Nebraska Airedale Terrier Association

Your Geriatric Pet...

Expect, as your pet ages:

(NOTE: Many of the normal vestiges of aging in dogs and humans are both degenerative and progressive...and there is little we can do to ameliorate them except for accommodating to our pets' needs...making them as comfortable as possible and modifying their environment accordingly. Some "health issues" associated with the aging process are life-threatening--but many of them are "treatable"! (Please see RX for R-Dales!) The section below applies to the "critically ill pet" as well as the aging pet!))

The Perennial Pet:

Find a Competent Veterinarian! A competent veterinarian isn't always the one just around the corner from you or the one that's open later at night or on weekends than the others!

Most veterinarians are GPs (general practitioners); they are trained in attending to your pet's basic health care needs! However, they may lack specialized training in fields such as internal medicine, oncology, orthopedics, immunology, etc.; and they may not hold endorsements for specialized procedures such as endoscopy, ultrasound, laser surgery, etc.!

Some veterinarians have undergone additional training to "develop or hone" these skills! Check your vet's credentials! (see for a list of specialty colleges and practitioners)! Choose your pet's vet wisely! (Please see: A Veterinary Prescription!)

Find a veterinarian who is "Age Friendly"! Many veterinarians consider an old dog a dying dog! A friend of mine took an eleven year-old blind terrier to a veterinarian who said, "Put him down...he's old, he's blind, he'll get aggressive, and he'll bite!" Same practice, same terrier, several weeks later, different vet, recommended nutritional supplements, environmental interventions, etc.! That same terrier lived another two and a half years, never bit anyone, and died of kidney failure at 13 1/2 years old!

Find a vet who loves "OOFAs" (an OOFA is an Old Fogey) and is willing to work with you to safeguard your pet's health and prolong his/her life!

Assess Your Commitment! An aging or "critically ill" pet may become both "inconvenient" and "costly"! Are you willing to provide necessary veterinary care and a supportive environment for the remainder of this pet's life? (This is a question that any pet owner must consider...and, unfortunately, one which no one but the pet owner and his/her pet can answer!!) *

Always see the same veterinarian! Older pets sometimes become "unwanted" notches on veterinarians' bed posts...they don't want to lose them; sometimes, they don't want to treat them; sometimes, they don't even want to see them! (If your pet's vet refuses to take or return your phone calls, or tells you ANY vet can "treat" your pet, or in any other way avoids intervening in your pet's behalf, assume your pet, in that vet's eyes, suffers from DDS--Dead Dog Syndrome!)

It is important that your pet see the SAME veterinarian to ensure continuity in your pet's care and treatment and to monitor changes in your pet's health status! A vet who loves OOFAs (older pets) will do all they can do to insure the longevity of your pet--they will be familiar with the health history of your pet, they will be able to "observe" significant changes in your pet's condition that perhaps you don't see on a day-to-day basis, they will be able to offer an educated and calculated opinion concerning your pet's health status, and they will be able to access your pet's health history quickly.

Find a vet who will stand by you and your aging pet!!!!!

ALWAYS get a second opinion! There is no one who cares more about your pet than you do! Don't expect veterinarians to press their limits in finding "cures" or "answers" to your pet's health problems--especially if they're old or have life-threatening illnesses! These are the dogs that suffer from DDS! If your pet's vet is reluctant, resistant, or hostile to the idea of a second opinion or a referral to a specialist or a school of veterinary medicine, assume your pet's vet isn't interested in your pet's health....and act accordingly!!!! FIRE HIM OR HER!!!!!

ALWAYS weigh the prognosis! Vets are sometimes reluctant to refer if they are trying to spare you the agony and expense of pursuing treatment options for a "non-curable', "non-treatable" pet! Weigh the diagnosis/prognosis accordingly--see "The Critical Care Pet"! You must be PROACTIVE concerning your pet's health! But you must also be REALISTIC! Research and learn (Please check "LINKS" for links to health-related sites!) YOU are the best defense your pet has!!!!

Keep a record! It's important that you have an accurate record of your pet's health history in case you need to take your pet elsewhere--an after-hours emergency clinic, a specialist, or a school of veterinary medicine! Vets are notoriously poor at record-keeping so make sure that you update "My Pet's Health Checklist and My Pet's Health History" everytime you visit your vet! Be Vigilante!!!! Insist that you receive copies of any diagnostic procedures and results of any "tests" conducted on your pet! You, after all, PAID FOR THEM!! Accurate records are invaluable in providing effective veterinary care for your pet!!

Every living creature has limits! Dylan Thomas' ode to his dying father: "Rage, rage against the dying of the light! Do not go gentle into that good night!" I pray those I love DO go "gentle into that good night"--it is inevitable! There is a time to let go...and this is a decision you and your pet must make! (Please see Letting Go! if you've lost or are losing a pet)! It brings to mind a poster: "if you love something, let it go; if it returns to you, it's yours!"

And then, I Airedale is never "owned" though many consider it "possessed"!!!

Protecting Your Geriatric Pet*:

The best care you can provide for your pet, aging or not, is your own evaluation of your pet's health status coupled with accurate diagnostic procedures and timely and effective treatment interventions!








A PostScript...


Accurate diagnosis is CRITICAL to the effective treatment of your pet! Without a confirmed diagnosis, recommended treatment options including surgical interventions, may be little more than "sugar pills" or placebos that may not enhance your pet's health or contribute to its longevity! It is difficult to make reasoned decisions regarding your pet's health without an accurate diagnosis!

However, as in human medicine, sometimes a diagnosis is elusive and we treat symptoms hoping to combat the disease! If at all possible:

Confirm the diagnosis with a second opinion, preferably from a specialist

Pursue treatment options/surgical interventions (preferably, from a specialist*)

If there is no "confirmed" diagnosis, monitor your pet's health frequently:





SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND! Don't hesitate to consult as many resources as possible in identifying and delineating your pet's health problems, possible prognosis, and treatment options! But beware! Not all of the information "ye seek" via the Internet is ACCURATE!!!! Please consult the "Site Map/Archives" re: guidelines for "Evaluating Your Pet's Health via the Internet"!


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