We know that caring for a geriatric pet is often very difficult not only physically but emotionally. All too often senior dogs and cats are not being seen by their primary veterinarian (us) because you as the care givers simply don't know that there are many simple options to help manage the signs of aging (like panting/pacing at night, mobility issues, smelly skin, etc). We, as your pets veterinarians, have many tools that can help during this time - like pain management, anxiety control, and ideas for environmental stimulation and safety.
The Geriatric Questionnaire below will help guide you when evaluating your pet to see if there are underlying signs that you may have not even thought about. Feel free to download this Geriatric Questionnaire
, fill it out and share it with us as your pets other best friends....
Because we often have caregivers reach out to us and say, "I don't think it's time" we feel that this is a call for our help as your fur baby (and you) may be struggling, but things are not bad enough to say goodbye. We can help you by referring a home-based consultation and quality of life evaluation through our valuable veterinary resource Lap of Love (www.lapoflove.com
). Or we can schedule some time at ahc with Dr. Breitstein who can help, guide, and provide some valuable resources for the grey muzzle and frail feline crowd and, just as importantly, to you, their loving families.
"My heart tightens as I watch her 'spaghetti legs' quiver as she drinks happily at her bowl and washes down her dinner. The menu tonight was …'whatever she wants'. It's only a matter of time when the chapter of my story with Serissa ends abruptly and the companion that acted as my shadow for 14.5 years will leave my world. The thought brings tears to my eyes and that pesky lump to my throat.
"Hey baby girl, you want to go outside?!" I say in the sweetest voice I can muster up and she looks at me with adoration, wags her pathetically haired tail and gives me a weak and croaky "BARK" as if to say 'Heck yeah!' Serissa navigates the bathmats that I laid down for her and struts to the door like a runway model. At one time she was a majestic beauty of a Samoyed and even worked as a therapy dog in nursing homes - now she was a thin-patchy haired, skinny, old girl with hot garbage breath. She was a frail geriatric herself.
But, before we could get to the door, she pops a squat and urinates on the bathmat. In past years, this would be a naughty thing, but today, I could care less! Her legs quiver harder and she almost tumbles over. She finds her balance, quickly finishes, and Serissa's thoughts go back to being outside with mom. Nothing brings more joy to my face than seeing her sweet face turn to look at me as if to say, 'You coming?'
I was taught many things in veterinary school but dealing with an aging and terminally ill pet was left out of the classroom lectures. In fact, most of the textbooks we read and lectures we sat through didn't cover the process of aging and death. Instead, we were taught the mantra that 'Old age is not a disease'! But, aging does change quality of life for the pet and the owner. We did discuss senior wellness and preventative medicine but really digging into why the body ages and what happens as things fall apart wasn't covered in detail.
Below is an excerpt from a geriatric textbook written by Dr. Mary Gardner.
Fourteen and a half years seemed to have flown by as I laid next to Serissa and snuggled with her one last time while she drifted off to a peaceful sleep. Her presence in my heart will always remain. I will miss that smile, her smell, the scratching on the wall as she ran in her sleep, and even that whining in the middle of the night as her mind became more confused with cognitive impairments. How blessed I was to have such a wonderful companion who was with me through veterinary school and would bring joy to me in a millisecond. Caring for her as she aged was extremely difficult on me financially, physically and emotionally but I would do it for 20 more years if possible. Although terribly missed, thoughts of her now only bring a smile to my face.
Serissa's story lives on throughout my work where her conditions and experiences helped me to further research and dig deeper into the body system. I'm sure she is smiling, too, with her geriatric cohorts, as they realize that their experiences will offer insight to the veterinary community and ease the distress of pet owners when dealing with their pet's twilight years.'