For many pet lovers, watching our companions grow older is a comforting, rewarding experience. It is hard to believe the same bundle of energy tearing around the yard so many years ago is now the calm and kind old friend curled at our feet. When your friend begins to slow down, to put on a little weight or stiffen up, they need your help and understanding. Unlike a fellow human, your friend can’t take responsibility for its care. Your friend relies on you!
Aging varies by breed, body size and individual pet. Larger breeds of dogs age more quickly than smaller dogs. Typically a cat reaches their senior years at age 8, small dogs at age 7, and large dogs at age 6.
As your old friend ages two kinds of changes occur. The first is age-related change such as hearing loss, changes in vision or reduced activity. These are normal and cannot be prevented. The second kind is pathological change or disease such as heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis or dental disease. These are, to some extent, preventable or can be successfully managed.
The healthcare your pet receives throughout their lifetime can help minimise and prevent disease as they age. Proper health care incorporates preventative healthcare, exercise, dental care, regular veterinary check-ups and eating a balanced diet, all of which are discussed here.
To safeguard your pet from potentially serious and in some cases fatal diseases.
Your pet should be active at least once a day. This will enhance circulation, maintain muscle tone, and help to prevent obesity.
As with people, routine cleaning and dental care throughout a pet’s life will assist in preventing tooth loss, tartar build-up, periodontal disease and mouth odour. Dental problems left untreated can result in bacteria spreading to other areas in the body.
Pets can not tell us when they feel unwell, and regular check-ups at least twice a year are vital for any aging pet. The risk of disease increases with age therefore early detection is the key to prevention.
Dogs and cats experience significant changes in their ability to digest and absorb nutrients as they age. They can also develop a decreased ability to tolerate nutrient excesses and deficiencies. A properly formulated diet will have a significant impact on the health of your older pet by balancing out the deficiencies created by the aging process.
Because of age-related changes, excesses of protein and salts may contribute to kidney and heart disease, two of the major causes of problems in older pets. Due to lesser energy requirements, excess calories will add extra weight. If however, your pet seems too thin it is important to make sure the problem isn’t anything more serious than not enough calories.
A wide range of high quality premium pet foods are available from your veterinarian including foods to treat age related conditions, medical concerns and obesity.
A chance for you to tell your veterinarian about any changes of behaviour or physical appearance you have noticed.
Your veterinarian will palpate or feel your pet’s musculoskeletal system, abdomen, and head and neck areas for abnormalities. A stethoscope will be used to listen to your pet’s heart and lungs. Your pet’s eyes, ears, and mouth will also be checked for age-related problems, such as cataracts, dental problems, and ear canal disorders.
We can now perform very sensitive tests on blood and urine to check the inner workings of your pet. These tests are a useful key to early disease prevention.
Observe your pet for the EARLY WARNING SIGNS of aging and age-related diseases:
It is common to assume these signs are a normal part of the aging process; however, these symptoms often indicate underlying age-related disease. If you notice any of these changes please contact us so we can discuss them with you.
Our website has a section devoted to senior pet health care. You can also access the online senior health assessment form. Simply visit the other articles in the Seniors area of our Pet Library.