By Michelle Knowles
There are not many things that are more rewarding to me than caring for an elderly pet that has given their life in service to their companions. Caring for them is one of my greatest joys and pleasures. Seeing them come through the door with their beautiful faces is pure heaven. The senior years are fraught with health issues, failing bones and joints, and sometimes a form of senility. There are many things to consider when grooming and caring for the old timers in the salon.
The older pet is very fragile and should not be rushed or forced to stand for extended periods of time. There are those pets that require as little time as possible away from home and need to be booked as a straight through groom with the owner standing by at a nearby coffee shop. On the other hand, I have made arrangements with the owner to have the pet done in 2 or even 3 sessions to lessen the stress of being in the grooming environment. Some pets simply require that plenty of time be taken with them and rushing is not an option. Each angel should be taken on an individual basis.
When thinking about the needs of an elderly pet, we must take into consideration all the things that accompany old age. Their joints may hurt, so they have a reduction in flexibility, they may not be able to hear or see and can be startled very easily. Some pets may suffer memory loss, in the moment, and don’t recognize where they are and who is with them causing them to be frightened or shaky.
This is the time of their life that they may have developed systemic health issues like congenital heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other hip and knee issues. They may be too elderly to have dentals and may have sore mouths so care must be taken when holding chins or muzzles.
When taking in your old timer, make sure that the owner is aware of the needs of the pet and understands their limitations. They should have a current cell phone on file and be reachable in case an emergency should occur. All emergency procedures should be explained to the owner so that there will be less panic if something should happen.
Give the pet time to acclimate to the environment before beginning the bath or any other procedure. This will put them at ease and possibly remind them that they are in a loving environment. All shampoo and conditioning products should be prepared ahead of time before placing the pet into the bathtub.
When possible, try to harness the loop underneath one armpit to minimize the loop pressure around the neck. Many pets with heart issues have difficulty breathing, so take this into consideration when restraining them. Many elderly dogs cannot take being dried with a high velocity dryer and need to have soft, low or no heat dryers on them to keep them calm. Every pet is an individual so use your best judgement with each case.
Plan ahead to have an assistant so if the pet is very large, or frightened, you will have help if you need it. Older pets can no longer produce or retain B vitamins and may have a “senior smell”. Adding minerals into the conditioning step will go a long way in soothing the skin and keeping the coat and skin fresh for a longer period of time. Ozonated oils can also minimize the warts that we see on them and making a small jar available for the client to take home to use daily will help keep them comfortable. These types of oils can also be used on dry and cracked paw pads, elbows and noses to keep the skin supple and flexible. Ozonated oils have the bonus of being anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral and can be used anywhere that the skin needs support without the fear of toxicity.
When the groom is done, every effort should be made to have the pet picked up so that stress is at a minimum. A quiet spot should be prepared for them to rest while waiting for their companion, away from noise and bustling activity. Every attempt should be made to schedule these types of grooms on a day when there is the least amount of stress so that you can devote the time and energy required to care for them.
We must not only care for the elderly pet, but many times inquire after the well–being of their elderly owners. Make sure to inquire whether they are able to purchase food, take the pet for walks or that they are still able to care for their companion. A few thoughtful questions could save the life of the pet and the owner and is a caring way to make sure that everyone is safe.
Elderly pets can be very rewarding and remind us that we too will one day need tender and gentle care. Be the caregiver that you would want caring for you! ✂