Or – “Isn’t my pet too old for surgery?” (Or a dental cleaning, treatment for illness, treatment for arthritis, or anything else…) It seems to be human nature, and very easy for pet owners to explain changes in pet behavior due to age. While it’s common for pet owners to be concerned about the age of their dog or cat, age does not preclude treatment for any health concern. When we humans are 90 years old, we will not be refused medical care, instead we will be treated with extra care; our healthcare providers will take extra precautions to be sure that geriatrics survive medical intervention.

The same is true for our pets. An aged dog will have more benefit from removing rotten teeth than from avoiding anesthesia. A senior cat with frequent urination will benefit greatly from herbal treatments and energy work to reduce the clinical signs associated with arthritis.

Again, it is human nature to treat fragile, senior pets with a hands off approach. This does not help the elderly. Just as elderly humans have great benefit from mental and physical stimulation, so do our pets. An elderly dog who is running into chairs and getting stuck in the corner needs increasing amounts of touch and more interaction, not less.

When it comes time to consider the benefits and risk of anesthesia and surgical procedures, the best question to ask is not “will my dog/cat survive?” But rather “will my dog/cat suffer more if we do not perform the procedure?”

When I was in private practice, dental procedures were most likely to be skipped in fear of loss during surgery. For the pet owners who decided to go ahead with a dental procedure, they found was their pets felt better than they had in months, or years, because the rotten teeth that were making them feel so bad we’re finally removed.

Canine Fitness is a new exercise and rehabilitation service that helps dogs of all ages feel and move better. Regardless of the age, once a dog is fully grown, a canine fitness provider will evaluate the skills and abilities of the dog to design a custom program to help what that dog needs. For geriatric dogs, exercises maybe as simple as those designed to keep a dog moving – walking, trotting, sitting and gentle balance may be enough. The adage “use it or lose it” applies for elderly pets as well as anybody else and society.

The other great thing about both canine fitness and continuing to perform medical procedures in spite of age is that the pet is less likely to gain weight from laying around. Studies show that overweight pets experience shorter lifespans – on the order of 2 1/2 years shorter for overweight dogs as compared to the physically fit.

Age is not a disease. Age is something we will all encounter and we each will need special considerations how to age gracefully and healthfully – regardless of our species.

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