Is your senior pet enjoying life? This is a critical question to answer to ensure your pet doesn’t suffer. As your pet ages, they are at higher risk for serious health complications that can negatively affect their quality of life. Our Wales Animal Clinic team wants to offer some guidelines to help you assess your senior pet’s quality of life. 

Assess your pet’s pain level and ability to breathe

No one wants their pet to be in pain, but certain conditions, such as osteoarthritis and cancer, can be uncomfortable or painful. Pets tend to conceal signs of vulnerability, and as a pet owner, you must learn to recognize pain signs in your pet. Factors to evaluate include:

  • Activity level — Pets in pain are typically less active than usual. They may hide or seek comfort and attention. 
  • Mobility issues — Pets in pain may be reluctant or unable to jump on or off surfaces or navigate stairs. They may be stiff or they may limp after sitting or lying down, and they may be restless and have difficulty finding a comfortable position when resting.
  • Physical signs — Physical signs indicating pain include tight or twitching muscles, shaking, arched back, panting, and holding their head below their shoulders.
  • Behavioral changes — Pets in pain may exhibit behavioral changes, such as aggression, poor grooming habits, excessive vocalization, excessive licking, and not wanting to be touched. 
  • Ability to breathe — A pet’s ability to breathe is an important aspect of their quality of life. Signs of difficulty breathing include exaggerated abdominal movements when breathing, panting excessively, and noisy breathing. 

If you are giving your pet medications to control their pain, monitor their response to ensure it is well managed. This is important because you need to know if these measures become ineffective. 

Assess your pet’s ability to eat

Your pet needs adequate nutrition to remain healthy and sustain their life. If a condition such as kidney disease or cancer causes them to feel nauseated, they may not eat. In addition, some conditions may make eating difficult. If your pet is unable or unwilling to eat, options to consider include:

  • Anti-nausea medications — Ask our veterinary professionals if anti-nausea medication can improve your pet’s appetite.
  • Multiple options — Provide several food options to entice your pet to eat.
  • Hand feeding — Some pets are more willing to eat if you feed them by hand.
  • Feeding tube — If your pet isn’t able to eat properly, our veterinary team may recommend placing a feeding tube to ensure their nutritional needs are met. 

Assess your pet’s hydration status

Diseases such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, vomiting, and diarrhea that increase water loss can result in dehydration, which can lead to other health complications like multi-organ dysfunction and cardiac arrhythmias. Ways to assess your pet’s hydration status include:

  • Tenting your pet’s skin — Lift the skin between your pet’s shoulder blades to form a tent and release. A hydrated pet’s skin will immediately snap back into place, but a dehydrated pet’s skin will slowly return to a normal position. 
  • Checking your pet’s gums — Your pet’s gums should be wet and glossy. If their gums are sticky or dry to the touch, they may be dehydrated.
  • Observing your pet’s urine — Your pet’s urine should be light yellow in color. Dark colored urine may indicate dehydration.

If your pet is unable to drink enough to maintain hydration, they may require subcutaneous fluids to prevent dehydration.

Assess your pet’s hygiene

Pets who are in pain or who don’t feel well frequently stop grooming themselves adequately. In addition, bedridden pets must be kept clean and dry to prevent bedsores and skin infections. Consider your pet’s ability to groom themselves as well as your ability to keep them brushed and clean. 

Assess your pet’s happiness

Questions to consider to determine if your pet is happy include:

  • Does your pet express joy and interest in their favorite activities?
  • Is your pet responsive to their family and toys?
  • Does your pet seem to enjoy being petted?
  • Does your pet exhibit anxiety or seem depressed?

Assess your pet’s mobility

If your pet has a condition that limits their mobility, you must be willing to provide assistance and care to ensure their needs are met. Factors to consider include:

  • Hygiene — Accidents are likely to happen if your pet has mobility issues, and your pet must be cleaned and dried as soon as possible to prevent skin wounds and infections.
  • Elimination — If your pet isn’t able to move, you must be able and willing to provide assistance to help them urinate and defecate.
  • Eating and drinking — Ensure food and water bowls are accessible for your pet, and ensure they can remain in an upright position when they are eating and drinking to prevent aspiration pneumonia.
  • Mobility assistance — Consider using a harness or a cart to help your pet move around more easily.

Determine if your pet has more bad days than good

When your pet starts having more bad days than good, you should consult our veterinary professionals to discuss a plan for humane euthanasia to ensure your pet doesn’t suffer needlessly. 

Being able to knowledgeably assess your senior pet’s quality of life will help ensure they are able to maintain a good day-to-day life experience for as long as possible. If you are concerned about your pet’s quality of life, contact our Wales Animal Clinic team so we can help evaluate their situation.