Losing a treasured pet is a difficult experience, and making the decision to end the suffering of that family member can be truly excruciating. Pet owners ask me frequently how to know when the time has come to say goodbye. While this discussion is a sad part of my job, I believe helping with this transition is one of the most important parts of my service to pets and their families. This article is about making an informed—but not premature– decision with all the information and options available to the family.
Many of us are fortunate to have a senior dog in our lives. Through good preventative care, healthy diet and exercise, and abundant love, our pets our living longer and longer lives. But with age we see more problems, and pet owners sometimes struggle with providing a good quality of life for these old guys. And if we’re honest, our own quality of life can diminish with a pet who needs constant care. We want to make the right decisions for our friend who trusts us to take care of them. Sometimes what looks like the end of the road is really just a bump in the road. Medicines and treatments, both western and alternative, can bring back a good quality of life for our senior dogs.
A huge concern for pet parents is mobility for their senior dog. We call it “old age,” but simply being old doesn’t make one sick or immobile. Pain is a big component of mobility issues. Hip arthritis, spinal arthritis, muscle atrophy and many other conditions cause the slow down. Many anti-inflammatory medications and cartilage protectors are on the market which can bring significant pain relief. Alternative treatments such as acupuncture, cold laser therapy, chiropractic treatment and herbal supplements can also be very effective either with traditional medicines or by alone. Sometimes an older dog can’t tolerate the anti-inflammatories because of other medical problems, and that’s where treatments like acupuncture can be highly effective. Many options exist that can extend quality of life.
Another serious problem in older dogs is incontinence. It can be very frustrating to have an animal who eliminates inappropriately throughout the house. Many times this is the problem that becomes the last straw for the pet owner. Most of the conditions that cause either urinary or fecal incontinence can be treated. It is important to determine the original cause, and then medicines may be available to stop or slow down the problem. Fecal incontinence is often associated with pain, so acupuncture and chiropractic treatments can be very effective. You don’t have to suffer along with your pet. Get some help!
So, if your senior dog is slowing down and having some health issues, don’t despair. I have seen dogs’ lives extended by years with proper diagnosis and treatment of their ailments. Nobody dies of “old age.” The best gift we can give our old dog is a good life and a peaceful end. When that time comes, you can be sure that you have given your friend a wonderful life, and that is a blessing for you both.
Dr. Beth Hampton Jones is a veterinarian. She owns Animal Acupuncture and Wellness Clinic, 959 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC. 828-450-0851. www.ashevilleanimalacupuncture.com