As pets age it may be hard to identify what is significant and insignificant in their day to day lives.
As pets age it may be hard to identify what is significant and insignificant in their day to day lives. I will give you an outline of things to look for that may help your veterinarian identify what is normal for your older or geriatric pet.
The journal you keep will depend on the audience and goals of the journal. If you are journaling to determine for yourself changes in your pets quality of life, well that can be more personal and as verbose as you please. If you are specifically creating a journal for you veterinarian to see change over time, then you should take your journal entries and create a chart or graph that can be immediately understood (ie no matter how much they love your pet, they will not have time to read 20 pages of notes).
There are even some simplistic versions that can be used to track a pets overall well-being. If you are concerned about quality of life, then a simple tracking of “was today a good day for them or a bad day” may be enough. When in doubt, be simple! Marking this on the calendar in red for bad and green for good may provide a good visual representation of their overall quality of life. This can even be put into a creative format. I have heard of a pet parent that had a skinny vase and two containers of marbles, one white and one black. They would place a white marble into the vase for every good day and a black one for every bad day. This gave them a moment to be mindful about their dogs health and then a visual representation in color change over longer periods of time.
What your veterinarian will be wanting is what we will call clinically relevant information that is easily digest able at a glance. This will mean creating a graph, chart, or check box list of the relevant topics and having at least a months worth of data per page. Anything less or more complicated than that and your veterinarian will not likely have the time to read through the information. The items to track fall into two categories, general information for every dog and then disease specific information.
General topics to monitor for are appetite, energy level, pain, medications given, and unusual events (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.). The chart should be as simple as good / bad / no appetite, or mild /moderate / no pain. This will allow a quick glance to see if there is a concerning trend or increase in frequency over time as well as having a log of infrequently given medications or supplements.
Disease specific information should also be logged, but will depend on the disease. Here are a few categories to consider keeping a journal on-
-Heart / lung disease - breaths per minute while asleep, episodes of weakness or shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing episodes
-Seizures – record of all known seizure events, duration of the seizure (1 min? 2 min?), duration and severity of the post-seizure behavior / disorientation, recording of all unexplained accidents in the house (pet urinated and has urine staining on its back legs may indicate a seizure occurred)
-Kidney disease – frequency of urination, amount of water drank per day, detailed appetite and feeding changes
Each geriatric dogs journal will be as unique as the dog. Consider asking your veterinarian what they want you to monitor for over time in your special pet. A future topic will be used to cover monitoring for quality of life in in dogs on hospice care.
By Dr. Brent Gordon DVM