• Your Senior Pet: Care for Happier and Longer Lives

    December 1, 2015 | Blog
  • Jax is 16 years old

  • Bali 22 years old

  • By Beth Boynton.

    It seems like just yesterday that your pet was full of youthful antics. With each passing year our pets age 4-9 times faster than humans, yet it often catches us by surprise when we see our dog’s muzzle sprinkled with white hair. It is important to watch your pet’s habits and be tuned into changes. Remember that most all animals hide signs of illness and when treatments are delayed, the prognosis often worsens.  You are your pets’ best advocate!

    Just like us, pets have more disease risks as they age.

    Your pet may not be slowing down, but a murmur found by your veterinarian at the yearly checkup can often be treated for your pet to live longer and feel better. And-does your pet have bad breath? Dental disease is a common cause of heart and organ problems as well as tooth loss. Regular cleaning is important-and keeps them smelling better. Seniors need regular blood and urine tests to detect illness, too. Kidney disease is very common in older pets. Did you know pets with kidney disease often have high blood pressure? Treating that can help them immensely. Infections, some cancers, and other internal organ problems may be first detected by diagnostic tests.

    Many older pets can have behaviors that cause concern. Sometimes they eliminate in the wrong place when they were well trained before. This could be due to a variety of reasons. They may not be able to hold their urine as well because of sphincter muscle weakness, or they may be drinking more with kidney disease or diabetes, or they could have an infection or increased anxieties to name a few. This takes a partnership with your veterinarian-your observations and test results help solve the issue. Is your older cat now running around at night?  That can be a sign of high thyroid disease.  Geriatric pets often have vision and hearing loss and can get cataracts, glaucoma, or retinal disease just like people. Good eye and ear examinations can screen for diseases which may be a cause behavior change, too.

    Older pets are prone to arthritis. Watch how your pet goes up and down stairs, how they rise after lying down, and move after exercise. Not all joint pain is arthritis, though. Bone or joint cancer can mimic the signs, so a thorough examination and radiographs (x-rays) are needed to make sure there isn’t another problem. Each wellness visit should include a pain score for your pet so variations can be assessed. There are special pet medications that can help relieve pain. Remember, the bodies of dogs and cats are too different to share medication-it could be fatal. Consult with your veterinarian before giving any medication or nutraceuticals.

    Other vital assessments are body and muscle condition scores. Keeping a pet healthy and lean can mean a year or two more of life. Nutrition assessment is critical. Specially formulated diets can help in many situations extending lives of pets with kidney disease, arthritis, heart disease, allergies, digestion problems, obesity, and more. You may think your cat can’t jump like she used to, but she may just be low in specific electrolytes like cats with potassium deficiency.

    Pet medicine has changed! There are so many diseases that we used to have nothing to help our pets. For example, many benefit from cancer therapy. Treatment is designed to be better tolerated to help pets keep a quality of life, comfortable and with us for months or years longer. See your veterinarian and talk over your observations on all your pet’s systems. Have your veterinarian perform a thorough physical examination sharing findings with you, and perform screening blood and urine tests.  This can help your family pet lead a longer, healthier life, sharing more precious time together in these special years.