We live in a society that is changing, with seniors making up a larger part of the population every day, and the same is true for our pet community.
One of the biggest factors in extending our pets’ lives is the kind of food we feed them. Nutritional products available today are better than they have ever been, and our animals are benefitting from that. But sometimes these products can actually hurt certain pets if not used appropriately.
"Senior" foods are generally designed with a lower fat level and calorie count than a regular formulation. These are to compensate for the lower activity levels of older animals, which can be appropriate in most cases. But in some cases, low-fat, low-calorie diets can actually harm a pet. Just like people, some need more calories either because they eat less or their systems have a harder time getting nutrition out of their food.
In people, we would give them Ensure or Boost to increase their nutrition. For pets, keeping them on a regular adult food may be enough, but in extreme cases, if the pet is having a problem maintaining weight, a puppy food can work great. And if they don’t seem interested in eating, you can stimulate their appetite with either canned or frozen raw foods added to their kibble or used instead of kibble.
Longer lifespans means dealing with pet health issues our parents didn’t have to deal with. It used to be that when a pet got old and sick, the decision to have them put down was pretty easy. Now we’re faced with decisions about treatment options that weren’t available before. And we’re left to make the decision of when to make the call, when it is time to say goodbye.
I’ve had to deal with this twice in my life. My first dog, DeeDee, had multiple tumours. Chemo and surgery could have extended her life. But her faculties had diminished to the point that she was barking at nothing, was not aware of what was going on around her, and she was in pain.
Now, our Zoe is suffering from congestive heart disease. One minute she’s doing great. and the next, she can’t catch her breath. With her meds balanced, she has been having more good days than bad, but we know this won’t last forever. When the time comes, we will make the decision based on what is best for Zoe, so that she will not suffer just so we can have her with us.
She’s been too good a friend to let her suffer.