by Dr. Larry Siegler
We all dread the time when the inevitable signs of aging begin to appear in our
companion animals. In supporting your aging dog or cat, however, YOUR attitude and
expectations are important. Becoming stressed and upset at each new issue that arises
as your companion ages will not help them or you. Aging is a natural part of life,
and if we expect it, accept it, and prepare for it, it will be easier on you and
your best friend.
Geriatric animals will sleep more, be generally less aware of their surroundings,
and likely be less tolerant of cold than when they were younger. It is common for aging
pets to have increasing difficulty hearing and seeing. Older dogs are not able to
go for long hikes or run with their guardians as they have been accustomed to
doing. It can
be quite a dilemma for parents of aging dogs when deciding it may be time to leave a beloved hiking or
running companion at home.
When is your companion considered “geriatric”? Here’s a rough guideline:
Rather than becoming anxious about our companion’s declining abilities, we can
become proactive in preventing or delaying the onset of age-related disease. We
can also adjust our interactions with them rather than becoming frustrated by their
lack of hearing, poor eyesight or other disabilities. Adjusting our expectations
reduces stress for both guardian and companion.
Weight Management is of utmost importance in determining how
well your companion will age. Overweight dogs and cats are much more susceptible
to a variety of degenerative diseases at an earlier onset, such as joint stiffness
and arthritis, diabetes, heart and respiratory problems. While your friend may not
be able to play with as much vigor or endurance, or to go on those long hikes or runs,
exercise is still VERY important to their health.
Tooth Decay and Gum Disease are more common as an animal ages.
Proper dental care is a top priority in keeping your companion healthy into old
age. Please see our article, "
Dental Health Care for Your Companion," for tips and advice on keeping
your cat's or dog's mouth healthy.
Joint Stiffness and Arthritis are almost inevitable for our
aging companions. You can assist in a variety of ways, such as elevating water &
food bowls and providing a comfortable and well padded bed – but one that is not
so soft that it is difficult for them to get out of. Create steps or ramps to furniture
or other favorite resting places that your cat or dog can no longer reach on their
own. For a holistic approach to preventing and treating arthritis, please
see our article, "
Natural Alternatives for Arthritis & Joint Stiffness."
The incidence of Thyroid Disorders increases as animals age.
Cats are prone to hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), and dogs are more prone to
hypothyroid (underactive thyroid) problems. Treatment for hyperthyroid issues in
cats will depend on the age and overall health of the cat. Kidney disease
is frequently associated with treatment for hyperthyroidism in cats. Possible alternative
treatments include homeopathy and Chinese Herbal Medicine – both of which must be
guided by a qualified veterinarian, as the treatment is very specific to each individual
Diabetes is also more common in older animals. Changes
in diet and nutrition are often helpful, along with blood sugar support supplements such as Only Natural Pet Super Daily Greens or PetAlive GlucoEnsure for less advanced diabetes. Treatment for diabetes must
be guided by a qualified veterinarian. The key to preventing diabetes is proper
nutrition and weight control. Our article, "What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food," has further information
on this key health issue.
As our companions age, some form of Cognitive Decline is almost
inevitable. A cat my roam the house at night yowling and disrupting the household.
Dogs often pace and pant heavily – again, more frequently at night - and appear
frightened by some unseen threat. Many owners of geriatric animals go to their
circles under their eyes, bemoaning the lack of sleep in their household now that
their companion is keeping them up half the night.
There are a wide variety of supplements to help treat cognitive problems in aging
companions. I often recommend a supplement called Cholodin along with supportive
herbs or supplements appropriate for the individual such as:
Astra Essence from Health Concerns – a good general Chinese herbal tonic
that can help with cognitive decline and frequent urination.
For night time stress and fears:
It is often quite difficult to know which remedy will work for each companion.
The process of trial and error is frequently the only way to determine the best
combination for your animal. It is best to use a product for at least 2-3
weeks before deciding about its effectiveness (unless of course there are side effects,
which means any supplement should be stopped and a veterinarian consulted).
A very common and frustrating problem for aging pets is incontinence.
The kidneys are one of the most common organ systems to wear out in a cat or dog,
and as hormone imbalance affects the function of the kidneys and bladder, your companion
may have difficulty with urinary incontinence. She may simply not be able to hold
it as long as when she was younger, or urine may leak a bit while he sleeps at night. Excessive urination or incontinence may be indicative of a disease such as diabetes
or kidney failure, and a trip to the veterinarian is very important to determine
if either condition s present.
Take a look at Only Natural Pet Store's selection of natural products for kidney support.
Only Natural Pet Store offers a variety of products that can help with incontinence.
Again, there is no way to know which will work best for your individual dog or cat. Start with one and if you do not see signs of improvement in two to three weeks,
then try a different one. I often tend to start with Only Natural Pet Canine Bladder Control.
Herbal Tonics can be an excellent way to support a geriatric
animal’s system and overall health. These include:
Remember to adjust your expectations and keep stress levels low for your geriatric
friend. Lots of attention is still needed even if he or she shows less interest
than before. You will notice changes in his or her condition sooner if you are interacting
closely on a daily basis. You may find visits to your veterinarian become more frequent
as new issues arise during the twilight years. Working along with your veterinarian,
you can keep your companion as comfortable and healthy as possible as he or she
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