the house or difficulty remembering usual routines. As pets age, sight and hearing may also be impaired. A pet that becomes blind will still be able to navigate the household well as long as the furniture is not moved. With senility, the ability to navigate through the house may be more affected by memory and cognitive changes. Some medications, prescription diets, herbs, and acupuncture can help pets to be more comfortable if this occurs.
If you feel your pet(s) would benefit from medications that relieve inflammation and pain please let our doctors and staff know. Too many people do not see their veterinarian during their pet’s senior years because they do not think there is anything that can be done – however – there are MANY safe medications and at Belton Animal Clinic and Exotic Care Center we have many alternative modalities that allow pets to live more comfortably!