I was perusing an article in the most recent issue of Veterinary Practice News when I came upon a quote that really surprised me.
The article discussed the growing issue of mobility problems in older pets. As they age many pets develop arthritis, muscle weakness and neurological problems that lead to decreased ability to walk and engage in normal activities. Many humans experience similar problems. People often use walkers or wheelchairs when mobility problems become disabling. Although wheelchair-like devices exist for dogs (and they generally work very well), sadly some pets are euthanized when they can no longer stand up or walk.
Several tactics can help to prevent mobility problems in pets. The article mentions weight management and muscle strengthening exercises. As well, physical therapy, range-of-motion exercises and certain dietary supplements (omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine) may help pets to remain agile.
However, one paragraph of the article really caught my eye. It wasn’t related to animal mobility. Rather, it was related to animal life spans. Here is the paragraph:
According to the American Veterinary Medical Assn., pets are increasingly living longer. In 1987, 31.7 percent of owned U.S. dogs lived past the age of 6. In 2006, 44 percent of the surveyed population lived past age 6. The feline population experienced an increase as well, from 15.3 percent living past age 6 in 1986 to 31.9 percent in 2006.
I was aware that life expectancies of pets were increasing. But I was stunned to find out that only 32 percent of cats were living past the age of six in 2006! For cats and most breeds of dogs, six years represents middle age. The vast majority of well cared for pets can expect to live past six.
My hunch is that the key phrase in the sentence above is well cared for. If the article is not mistaken, then I am afraid that there may be a simple explanation for this surprising statistic. Too many cats and dogs are not well cared for.
About the photo: Patches, who appears in a canine wheelchair (photo courtesy of doggon.com) clearly is well cared for! Patches is proof that pets can lead long, happy lives despite mobility problems.