Submitted by Beth Massey
Office Manager at Case Veterinary Hospital
Several things occurred to me as I watched my 9 year old great dane amble slowly out into the yard this morningâ€¦ all five of my â€śkidsâ€ť are now considered either senior or geriatric. Consequently, our morning and before bed routines have lengthened considerably.
This year I find myself having to wake up at least 20 minutes earlier than my normal time before work so that I can dole out supplements, medications, special foods and also so that I can make sure everyone is eating and drinking as they should be. As I come down the stairs, all four cats are in their normal â€śspotsâ€ť waiting on their morning feeding and medications. Lola the dog is still curled up asleep in her bed sweetly oblivious to the fact that I have loudly shut the door and entered the room. This is due to her recent (old age) auditory decline. I gently pet her until she opens her eyes, yawns and stretches looking at me expectantly for the start of her own morning routine. I slip on her orthopedic boot in preparation for her outing. My husband and I intentionally bought a house with no outdoor steps so that we might make her daily treks outside a little more tolerable seeing as how her joints are starting to deceive her. As I dutifully count out her pills and supplements and stuff them in to Pill PocketsÂ®, her eyes grow wide and drool slowly starts to drip from her graying mouth and jowls. She snaps them out of the air as I flip them to her and I hear her gulp them down with satisfaction knowing that these daily modifications and medications are helping her get through her day to day. We are both slowly learning to adjust to her geriatric status with the small changes needed to ensure her daily comfort.
A couple of months ago during one of our morning routines, I noticed our senior cat Sushi was having trouble getting his stout little body in and out of a high sided litter box. It never occurred to me that his older knee injury and back injury could be causing problems with his normal daily â€śpotty scheduleâ€ť. I went out that same day to purchase a low sided litter box which is now his favorite. Per his doctorâ€™s direction, we also started him on daily oral joint supplements and a weight loss plan which have seemed to make him more comfortable and a lot more mobile. I was surprised to learn that feline osteoarthritis is a lot more common than anyone thought. Now, for the first time ever, Sushi and Lola have something in common in their old age.
Why do I happily get up earlier every morning (this coming from an avid lover of sleep)? Because I enjoy seeing them thrive with my attention, and because I owe it to them. Having a pet is a bit like honoring a marriage. The phrases â€śTill death do us partâ€ť and â€śIn sickness and in healthâ€ť come to mind when thinking about why we happily part with our hard earned money for veterinary care, medications and special food for our senior pets. It is more important than ever to be aware of subtle changes in a senior petâ€™s health and to alert their doctor to those changes. They age at a much faster rate than we do, so the importance of bi annual exams and blood work screening become imperative to lengthening their life. They give us so much and ask for nothing in return. It is up to us to make sure we are adjusting to their â€śSeniorâ€ť schedules and needs just as we would with our two-legged family members.