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Judging the quality of life of older pets

Nadine Lober /Special to the Daily

More questions answered about the life our our pets:

My dog is getting older and can’t get around as well. How do I know if he is suffering? And what can I do for him?

Unfortunately, our pets do not live the extended life that humans do.



Consequently, if you are a pet lover like me and can’t think of living without a dog or cat, you adopt a new pet every time your old one passes away. I wish that they lived as long as we do, but they don’t and it is the saddest moment when you have to say goodbye.

As your senior pet ages, he will exhibit various symptoms of old age: trouble getting up and moving around; if he has heart problems, then he may be coughing a lot or have breathing problem; or if he has kidney failure, then he may feel nauseated or dehydrated. This are just a few symptoms of the diseases of aging.



Pain in a dog can be hard to detect, but here are a few symptoms that you can look for. First of all, some dogs, when in pain, will not want to eat or move around. But some labs will eat no matter what, so we need to look for other signs.

Another common sign is shaking or shivering. If your dog stands there and shakes or is laying down and shaking without a reason, then he may be in pain.

Panting is another common sign of pain so try to make sure your dog isn’t panting for other reasons. Older dogs tend to have some lung issues – such as thickening of the bronchii – that will cause excessive panting.



Once you have treated these possible problems associated with pain and your dog is still not improving or is still in pain then there is the inevitable question, “When is it time to put my dog to sleep?”

Lately, I have been asked the question “When is it time to say goodbye to my old dog? Have I done everything possible to keep him alive and happy?

This is not an easy question, but I will try to help in the decision making.

No veterinarian can tell you what to do. You are the owner, who has spent the dog’s life loving him and caring for him. Your veterinarian can only tell you if your pet is suffering, if his problem is treatable and what the outcome of treatment might be.

If the owner is still unsure of what to do, then I, as the veterinarian, may even say what I would do if it were my dog in that situation. The most important thing to ask yourself at this point is “What is the quality of my pet’s life right now?” and “Am I keeping him alive because I can’t say goodbye?”

These are two important questions and here are a few points that might help you determine if your pet’s quality of life is deteriorating: when your pet can’t get up to go urinate or defecate and starts to do this right where he is laying down; when he doesn’t get up to go eat his meals; when he doesn’t seem happy to see you and can’t get up to greet you; when he is losing weight and strength; and when a treatment fails to help anymore.

I have had to put many animals to sleep and it is the hardest thing to do, but remember that you are ending the suffering state of a loved one. How often in life we see our family or friends suffering in the hospital because in our society, we have to do everything to keep them alive.

Should I get a new puppy while my older pet is still alive? Or wait ?

If your senior dog is still able to get around and a new puppy won’t make the last few weeks or months of your senior pet miserable then by all means, get a puppy.

Sometimes it even gives some renewed life to your older pet, but make sure that your older pet is strong enough to fend off the puppy. If you have an old dog with severe arthritis that has trouble getting around, then a youthful puppy might worsen this condition by trying to play with him

Also you need to think if your older pet would accept a new pet or if it would upset him. Most of the time an older dog will put the puppy in his place and not let him play too hard.

These are all issues to consider and keep your older dog’s happiness in mind to make his life comfortable.

Dr. Nadine Lober can be reached at 949-7972.


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