If your senior pet could talk, I’m sure they would have a lot to say! There would be many memories and experiences to reminisce about, many likes and dislikes to express, and many feelings to share as well.
During senior pet month, I encourage people to ask themselves what their pets would tell them if they could talk. Being a veterinarian, I am able to understand body language that they show to communicate with me. I can tell if they are sore or scared or unhappy or feeling ill, even when they are trying their best to hide it. This is a learned skill that the average person doesn’t have, and that I am still honing as I continue in my career as a veterinarian.
Through my experience with senior animals, especially through my own experience with my 17 year old German Shepherd cross “Keesha” (whom I loved dearly), here are some things I think that your senior pets would want you to know if they could talk:
- If your senior pet could talk, they would want you to know how they show pain. They would want you to know that they are not slowing down so much because they are “just old”. They want you to understand that slowing down, not grooming properly, not wanting to walk as far, being grumpier than usual, not eating well and not being as social are likely signs that they are arthritic or painful and needing some pain control. We can help you to ease their discomfort with natural remedies as well as medication!
- If your senior pet could talk, they would tell you that they want to live as long as possible. They would want you to do everything in your power to keep them healthy and happy. They want you to have them in to see the vet (even though it might not be their favorite place in the world) so that they can be checked out internally and externally by a doctor. They want you to have their blood and urine checked for diseases that can be treated or managed, and they want you to have their blood pressure checked to monitor them for high blood pressure which may be causing them headaches and fatigue.
- If your senior pet could talk, they would say that being around young animals or young humans can be fun and invigorating, but it can also be scary. Young animals may be too much energy for them and can cause them pain if they are insisting on playing aggressively or for a long period of time. Human kids can be very similar, and human kids don’t understand body language of animals, so they can’t even tell them when they’ve had enough…that’s the scary part.
- If your senior pet could talk, they would tell you that they don’t want you to feed them the latest “fad” food. They would tell you that they want you to feed them a high quality diet specially made for SENIOR pets over the age of 7 years that is backed by science. They would remind you that you wouldn’t feed your elderly grandmother the same thing as your toddler for proper nutrition and that often pet foods that aren’t formulated specifically for seniors have way too much protein, carbohydrates, and calories. They would tell you that if they are off their food or not eating as well it may mean that their food is overwhelming, that their mouths are sore from dental disease, or that something else is wrong. They would ask you to consider adding a canned food to their diet as well to keep them hydrated and to keep their diet easy to digest, and they would want you to talk to their doctor about their diet and any issues they may be having with their appetite, because enjoying their food is a huge part of their quality of life. Also, they would say thank you for the years of delicious, well balanced, nutritious food 🙂
- If your senior pet could talk, they would ask you to listen to them. They would ask you to make a list of all the things that they love to do and keep it close. They would ask you to look out for them and to evaluate their quality of life regularly, through looking at that list as well as taking them to be examined by the vet. They would ask you to be strong in making the decision that they are no longer enjoying their life, and they would remind you that you have done all that you can to help them. They would tell you that just because they are still eating that doesn’t mean that they are enjoying their life and not suffering, so don’t use this to judge their overall quality of life. They would tell you that it’s OK to make the decision to allow them to die with dignity through humane euthanasia, and they would want you to know that they understand if you cry or can’t bear to be there with them when they are crossing the Rainbow Bridge. They know you love them.
Finally, and most importantly, if your senior pet could talk, they would tell you that they have unconditional love for you, and they know you have the same for them. They would tell you that you are their whole world, their protector, and their leader. They would tell you that they are thankful for you and your love, and that they wouldn’t change a thing.
So, during December Senior Pet Month, and really every month of the year, think about what your pet would tell you if they could. It can really strengthen their relationship with you and it will keep them happy and healthy. As always, as veterinarians, we are here to help to be the translator between you and your pets, and we are more than happy to help them and you out in any way that we can. We want your pets to live FOREVER…but since that can’t happen…we will settle for allowing them to live as healthy as possible for as long as possible, because they add so much joy to our lives!
Dr. Christine Nawas, BSc, DVM
Erin Mills Pet Hospital
©Erin Mills Pet Hospital