“Pets age faster than we do,” said Dr. Nanette Kleinman of Heights Animal Hospital (216-371-1400, owned by Judith Wolf). “People often don’t realize how fast their pets are aging.” Kleinman suggests getting annual checkups for aging pets, so that health issues can be discovered and treated early. Pets with diseases or illnesses should be checked more frequently.
Pets’ survival instincts will often cause them to hide their symptoms. Checkups are sometimes the only way to find out if something is wrong. However, if you notice any changes in your pet’s appearance or behavior, such as weight loss, increased thirst or urination, lethargy, pacing, moodiness, or sensitivity to touch, take your pet to the vet right away.
Your pets’ food may also need to be adjusted as they age. Caloric needs can change, and pets with medical conditions may need special food to help support them. Your vet can assess your pet’s nutritional needs as part of the checkup. Make sure to keep your pet at a healthy weight. Excess weight can aggravate older joints and cause other health problems.
Also make sure that you or someone else grooms your pet regularly. This helps keep the skin and coat healthy and the nails trim. While grooming, you can check for parasites as well as changes to the skin, coat, teeth, eyes, nose and ears.
Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage and Reiki, can provide pain relief as well as treatment for undesirable behaviors. Cleveland Veterinary Acupuncture (CVA, 216-374-0120) and Loving Hands Reiki (216-408-5578), both based in Cleveland Heights, make house calls to provide alternative therapies for pets.
“Alternative medicine provides relief without side effects” said Dr. Julie Sheil of CVA. “It can often help when symptoms are not resolving through traditional western medicine.”
You can also modify your home environment to help your pet age more comfortably and safely. Pets who are in pain or have stiff joints benefit from a comfortable bed. Keep beds and toys on the first floor if your pet is having difficulty using stairs. Baby gates help keep pets from falling down stairs, and can keep pets with weak bladders away from carpeted areas. If it is difficult for you to walk your dog, consider fencing your backyard and installing a doggy door. You can have a handyman build a ramp or steps to help your pet get on and off furniture that they are allowed to use. Also, your aging pet may need to be reminded when it is time to eat or go to the bathroom.
Because puppies and kittens often get adopted before older animals, there are many senior pets in need of loving homes. If you are interested in adopting a pet, and are physically and financially able to do so, please contact the Sanctuary for Senior Dogs at 216-485-9233, or Caroline’s Kids (a sanctuary for senior cats) at 440-449-3496.
Your vet can help you make humane decisions when your pet nears the end of his or her lifespan. “At home, we often can’t do the kind of pain management the pet needs to live comfortably,” said Kleinman. When it is time, your vet can help you make decisions about euthanasia so that your pet does not suffer. JoyCares (216-281-8701), a mobile pet care company, makes house calls to provide hospice and end-of-life services.