Geriatric & Senior Pet Services
At Belton Animal Clinic & Exotic Care Center, our team can provide a mixture of traditional medical management and alternative therapies to help your senior pet with mobility, pain management, and disease management. Our goal is to help your pet have the best quality of life possible for as long as possible.
Talk with our veterinarians and staff about signs of pain that accompany the disease process(es) from which your pet may be suffering:
- Pain Issues - Some of the most common signs of pain are heavy panting and pacing (particularly at nighttime), whining, growling, lying in an abnormal posture, decreased appetite, aggression and/or isolation. Anti-anxiety and/or pain medication, as well as alternative modalities listed above, may help him or her rest more soundly
- Appetite Issues - Many older pets will experience decreased appetites. High calorie, tasty foods like Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d may prompt appetite. To make them more palatable, canned foods can be warmed slightly and/or have warm water or low/no salt beef or chicken broth added. Adding warm water to the food also helps increase hydration levels in older pets. Digestive enzymes and probiotics may be helpful in allowing your pet to absorb nutrients better. We are able to prescribe appetite stimulants, and also offer acupuncture, which can help invigorate appetite and add to the general well-being of your pet.
- Mobility Issues - As pets age, they often have difficulty with walking, getting up and down from sleeping positions, and experience more frequent lameness issues. Pets who experience mobility issues may have difficulty urinating, having bowel movements, and interacting with family and housemates, which can make them anxious. You will want to do whatever you can to make him or her comfortable. There are many medications and treatment modalities to help reduce pain and inflammation that can adversely impact mobility. Our veterinarians at Belton Animal Clinic & Exotic Care Center can help you determine which medicines best suit your pet based on mobility issues present, age and other medical conditions your pet may have. Special joint and mobility diets and joint health supplements and products are also available.
- 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 he or she can get to easily. Providing multiple water bowls around the house will allow your pet to 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 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. Provide 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 and throat. For those with extreme difficulty walking, however, there are great harnesses available now that can give your pet a little bit of assistance. The ones with handles on them are particularly helpful as you 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 empty as much as they should, which can cause them to need to go out more often Frequent outdoor potty breaks, therefore, are an important necessity. 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 placed near the door from which he or she is usually let out, or artificial turf made for this purpose, make great choices. Remember though, as frustrating as accidents may be, do not punish your pet for an accident in the house as it only increases anxiety.
- 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 him or her 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 his or her time so climbing stairs is not necessary.
- Cats and Food bowls: Elevate the cat’s food bowl so he or she need not bend, and be sure to place it in an easily accessible location 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 convenient 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. 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.
- Sight/Hearing: 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.
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 & Exotic Care Center we have many alternative modalities that allow pets to live more comfortably!