Are you the proud owner of a senior pet? It’s important to remember that while getting older isn’t optional, age is not a disease. Your senior pet may need a little more TLC than their younger counterparts, but they can still live an active, happy, and comfortable life for years to come. Your veterinarian can help make this happen.
What is a Senior Pet?
Generally speaking, pets who have reached the age of 7 are considered senior, although this varies with breed and species. Your veterinarian can help you determine which life stages your pet has reached – one reason annual preventive care exams are so important.
It Starts With A Veterinary Visit
If you’ve been noticing your senior pet “slowing down,” you might be chalking it up to old age. Just like humans, aging means they are at risk for certain conditions that come with an aging body. But solid preventive care can keep them robust and thriving.
The components of a senior wellness exam consist of:
- A nose to tail examination
- Comparing a baseline of health from previous exams to get a picture of any changes
- Adjusting lifestyle to manage any conditions, like weight gain
- Cognition and behavioral assessment
- Using screening tests and diagnostics to look closely at their health
- Dental evaluation
Early Detection of Disease
In addition to a physical examination, we’ll recommend specific screening tests to look for early signs of disease. Pets are masters at hiding signs of discomfort and disease, and screening tests allow us to find small problems early and treat them before full blown disease occurs. This makes for a happier and more comfortable pet, and is less expensive for you in the long run.
Some of the conditions we can catch early with screening tests include:
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Addison’s disease
- Arthritis and joint disease
- Dental disease
Special Attention For Your Senior Pet
When your pet is a senior, it’s important to pay special attention to their behavior and activity level to know if they need your help. Watch for any changes, including:
- Changes in weight (especially weight loss)
- Changes in appetite (less or more)
- Increased drinking
- Increased urination
- New lumps, bumps, or swelling
- Cloudy eyes
- Persistent cough
- Foul mouth odor
- Difficulty getting up, going up or down stairs, or getting into the car
- Hiding more than usual
- Increased vocalization
- House soiling
- Difficulty breathing, or panting while at rest
- Increased sensitivity to noise
- Bouts of weakness
Give Them Comfort
Once your senior pet’s urgent health problems have been addressed, you and your veterinarian can work on a supportive care plan, most of which you can do at home. Senior pets will benefit from certain small changes to their environment.
Diet and nutrition. Most senior pets will benefit from a diet formulated specifically for seniors. Your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist can help determine what brand and formulation will benefit your pet the best. Some pets can also gain health advantages from certain supplements like fish oil and glucosamine.
Move, move, move. Seniors are prone to obesity and may not move around as much as younger pets. Exercise is important not only to maintain a healthy weight, but also to lubricate joints, aid digestion, and provide mental stimulation. If your pet has arthritis, ask us about laser therapy, massage, and swimming to keep them active and comfortable. Keep up with a sensible and regular exercise plan for your senior and watch them thrive.
Love and TLC. As your pet ages, she might be prone to cognitive and behavioral changes. A stable routine of feeding, walks, and bathroom breaks will help support her. Spending quality time with you will go a long way towards keeping her healthy and happy, too. Senior pets also need mental enrichment as much as younger pets in order to avoid boredom. Engage with her often, teach her a new trick, play with toys, or try a new outing together. Your senior pet will appreciate this added activity, and so will you!
The team at Brodie Animal Hospital is honored to be your partner in compassionate senior pet care. Contact us if you have questions about caring for your senior pet.