Second Chance: Improving Quality of Life for Older Pets.

Second Chance: Improving Quality of Life for Older Pets.

Our older pets hold a special place in our hearts. I can’t tell you how many times clients have told me they love their elderly pet more than anything else on this earth. And yet, because our animals’ lifespan is shorter than ours, we are forced to witness their decline all too soon. What can we do to ease this decline – to make every day count?



First, let’s review the kind of problems that plague virtually every aging pet. A few of the most common problems are 1) pain, 2) sleep, 3) the beginning of senility, and 4) having accidents in the house. Often all these issues can be related.

For example, if it hurts your animal to raise a leg in the yard, they may inadvertently hold on to their urine until it’s too late – hence an accident. Or, if your pet has the beginnings of canine cognitive dysfunction (sort of the dog equivalent to Alzheimers) then he or she may forget that they’re supposed to go the bathroom outside, and end up going inside. A sleep disturbance (where your animal keeps waking you up in the middle of the night) can be caused by pain or dementia – or because the animal has to urinate or defecate more often.

The good news is that there are ways to address each of these issues. First priority is to determine if your pet is in pain. This can be very difficult because both dogs and cats are naturally predisposed to hide their pain (in the wild, they don’t want to look injured). If your animal takes a while to lay down, or walks hunched over, or with their toes drawn in (like walking on egg shells) this is an indication they are in pain.

Get a professional veterinary assessment and, under your provider’s supervision, start your pet on medication or other treatments (acupuncture for example) to improve daily quality of life.

The second priority is to get professional help to figure out if your animal is having a continence issue (having urination or defecation accidents in the house or waking you at night) because of physical reasons (kidney issues, diabetes, urinary tract infection, weak detrusor muscles) or because of mental issues. Once you can determine which it is, you can start resolving it through medication or behavior modification.

Third priority, if physical issues are ruled out for causing accidents then you should start to observe your animal’s mental state. Does your pet appear confused or anxious for no explicable reason? There are treatments and even now a couple medications that can be tried to ease pet’s anxiety and confusion. Unfortunately, the most commonly prescribed medication, Segeline, takes 12 weeks to even start making a difference – so don’t wait until you’ve reached the end of your patience to call for help…

The critical point about age-related issues is that they don’t go away on their own. Get your pet the help he or she needs as soon as symptoms start to show – and make the golden years happy ones!

My name is Selene and, although I am only 18-months-old (and not senile or having accidents), I am this week’s Second Chance Adoptable Cat of the Week. I arrived at Second Chance very pregnant and delivered my babies here. Now we are all ready for adoption (not together of course). I am quiet, calm, low maintenance, a loving Mom, and now ready to receive some babying of my own for a change…

Editor’s note: It’s no secret. The Telluride region is dog heaven. Well, pet heaven. Unless you are one of our furry friends who gets caught in the maw of neglect and abuse. Then heaven is on hold until Second Chance Humane Society comes to the rescue. Second Chance is the region’s nonprofit dedicated to saving animals’ lives and promoting responsible pet parenting and human-animal bond. In her weekly blog, executive director Kelly Goodin profiles at least one, generally two of the many animals now living at the no-kill shelter, Angel Ridge Shelter, a dog and a cat, hoping to find them loving permanent homes. The column is sponsored by Ted Hoff of Cottonwood Ranch & Kennel, who from time to time exercises his skills as a dog whisperer, partnering with Kelly and her staff to help train a particularly challenging animal.

Ted Hoff & Mae

Ted Hoff &  Magnificent Mae

By the by, there is no better place to park your pup than Cottonwood whenever you head out of town (for locals) or are heading to town and staying somewhere that does not allow pets. Consider joining Ted’s Very Important Dog (VID) Club for added benies. (Details on Ted’s website.)

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shop are both located in Ridgway, but service San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other Programs. View the shelter pets and services online:

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