It’s A Dog’s Life
It seems that pets these days are living longer than ever thanks to advances in veterinary medicine and investment in care from animal owners. It is not unusual to see a dog that is in their teen years still active and relatively healthy. I say relatively because with age comes a few bumps in the road (so to speak). There are a variety of management techniques that can help families with older pets live an awesome quality of life through their golden years. Because that is what we all really want for our animal companions, isn’t it? We want them to have full and happy lives for the short time that they are with us.
1. Watch Their Weight!
Older dogs generally move less and have a slower metabolism than when they were younger. This means that they can pack on the pounds quickly. This can start a vicious cycle of gaining weight and then not moving well which leads to more weight gain and so on. Activity is important to weight management but the key to weight loss is controlling calories. Lean body condition is very important to general health, especially if there are mobility issues. With that thought in mind, make sure that the food that your geriatric companion is eating is of good quality, easy to digest, and not filled with empty calories from endless treats. Just like with humans, a healthy diet is important for basic wellness and a strong immune system.
2. Keep Them Moving.
Daily, regular exercise is important for mental stimulation as well as muscle strength. Muscle loss and hind end weakness are a common issue on our older pets. Give your animal companion a reason to get up and moving each day because once they go down (or don’t get up), things can progress quickly in a direction that we don’t want to go.
One option to consider is aqua therapy. Both the underwater treadmill and pool are great for holding on to muscle mass and for getting stiff joints moving again. Sessions every one to two weeks can set a healthy foundation for better walks at home. Remember the old saying, “A body in motion stays in motion”. Continue…
The World of Rehabilitation-A New Beginning
It has been almost six years since we first opened our rehabilitation center. Over those past six years, my rehab patients have changed me and for the better in so many ways. I came into the veterinary field twenty plus years ago with the intention of helping animals and doing good. It was not until I was able to experience the world of rehabilitation that I realized that my pet patients were also helping me, but not in a way I would have every imagined.
A Lasting Impression
The majority of my returning rehabilitation patients are older dogs dealing with a chronic condition such as arthritis or neuro-muscular weakness. Mixed in are my post surgical dogs that are with me for 10 weeks or so and then move on to regular doggy life. All of them, young or old, sweet or sassy, and walking or wheeling in a cart have left a lasting impression on me and how I want to live my life.
As a rehabilitation therapist, I am finally able to have quality one-on-one time with my patients and really get to know them and their people. I can see what they are dealing with day to day as their mobility changes and their families adapt to their needs. Watching the relationships between these challenged pets and their owners is inspiring. With this time to become more involved and aware during the rehabilitation process, I have realized that I want to live my older years like my patients do. They truly have such an amazing outlook on life. It is difficult not to be inspired by them.
Living Your Best Life- Dog Version
Here is what my rehabilitation experience has taught me about living your best life (dog version):
1. Every day that you can be with someone you love is a great day.
2. Sometimes you just need to power through the pain to get to the good stuff.
3. Be happy with where you are today.
4. Don’t get stuck on what you used to do but can’t do anymore. The stuff that you CAN do is awesome.
5. Age is just a number. Be the puppy that you still think you are.
6. Gray hair, don’t care. I still look fabulous.
7. A little attitude will get you pretty far when you are challenged with old age changes. Live life sassy!
8. Be free with your affection, wag your tail even through the bad times, and keep your loved ones close.
Continuing My Rehabilitation Journey
I love my rehabilitation patients and all of the valuable lessons that they have taught me over the years. I now have a great outlook on life and am living my best life, doggy inspired. We all can learn a bit from our animal companions. So, as I continue on my journey through rehab land, I hope to make as much of a difference in the lives of the patients that I care for as they have inspired in me. Live your best life- doggy inspired.
Trying to Stay Relevant
The field of veterinary medicine never stands still. We are a profession that is continuously growing and changing to meet the needs of our patients. In the last twenty years or so, this growth seems to have exploded with new services and treatment options available for pet owners to choose from. Our practice is a prime example of a general small animal practice trying to stay relevant in a climate where owners are wanting the best of the best for their animals (yet at a reasonable price!).
From Products to Services
The current trend for a successful veterinary practice is to focus on services rather than products. When I first started in this field (many, many years ago), the veterinary hospital was a place of one stop shopping. It was a place to get vaccines, parasite control, medications and food. Now, owners have low cost vaccine clinics and online retail available at the tips of their fingertips. We all have had that conversation with an owner price shopping around for the flea product or heart worm preventative that their doctor recommended but at the lowest price. You can even get veterinary only medication filled at Walmart now. With this expanded change in availability of veterinary products for owners comes a shift in our focus as a hospital. What can we provide that our clients want and can’t get somewhere else? Continue…