Care for the aging pet


Westies can live long lives -- 15 to 17 years is not

unusual. But as they age, issues can develop with dogs just as with people... arthritis triggers joint pain and lessens mobility, cataracts and glaucoma can cause blindness, hearing loss advances, the onset of senility results in disorientation so that familiar settings can become strange obstacle courses, incontinence increases, eating habits can change and food may be harder to digest, visits to the vet will grow more necessary and frequent.


Unfortunately, nothing can be done to turn back the hands of time, but with a few thoughtful adjustments life can be made easier for both...

Sight problems -- refrain from moving furniture or putting new obstacles in regular pathways of the sight-impaired older dog.

Mobility issues -- if your pet has trouble climbing steps, try a hoist (two handles on either end of sturdy fabric that can be put under the dog and used to help lift him). A ramp to help get in/out of cars or down a few steps into the yard also might help. Ask your vet about putting our dog on glucosamine for aching joints.

Digestive problems -- avoid foods with grains and by-products, which are hard to digest. (This is good advice for any age dog!) Ask your pet food store about foods for sensitive stomachs and for the older dog. These are easier on the system.

Incontinence -- No matter what, it’s important to remember that your older dog can’t help himself. He doesn’t mean to mess -- he just hasn’t the bladder or intestinal control he once had. For the male dog, there are belly bands that attach with Velcro and cover important areas to prevent leakage. And for the ladies, there are sanitary pants that can be worn with a pad. Just don’t leave these on when wet of the skin will become irritated. Ask your vet about putting your pet on Proin or Lasix, which sometimes can help, depending on the pet’s condition.

Senility/disorientation -- The security of a routine is important, as is confinement to familiar places. Keep your older pet in a safe area where he can feel secure. if needed, carry him where he needs to go.