VCA Bolingbrook Animal Hospital
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For Senior Pets, Age is Just a Number

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When my clients make medical decisions on behalf of their senior dogs and cats, most automatically factor in the pet’s age. I often hear statements such as, “I would pursue a diagnosis if only she weren’t so old,” or, “We would choose to treat him if only he were younger.” When my clients voice such “senior objections” I gently encourage them to consider the situation a bit more objectively by thinking in terms of their pet’s functional age rather than his chronological age. For example, one patient of mine, a vigorous, playful 13-year-old Labrador with normal kidney function, is a much better candidate for surgery than another of my patients, an arthritic, obese, 11-year-old Labrador in kidney failure. Functionally speaking, the 13-year-old is, by far, the younger of the two patients.

Don't Focus on Age

When making medical decisions, I encourage my clients to evaluate the whole package — spryness, overall comfort, organ function, and joie de vivre — rather than considering age alone. Just because a dog or cat is, by definition, a senior citizen doesn’t mean their body is functioning like that of a senior citizen! I enjoyed explaining this point on NPR’s "Fresh Air With Terry Gross," when we were discussing how to make tough medical decisions. “Terry, you and I could both be 80-year-old women in need of knee replacement surgery. Whereas you might be a terrific candidate for surgery, I might be a horrible candidate.”

What About Life Expectancy?

When trying to make significant medical decisions, my clients frequently ask about their pet’s life expectancy. Why remove a liver mass from a 12-year-old Beagle when the Beagle’s life expectancy may only be 13 years? I explain that life expectancies for cats and dogs of varying breeds are nothing more than averages. This means some individuals will never reach “average” and others will far exceed it.

I sometimes tell pet owners about Lily, one of my own dogs, a Golden Retriever who had a liver mass surgically removed when she was 13 years old. Fortunately the mass was benign, the quality of her life was fully restored, and darned if that girl didn’t go on to live three more years, passing away peacefully at the age of 16. Was doing major abdominal surgery on our 13-year-old Lily an easy decision to make? Not at all — my husband and I struggled with it for weeks, which is exactly what needs to happen when we are striving to be effective, well-informed medical advocates for our pets.

Trust Your Instinct

Here’s the bottom line: If you have a happy, lively, interactive and agile senior pet on your hands, throw those age-related numbers and averages out the window. Rather, I encourage you to observe your pet’s overall quality of life, share some nose-to-nose time with your best buddy, look deep into those eyes, and make important medical decisions based on what’s truly important rather than simply a number.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

Find a VCA Specialty Care Animal Hospital near you:

 

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, you may contact:


VCA Aurora at (630) 896-8541 - 2600 West Galena; Aurora

VCA Arboretum View at (630) 963-0424 - 2551 Warrenville Rd; Downers Grove

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