Caring for old friends: senior pets hold a special place in our hearts at North Shore Animal League America

Photo: North Shore Animal League America

At any time, North Shore Animal League America can house up to 350 dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens at our Port Washington campus, so the variety of animals you’ll meet when you visit our Adoption Center is rather staggering.

Bright-eyed puppies and kittens, brand new to the world, awaiting the day they find their perfect match, and adult dogs and cats awaiting for their second chance at finding a responsible, loving home. Each and every animal at North Shore Animal League America, regardless of their breed, age, and circumstance, is provided with every opportunity to thrive in their next phase of life.

With our variety of animals being so diverse, it’s not uncommon for us to have several adult animals and senior pets being housed on our campus. Although every animal needs personalized care in order to live happy, healthy lives, our senior pets, which is any cat and small-breed dogs ages 9 years and above, and large-breed dogs over the age of 7, require a little extra TLC to thrive during their golden years.

Animal League America Supervising Veterinarian, Dr. Marina Tejada, has a special place in her heart for senior pets. Her first family dog, who also happened to be an Animal League America rescue pet, lived a long, bountiful life and was one of the main reasons she decided to enter the world of veterinary medicine.

“Tammy was a Shepherd/Collie mix and she was such a great dog. She was part of the family for 14 amazing years,” Dr. Tejada said. “I still remember the day we came here and adopted her. I was so excited to finally have a dog to take care of and love. As a girl from Queens I didn’t have much access to animals and wildlife, so this was really something big for me. She was an important part of my life for a long time.”

Today, Dr. Tejada has plenty of dogs and cats to care for in our Alex Lewyt Veterinary Medical Center, but she wants to stress that it’s important to remember that our seniors have special needs. Here are some helpful tips that will allow you to keep the dapper gentlemen and sassy ladies in your life wagging their tails for years to come.

  • Bi-annual screening exams: In addition, to their annual vaccinations and heartworm test, your veterinarian should perform routine bloodwork to screen for potential underlying diseases. As a screening measure, early detection could provide life-saving care.
  • Management and prevention of arthritis: As animals age, they are prone to developing arthritis. Risk factors include weight, breed, and activity.
  • Weight management/diet: Metabolic needs change as animal age. Changing the amount of food they are given or even changing their diet can go a long way in keeping them slim
  • Dietary supplements and medication: Animals at risk for arthritis should be given medications to help ease/slow signs of arthritis. Your veterinarian can make the best recommendation for what medications should be given to your pet. Generally, omega fatty acids and a glucosamine and chondroitin medication are good places to start.
  • Pain management: Different modalities can be used to manage pain.
  • Dental disease: Geriatric animals can have severe dental disease. Sedated dental cleanings can keep their teeth in optimum health. When extractions are performed, they limit pain and allow pets to eat better.
  • Environmental changes and routine changes: Physical activity can be hampered by their age and mobility. Decreasing strenuous activity (limiting long walks/hikes, trips to dog parks) or providing ramps/stairs to get to high places (cars/couches) should be implemented to avoid undue strain and to avoid injury
  • Behavioral changes: Being attuned to your pets normal routine and behavior patterns.

To learn more about North Shore Animal League America, and it’s many programs, visit www.animalleague.org.