In my many years as a veterinarian and especially now that I work exclusively with elderly pets, there are three phrases, and one, two or all three of them enter into nearly every conversation I have involving end of life. I finally realized that pet caretakers, as well as veterinarians, use these phrases to give themselves permission to end an animal’s life.
Gabapentin has analgesic effects and also anticonvulsant activity. The mechanism for its actions is not well understood. It can be a useful medication for the elderly dog or cat, but can also create problems if not used and dosed correctly.
Osteosarcoma is cancer of the bone. It is seen more commonly in large or giant breed dogs and occasionally in cats. It is so common in Irish Wolfhounds that any lameness should be investigated as soon as possible. It can affect any bone in the body, but usually is seen in the long bones of either the front or rear limbs.
In general terms, the geriatric period for dogs starts around 7 to 9 years of age, and for cats at around 10 years, but these parameters vary depending on species and size. The time frames listed here are certainly not exact and are only used as reference points for discussion.
Feline Injection Site Sarcomas (FISS) are extremely aggressive cancers that may be related to an injection or vaccination. The specific cause is unknown. They can develop from 3 months to 4 years post vaccination, or injection, and some don’t show up for five or more years.
Check-ups are important as the dog or cat ages and signs of heart disease can often be diagnosed or suggested when the veterinarian listens to the heart via a stethoscope. If a murmur or heart beat arrhythmia is auscultated (heard), the doctor may recommend a visit to a veterinary cardiologist for a more detailed and complete diagnosis to see if treatment is necessary.
Litter boxes are not made for cats, they are made to make things easier for people. The same is true of litters. In most situations, the younger cat will adapt to both the litter used as well as the box, but the older, or elderly, cat may have problems that can result in them soiling outside the box.
It’s also a truism that the general consensus on the internet is that it’s “not humane” to allow a pet to die naturally. This is frustrating to me because it’s based on incorrect information.
Since I just deal with geriatric, elderly and terminal pets, I see masses (tumors, growths) within the abdomen fairly frequently. Certain breeds are represented more often: Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Pit Bulls are among the most commonly affected.
Different studies have shown that a large percentage, (90% by age 12 in one study) of cats have some degree of degenerative joint disease or arthritis. A significant percentage (45%) of these cats show clinical signs. Arthritis can be seen in cats as young as 2 years and the percentage goes up above 90% when cats reach the elderly stage (17 years and over).