Margaret C. Saiki, D.V.M.,
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Former Medical Director
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Patient Comfort: How to increase the quality of life for the older pet

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                 Patient Comfort: How to increase the quality of life for the older pet

 Margaret Saiki




This article is focused on the many easy ways pet owners can increase the quality of life for their older pets. These changes are aimed at increasing your pets physical comfort and most importantly emotional well- being.

Owners are able to relieve the emotional suffering of their older geriatric pets or those in palliative or hospice care.


Earlier blogs have discussed related issues concerning:

                                How to decide the quality of life of your pet

How to detect if your dog is experiencing chronic pain



 Familiar Surrounding

Pets are most comforted when their familiar surroundings are maintained. In many respects these means family surroundings.

  • Keep loved ones close
  • Sustain familiar routines –combing, bathing, brushing, trimming
  • Keep the layout of the home the same especially if your pet is experiencing fading vision
  • Use baby gaits to prevent them from stairs
  • Maintain a familiar schedule such as when they are being fed or walked. Many older pets may need to be taken out for shorter but more frequent walks.

Mobility issues

  • Slick floor surfaces need to be covered using nonskid area rugs or runners, or interlocking foam tiles.
  • Slings designed to assist with walking are more comfortable and ergonomically safe than towels for both the pet and the owner
  • Food and water should be moved to the pet when the pet has trouble moving to the feeding area.
  • Raised food and water dishes protect the pet from having to reach down to the floor
  • Consider walkers or wheelchairs to help keep pets active and moving
  • Ramps to help large dogs get into the cars
  • Steps to help pets get up onto the bed
  • Lower lipped litter boxes for cats with arthritis

Maintaining close contact

  • Locate comfortable bedding in the areas where the family congregates to encourage the pet’s inclusion.
  • Pets losing their hearing can be taught hand signals
  • Pets with diminished vision and hearing still possess their sense of smell, so outside time gives them sniffing opportunities
  • Sitting with and stroking the pet, reading quietly to the pet, and moving the pet’s bed near the owner’s bed are other strategies for finding comfort in the end-of-life time.
  • Thermal comfort. Keep their environment at a comfortable temperature.
  • Frequent short sessions provide sensory stimulation and also tire them out to enable restful sleep


  • Keeping the genitals, anal area, feet, eyes, nose, and mouth clean contributes significantly to comfort. This is extremely important to cats who feel better when they feel well groomed.
  • Prevent ulcerative lesions or pressure sores
  • To avoid pressure sores, it is important to keep the skin clean and free of excessive external moisture, and to provide padded surfaces for resting and sleeping. Orthopedic foam beds provide extra comfort.


Many of these tasks are simple and tremendously decrease suffering and stress ultimately increasing your aging pet’s quality of life. Veterinarians are most helpful in the relief of physical problems such as pain management, but owners can do much more helping with either pet’s emotional suffering. 

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