Caring For Senior Pets - What You Need To Know | Page 2

Top 10 Common Signs of Cancer in Pets

  1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow 
  2. Sores that do not heal 
  3. Weight loss 
  4. Loss of appetite 
  5. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening 
  6. Offensive mouth odor 
  7. Difficulty eating/swallowing 
  8. Hesitation to exercise/loss of stamina 
  9. Persistent lameness/stiffness 
  10. Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating 

Q: My pet seems to be in pain, and isn't as active as they should be. What should I do?

First, talk to your veterinarian and have them examine your pet. Your pet might have arthritis. Older pets, especially large dogs, are vulnerable to arthritis and other joint diseases, and the signs you see can vary.

Signs of Arthritis in Pets: 
  • Favoring a limb 
  • Difficulty sitting or standing 
  • Sleeping more 
  • Seeming to have stiff or sore joints 
  • Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs 
  • Weight gain 
  • Decreased activity or interest in play 
  • Attitude or behavior changes (including increased irritability) 
  • Being less alert 
Signs of arthritis often are similar to signs of normal aging, so if your pet seems to have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, the best thing to do is to have your veterinarian examine them, and then advise you as to what treatment plan would be best to help your pet deal with the pain.

Arthritis treatments for pets are similar to those for humans, and may include:
  • Healthy diet and exercise to help maintain proper weight. 
  • Working with your veterinarian to find a drug treatment that helps relieve the pain. 
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS): the most common treatment for arthritis in dogs. These drugs are similar to ibuprofen, aspirin, and other human pain relievers. 
  • Over-the-counter pet treatments, such as pills or food containing either glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate or Omega fatty acids. Both have shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis in dogs. 
  • Over-the-counter pet treatments, such as pills or food containing either glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate or Omega fatty acids. Both have shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis in dogs. 
  • A veterinarian-prescribed NSAID and an over-the-counter treatment that together may help decrease pain and disease progression. 
  • Diets with special supplements may also help decrease the discomfort and increase the joint mobility 


Do not give human pain medications to your pet without first consulting your veterinarian. Some human products, including over-the-counter medications, can be fatal for pets.

Changes in the home environment may also help you deal with an older pet who is experiencing stiffness and/or pain. Orthopedic beds, stair steps to help an animal up to higher places (so they don't have to jump), raised feeding platforms, etc. can help make your arthritic pet's life more comfortable.

Q: When should we euthanize a pet? How will we know it's the right time?

This can be an incredibly difficult question for both the owner and the veterinarian, and is often a very tough decision to make. 

Sometimes, euthanasia is obviously the best thing to do for your pet. At other times, however, it can be less clear. 

An open discussion with your veterinarian, including an honest evaluation of your pet's quality of life, should help you make the decision.

One way to determine if your aging pet is still enjoying life and can remain with us a little longer is by using a "Quality of Life" scale to determine if the animal's basic needs are being met. 

This scale can be very helpful for the veterinarian and pet owner when deciding what is best for your pet. 

In this scale, pets are scored on a scale of 1 through 10 in each category, with 10 being the highest score for quality of life. Again, only an honest evaluation of each category will help with the decision.

Quality of Life Chart

0-10HURT  Adequate pain control (including breathing ability)

0-10HUNGER  Is the pet eating enough? Does the pet require hand-feeding or a feeding tube?

0-10HYDRATION  Is the pet dehydrated? Does it need subcutaneous fluids?

0-10HYGIENE  Pet needs to be brushed and clean, especially after elimination

0-10HAPPINESS  Does the pet express joy/interest? Does it respond to its environment? Does the pet show signs of boredom/loneliness/anxiety/fear?

0-10MOBILITY  Can the pet get up without assistance does the pet want to go for a walk? Is the pet experiencing seizures/stumbling?

0-10MORE GOOD THAN BAD  When bad days start to outnumber good days, the quality of life becomes compromised and euthanasia needs to be considered

TotalA total of 35 points is considered acceptable for a quality of life score.