Maintain and Assess Your Senior Pet’s Quality of Life
The human-animal bond is powerful, and if your pet is a senior, the connection you share opens your heart in amazing ways. Puppies and kittens love with an energetic and child-like innocence. In contrast, a senior pet’s love is steady and comfortable, full of accumulated wisdom, and visible in each silver hair—an everlasting, unconditional closeness. However, you may feel a bittersweet twinge as you begin to consider that your pet’s life is ebbing. Our Staples Mill Animal Hospital team understands the difficulty of watching your pet age and having to make end-of-life decisions for them. Read our four tips to learn how to maintain and assess your senior pet’s quality of life (QOL).
#1: Schedule regular senior pet wellness exams
As your pet ages, their care needs change as well, and your veterinarian performs your senior cat’s or dog’s examinations with these transformations in mind. By identifying disease signs in the earliest stages, your veterinarian can treat your beloved companion before their condition progresses. Of course, not every age-related condition can be prevented, and through regular wellness care, your veterinarian can help you manage your pet’s chronic conditions—such as arthritis—while keeping your furry friend comfortable. Because pets age more rapidly than humans, senior pets require close monitoring, including frequent exams (e.g., twice per year) and lab work (e.g., blood work, urinalysis).
#2: Monitor your senior pet’s weight
As your pet ages, their weight becomes increasingly important to their overall health. Excess weight significantly stresses your pet’s body, which can cause or worsen arthritis. In addition, overweight and obese pets have a high risk for cancer, diabetes, respiratory problems, endocrine and metabolic disorders, and kidney failure. Weigh your pet regularly, and if their weight begins trending up or down, schedule a veterinary exam, because your senior cat or dog may have an underlying condition.
#3: Identify behavior changes in your pet
Pets are skilled at hiding their pain, but as their pain increases, behavioral changes are likely to occur. Your pet may be in pain if they display any of the following behaviors:
- Lameness or limping
- Reluctance to walk, sit, or jump
- Increased irritability
- Difficulty using stairs
- Appetite loss
- Body posture changes
- Excessive licking of one body area
If your senior pet displays any of these behaviors, schedule an appointment with our Staples Mill Animal Hospital team, so we can determine the cause, and relieve your pet’s pain.
#4: Calculate your pet’s quality of life score
You may have difficulty objectively assessing your pet’s QOL. However, by using a QOL scale—a helpful at-home survey tool—you can regularly assess your senior pet’s QOL, and track their health status and mood over time. A QOL scale considers your pet’s essential health elements—such as their pain, appetite, mobility, and energy levels. Assess your senior pet’s QOL by evaluating the following seven factors:
- Hurt — Evaluate your pet’s pain level and breathing ability. Is their pain well-managed? Is their breathing labored?
- Hunger — Consider your pet’s eating habits. Are they getting their daily nutrients? Are they able to feed themselves? Will they eat from your hand? Do they need a feeding tube?
- Hydration — Assess your pet’s fluid intake. Are they able to drink enough water throughout the day? If not, are you able to administer subcutaneous fluids?
- Hygiene — Observe your pet’s hygiene habits and appearance. Are they able to groom themselves appropriately? If not, are you able to keep them clean and dry?
- Happiness — Reflect on what brings your pet joy. Do they express interest and enthusiasm? Do they respond to family members and toys?
- Mobility — Evaluate your pet’s ability to move independently. Can they get around without assistance? If not, can you move them when they need help getting up or down, or going to relieve themselves?
- More good days than bad — As you track your senior pet’s QOL score, you will observe when they start having more bad days than good.
The time we have with our pets seems to go by in a blink of an eye. Savor every moment with your senior pet, focus on their QOL, and commit to preventing their prolonged pain and suffering. Support your beloved companion’s health by scheduling a senior pet wellness exam with our Staples Mill Animal Hospital team.