By Karin Krisher
Aging pets are on a lot of owners’ minds lately, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise: The American Veterinary Medical Association’s 2006 data show that 31 percent of pet-owning households had pets ages 11 or older, a 25 percent increase since 1987.
These data reflect the power of better medical procedures and humanity’s lifespan growth spurt. The veterinary profession has kept up with (and perhaps in some ways caused) this phenomenon by delegating specialists to areas like geriatric or hospice care.
But for those of you who have worked hard to maintain a general practice or are committed to your long term clients and their long term pets, there are steps you can take and some advice you can offer to make the aging process smooth for everyone involved.
How to Care for Aging Pets
1. Supplementation. We’re obviously proponents of proper diet and exercise for all animals (ourselves included!) but nutrition is comprehensive, and supplementation can support overall health in a way your clients might not believe until they see it. Our most popular products to support senior pets include Canine Plus Senior, Nu Cat Senior and Glyco-Flex Stages.
2. Understanding pet aging and cognitive decline. Tell your clients about how pet aging and human aging are similar. Placing the facts about potential cognitive and physical decline in this analogous context will help owners better understand and relate to what their pet may be experiencing, and to react appropriately.
3. Exercise is always important. This one is self-explanatory. It doesn’t matter how old you get—activity matters. Of course, that activity shouldn’t be expected to hold an energetic candle to an animals’ former activity—but it should still exist, just adapted for the senior pet.
4. Physical therapy can be beneficial. While this advice may lead you to a referral, it can also encourage your clients to come back to you for more advice and follow-ups—never a bad thing.
5. Don’t take end-of-life decisions lightly. Pet owners, as you know, want to let their pets’ lives to end (when they must) in peace. Offering in-home euthanasia for your long term clients might be a practical way to allow them to experience their pet’s aging process without worrying about its eventualities.
However you choose to address a pet’s aging, be sure all of your clients understand how important it is to maintain health throughout their animals’ lives, so that the conclusion can be just as pleasure-packed as the middle chapters.