Senior Pets

Thanks to better care, pets are living longer now than they ever have before, but as pets get older, they need extra care and attention. Regular veterinary examinations can deter problems in older pets before they become advanced or life-threatening, and improve the chance of a longer and heathier life for your pet. It varies, but cats and small dogs are generally considered “senior” at seven years of age. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans compared to smaller breeds and are often considered “senior” when they are five to six years of age. Because pets age faster than we do, yearly examinations are increasingly important as they age. Although senior pets may develop age-related problems, good care allows them to live a happy, healthy and active life into their senior years.

While it’s easy to spot the outward signs of aging such as graying haircoat and slower pace, it’s important to remember a pets’ organ systems are also changing. An older pet is more likely to develop diseases such as heart, kidney and liver disease, cancer and arthritis. Cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths in pets over ten years of age. Dogs get cancer roughly the same rate as humans, while cats have a somewhat lower rate. It is normal for pets to lost some of their sight and hearing as they age, similar to humans. Older pets may develop cataracts and they may not respond as well to voice commands. Pets with poor sight and even blindness can get around well in familiar environments. If your pets’ eyesight is failing, avoid rearranging the furniture or other items that could become obstacles.

If your pet is starting to avoid active playing or running or if they have trouble with daily activities such as jumping up on a favorite chair or into the family car, your pet may have arthritis. A pet with arthritis may also show irritation when touched or petted over the arthritic areas and may seem more depressed or grouchy. There may be other reasons for these changes, so it’s best to have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian to determine the cause of the problems. Veterinarians have access to many therapies to help manage your pets’ arthritis and simple changes in your home such as an orthopedic pet bed, raised feeding platforms, stairs and ramps may also help your older pet deal with arthritis.
Behavior changes in your pet can serve as the first indication of aging. These changes might be due to discomfort or pain or worsening sight or hearing, but they may also be due to the normal aging process. Some behavior changes in older pets may be due the cognitive dysfunction, which is similar to senility in people. Common behavior changes in older pets that may be signs of cognitive dysfunction include being easily disturbed by loud sounds, unusually aggressive behavior, increased barking/meowing, anxiety or nervousness, confused or disoriented behavior, increased wandering, house coiling, changes in sleep patterns, less interest in playing, not responding to voice commands and being more grouchy or irritable than normal.

Weight can have a tremendous effect on an older pets’ health. Obesity in older pets increases the risk of arthritis, difficulty breathing, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, skin problems and other conditions. An overweight pet may not show any early warning signs of health problems, so regular visits to your veterinarian are recommended. Once your veterinarian evaluates your pets condition, they can recommend a proper diet and suggest other steps to help your pet maintain a healthy lifestyle. Sudden weight loss in an older pet is also a source for concern, especially in cats. Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland), diabetes and kidney disease are common causes of weight loss in senior cats.
Due to improved veterinary care and dietary habits, pets are living longer now than they ever have before. One consequence of this is that pets, along with their owners and veterinarians, are faced with a whole new set of age-related conditions. We can detect the presence of many of these conditions through careful attention to our pets and their behaviors and habits, changes in weight, appetite/thirst and mobility. Routine blood work, radiographs (x-rays), or other diagnostics may be warranted to diagnose your pet’s issues, but with proper treatment, we can keep our pets happy and healthy for a long time.

2016

October – Chocolate Toxicity

July – Heartworm Disease

April – Canine Influenza

January – Canine Influenza

2015

October – Separation Anxiety

July – Parasite Prevention

April – Allergies

January – Obesity in Pets

2014

October – Your Pet’s Blood Work

July – Heat Stroke Awareness

April – Compliance

January – Dental Health

2013

October – Holiday Toxins

July – Summer Travel