The Golden Years:
Setting Up Senior Pets for Success
Dogs and cats are typically considered to be seniors once they reach the age of 7. Just as with humans, many physical changes will take place as a pet becomes older. Remember, every 365 days, your pet will age approximately 7 years. In the case of larger breeds, such as Great Danes and Mastiffs, the aging process is even faster. This means that regular wellness exams are extremely important, as a lot can happen in a short amount of time. The earlier potential symptoms are observed and diagnosed, the sooner our veterinarians can treat their underlying causes.
Senior Pet Health Issues
What are some of the health conditions senior cats and dogs could develop? You may not be surprised to learn that they are many of the same ones that humans face. These include cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, and arthritis. Older dogs also may develop hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, cataracts, or orthopedic problems in joints and bones. Senior felines may develop hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, or feline tooth resorption (cavities).
One of the biggest health challenges facing our pets today is obesity. More than 50% of cats and dogs are overweight in the United States. The next time you're tempted to give your kitty an extra treat, keep in mind that the number one risk factor for developing feline diabetes is being overweight. Canines who regularly overindulge are at a much higher risk for respiratory disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, and ACL/ cruciate ligament injuries.
While the list of potential pet health problems can be scary to say the least, the good news is that there are steps we can take together to ensure your senior pet stays healthy and happy for many years to come.
The first step is to schedule regular semi-annual wellness exams. During these appointments, our veterinarians will conduct a thorough nose-to-tail exam of your senior pet, including an inspection of his or her mouth and teeth. Dental disease is the number one disease found in cats and dogs, so proper oral care and teeth cleaning are essential. Should additional pet dental care be required, our highly trained veterinary staff will be happy to provide it.
Once each year, we will run a complete lab panel in order to check your senior pet's blood chemistry, kidneys, and liver function. This lab work helps us see how your pet is doing on the inside. After your pet turns 10, we will conduct additional tests, such as urinalysis or thyroid assessments, as these tests find age-related diseases in dogs and cats.
During the semi-annual wellness exams, our veterinarians will discuss your pet's evolving nutritional needs. As senior pets become less active, their caloric intake should be adjusted accordingly. In addition, it's possible that a change in diet could be helpful in addressing certain pet health issues.
Our veterinarians also will inquire about any physical or behavioral changes you may have observed in your senior canine or feline. These could range from a decrease or increase in appetite, thirst, or activity level, to potential signs of cat or dog arthritis.
Since pets are extremely skilled at concealing pain, it's important to keep an eye out for subtle changes in their behavior. These could include a dog that no longer wants to climb the stairs or a feline who stops jumping up onto his or her favorite perch. If your pet should develop arthritis, we have many tools at our disposal to help make him or her more comfortable, including prescription diets, cartilage-protecting supplements, cold laser therapy, and pet medications for pain control and joint inflammation.
While we hope that your pet will never require advanced veterinary services, rest assured that we have the knowledge and veterinary diagnostic tools necessary to provide the highest quality of care. We will do everything we can to ensure that your pet is happy and healthy throughout his or her golden years.