When we adopt a cute little puppy or kitten, we generally are not thinking that at some point that puppy or kitten is going to become a senior citizen and require special care and pampering. But, the fact is dogs and cats have a much shorter life span than their human companions.
When you open your heart and home to a puppy or kitten life will never be the same. They become your babies, your companions, and your confidants. And, their care and welfare is a big part of what it takes to be an awesome pet owner. Our pets depend upon us to be the most important part of their lives until they have to say goodbye and move on to a new plane of existence. I wish more people would consider the long term consequences attached to owning a pet. It's always sad when an older pet is put out to pasture just because they require more time and effort.
Of course, sometimes a pet companion comes to us in other ways. There are hundreds of older dogs and cats that still need forever homes. Adopting an older animal is more of a challenge, but the love you will get back in return is well worth the effort involved. I once adopted 19 year old twin cats and I have never once regretted the decision. There lived to be 20 and 22 respectively. They were the gentlest and most loving little boys with which I have ever had the pleasure of sharing my heart and home.
Most big dogs are considered elderly at 7 or 8 years of age, medium sized dogs by 12 and small dogs around 14. 13 is old for a cat.
Here are a few tips that may help pet owners make their older furry companion more comfortable and happy. I am not a veterinarian, but I have been honored to share my home with more than a few dozen feline and canine friends. And, there are the main concerns I have encountered with my aging population.
- Watch for danger signals such as excessive thirst or urination, lumps under the skin, fatigue and coughing, and clouding of the eyes. If any of these symptoms persist beyond a week, it may be a good idea to take your pet for a check up.
- Keep your pet's water bowl filled. Animals tend to drink more as kidney function increases with age.
- Soften dry food with water or broth for easier chewing. But.. don't switch to a geriatric pet food unless your vet advises that you should make the change in diet. Two or three small meals a day are best.
- Supervise your pet outdoors. Hearing and vision loss make your older pets a lot more vulnerable.
- Don't make an older pet sleep outdoors. Arthritis and poor circulation make him or her suffer more from the cold.
- Schedule twice a year veterinary visits. Many diseases that older pets are inclined to suffer can be eased if treated early.
- And most of all, be understanding. Your older pet deserves patience and lots of love and affection for the many years of companionship and affection with which he or she has blessed you.
Saying goodbye to an older pet is one of the most difficult moments of our lives. They have often graced our lives through our most challenging moments. They are by our sides when we begin and end relationships, move to new places, start new jobs and new families, and begin our own aging process. But, they will always have a forever home in our hearts and memories.