If you’ve noticed some grey on the muzzle of your best furry friend, you may be coming to the realization that they are getting older. Aging in pets sometimes happens before we know it! And although some conditions tend to present themselves with age, it’s important to remember that age itself is not a disease.
If we meet their health needs, pets can still enjoy an active lifestyle, good health, and quality of life well into their golden years. Your veterinarian can help make this a reality.
The Senior Pet Life Stage
Generally speaking, pets enter their senior years at the age of 7. This can vary greatly depending on size, species and breed, however – one good reason to keep your pet’s annual preventive care exam on schedule.
Preventive Care for Senior Pets
Starting at the senior life stage, we recommend seeing your pet twice a year. Pets age much faster than people do, and with regular exams and screening tests we can often catch small problems before they become full blown disease. Early detection means early treatment, which means a better prognosis for your pet at less of an expense to you.
Screening tests often consist of blood work, urine analysis, x-rays, and blood pressure screening. Some age related changes that we can detect early with screening tests include:
- Dental disease
- Addison’s disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Arthritis and joint disease
Golden Years Vigilance
Sometimes good pet owners assume their pets are simply “slowing down” due to age. But many age related conditions can be treated, and pets can live active and healthy lives free from pain and discomfort.
Behavioral changes are often indicative of a medical problem. Be on the lookout for:
- Hiding more often than usual
- House soiling, “missing” the litter box
- Difficulty getting up, reluctance to move
- Increased urination
- Changes in water consumption
- Changes in appetite
- Weight gain or loss
- Foul mouth odor, difficulty eating
- Brittle coat
- Bouts of weakness
- Increased sensitivity to noise
- Increase in aggression
Tender Loving Care For Your Senior Pet
Now that you’re aware of how to keep your senior pet healthy, focus on their safety and comfort. A few small changes in their environment can make a big difference in the quality of life for your senior pet.
Warm up. Older pets are more sensitive to variations in temperature. When it’s cold, provide your senior pet with a cozy bed to keep them warm. In hot weather, make sure they have a cool spot to retreat to, preferably in air conditioning.
Stable routine. Your pet may be experiencing mental changes as well as physical ones. Keep her daily routine of walks, feeding, and TLC with you as stable as possible.
Extra hugs. Senior pets can feel bored or forgotten if the life of the house is busy and moves fast. Take extra time to snuggle, and groom your senior pet every day, keeping her nails short. A little attention from you can go a long way toward your senior pet’s quality of life.
Easy does it. Older pets tend to be less agile and nimble than in years past, even if they don’t realize it. They are more likely to slip on floors, fall when getting into the car, or have trouble navigating hilly terrain. It’s best not to put your senior pet into dangerous situations, even if they didn’t seem dangerous in the past.
Easy access, too. For senior pets with joint pain or mobility issues, simple rearranging can do a world of good. Move their necessities, including their pet bed, food and water dishes, and litter boxes to the same level, so they don’t have to navigate stairs. Consider a ramp for dogs if they need to go up or down stairs to get outside. And observe your kitty to make sure it’s not difficult for her to get into and out of her litter box.
Pain management. If you’re wondering if your senior pet is in pain, please call us right away. Veterinary medicine has grown by leaps and bounds in the realm of pain management. We can evaluate your pet’s pain and make a plan for alleviating or eliminating any discomfort.