Holistic Pet Care
Caring for your older dogs, cats and other animals
by The HolisticVetOnline
Nowadays, dogs and cats are living longer due to better nutrition, health care, improved welfare and often improved breeding. However, as with humans, we are seeing more degenerative diseases such as arthritis, heart conditions, cancer, bowel and teeth problems and also mental problems.
Prevention is the ideal way to manage these problems and an annual check-up with your holistic veterinarian can catch problems at an early stage. It is never too late to start improving your elderly pet’s comfort and quality of life. Start at home by providing a soft, warm, clean bed. Cats and dogs often fail to groom themselves adequately in old age. This may be due to arthritis that restricts the movements needed to reach the back or hind legs, or it may be due to the mental loss of recognition by the animal that self grooming is required. You need to step in as the carer and wash, dry and comb as needed. Don’t forget flea prevention, as fleas tend to infest weaker animals.
Feeding needs to be altered to help specific health problems and to prevent weight gain due to decreased activity. Feed smaller amounts in several small meals. A good quality protein is essential. I like to see animals on a raw, natural diet but some older animals cannot cope with this and may need food warmed or lightly cooked to help them digest it. Warmed food can help those who chill easily and constantly want to sit on top of the heater. Avoid feeding commercially prepared dry and tinned food.
The stomach, spleen, liver and gall bladder become sluggish with age and a digestive enzyme tablet may be needed to assist with food digestion so that full benefit is obtained from food.
Don’t feed too many bones if your dog or cat is prone to constipation. Adding up to 2-3 tablespoons of unprocessed bran to the diet in addition to the feeding of high fibre dates, prunes or pumpkin may help to soften bowel motions. You could also increase the amount of vegetables that you feed.
Mineral and Vitamin Supplements
Health improvement can often be achieved by adding selected supplements to the diet. This helps if the diet is unbalanced. It also helps if the digestion is poor and if there are increased requirements due to health problems or environmental pollution. There are a number of preparations specifically available for dogs and cats and your nearest holistic veterinary clinic can advise which are appropriate for your pet.
Teeth – periodontal disease can cause pain and the infection can adversely affect your pet’s general health. Teeth cleaning and extraction is recommended if your pet’s general health is strong enough to tolerate the anaesthetic.
Arthritis – is one of the most common problems affecting older animals and it can be worse in specific breeds. Pain relief is usually obtained using a combination of treatments such as homoeopathy, herbs, acupuncture, nutritional supplements and conventional anti-inflammatory drugs. Seek advice on diet and exercise.
Behaviour problems – these can cause stress between the owner and pet and we need to understand that dogs and cats have the same mental aging problems as people. However, if an old dog does forget its training there is a good chance that the training can be relearned. “It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks”. Many senility problems respond to herbs, homoeopathy or Bach flower Remedies. Always arrange an appointment with your holistic veterinarian to make sure that there is no underlying disease process contributing to the behaviour.
Older cats that live outside can be attacked by younger, fitter cats. Give them a safe place to hide or keep them inside most of the time.
These are general guidelines. It is most important to have an annual health check and additional examinations at a holistic veterinary clinic if health problems occur.
I hope you find this information helpful and I thank you for taking good care of your cherished pet.
By Dr Douglas Wilson BVM&S PhD VetMFHom MACVSc
The Holistic Vet Online
Page last edited: Mar 19th 2009