The most common complaint pet owners have is that they don’t have their beloved friends long enough and that our animal friends leave us too soon. Developments in Veterinary medicine are changing that. Pets are living longer than ever before. As pets live longer we do see an increase of ailments that can affect you pet’s quality of life. There are a variety of conditions and diseases that they can face, including weight and mobility changes; osteoarthritis; kidney, heart, and liver disease; tumors and cancers; hormone disorders such as diabetes and thyroid imbalance; and many others.
The average equivalent for every 1 cat or dog years is 5-7 human years. So in order to stay current on your pet’s ever changing condition the American Animal Hospital Association recommends that older pets be examined twice yearly. This is recommended so that any abnormalities can be detected before they can develop into more serious problems.
So who is considered a “Senior Pet”? Typically smaller breeds, that is dogs under 20lbs generally require geriatric care after age 9, medium sized dogs between ages 9-11, large breed dogs after 7 years of age, Giant breeds can start to show signs of deterioration as early as 6. Cats statistically live longer than dogs and start senior care between 8 and 10 years of age.
Pets may be affected mentally as they age. Just as aging humans begin to forget things and are more susceptible to mental conditions, your aging animals may also begin to confront age-related cognitive and behavior changes. Most of these changes are rather subtle and can be addressed in a proactive manner. Regular senior health exams can help catch and treat these problems before they control your pet’s life.
The physical changes your pets experience are generally easier to spot than the sensory changes. As the body wears out, its ability to respond to infection is reduced, and the healing process takes longer. Therefore, it is crucial to consult your pet’s doctor if you notice a significant change in behavior or the physical condition of your pet. Many of the signs indicating that animals are approaching senior citizenship are the same for both cats and dogs, but they can indicate a variety of different problems.
A very common and frustrating problem for aging pets is inappropriate elimination. The kidneys are one of the most common organ systems to wear out on a cat or dog, and as hormone imbalance affects the function of the kidneys, your once well-behaved pet may have trouble controlling his bathroom habits. If you are away all day, he/she may simply not be able to hold it any longer, or urine may dribble out while he sleeps at night. In addition, excessive urination or incontinence may be indicative of diabetes or kidney failure, both of which are treatable if caught early enough.
Many older pets benefit from specially formulated food that is designed with older bodies in mind. Obesity in pets is often the result of reduced exercise and overfeeding and is a risk factor for problems such as heart disease. Because older pets often have different nutritional requirements, these special foods can help keep your pet’s weight under control and reduce consumption of nutrients that are risk factors for the development of diseases, as well as organ- or age-related changes.
Exercise is yet another aspect of preventive geriatric care for your pets. You should definitely keep them going as they get older—if they are cooped up or kept lying down, their bodies will deteriorate much more quickly. You may want to ease up a bit on the exercise with an arthritic or debilitated cat or dog. Otherwise, you should keep them as active—mentally and physically—as possible in order to keep them sharp.
Senior pets may need a more extensive examination that may include blood work, x-rays or other diagnostic tests. Which tests your pet’s doctor recommends will depend on your pets’ breed, history and symptoms? Symptoms can be very subtle and could be as simple as a reluctance to eat hard food or not moving around as quickly. Unfortunately some symptoms progress very slowly, so you may not notice them, this is especially true of arthritis pain. A lot of people don’t notice it until their pet is put on medication, then they see marked improvement in mobility. Some things, as an owner, you can look for are:
- Does it take your pet longer to get up?
- Is your pet consuming more water?
- Is your pet sleeping more?
- Are there any changes in skin or coat?
- Any limping or changes in gait or posture?
- Any weight fluctuation, either loss or gaining?
- Any bad breath or difficulty eating?
- Does your pet seem to be going blind or deaf?
- Do you notice excessive urination?
- Does your pet seem disoriented?
Some of these symptoms can mean a very serious problem if you notice any Please call us right away for an appointment.