Senior Pet Care
Preventative care and screening in your pet’s senior years are extremely crucial for maintaining their health. In recent years the veterinary profession have made huge advancements in the knowledge and understanding of the problems facing older pets and how to handle their needs. As animals age, they face a whole new set of age-related conditions. The age at which an animal is considered geriatric is dependent on the species. Cats and dogs are typically considered geriatric at the age of seven. However, larger breed dogs generally have shorter life spans based on the stress their size has on their body. Veterinarians consider large dog breeds geriatric at the age of 6 years old. The following chart will outline that approximate ages of canines in comparison to human years:
Table 1: Comparison of human and dog years. Source: American Veterinary Medical Association
There are certain health problems that older pets are more affected by. These are often the same problems that are seen in older people. Geriatric pets are at a higher risk of developing cancer, heart disease, kidney or urinary tract disease, liver disease, diabetes, joint or bone disease and senility. There are certain things that you can do as a pet owner to keep your older pets as happy and healthy for as long as possible. To keep their digestive system healthy, it is a good idea to switch to a geriatric pet food that is more easily digested and has adjusted calorie levels and ingredients that are geared towards keeping pets youthful. It is also extremely important to maintain their weight to lower the risk of health problems because weight fluctuations are a bigger concern as animals age. To keep joints and bones healthy, it is crucial to maintain mobility in older pets to avoid arthritis or stiffness in the joints. There also should be more measures to prevent the risk of parasite infection since older pets have a weakened immune system because of their age. For the same reason, it is also important to keep your pet on an annual vaccination schedule to maintain a healthy immune system. Household conditions may also need to be adapted based on your pets needs. Outdoor pets may need to spend more time indoors and sleeping areas may need to avoid stairs to prevent the risk on injury.
Geriatric pets will show a wide range of behavioural changes that could indicate incidence of disease. Included in these symptoms to look for are decreased appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, poor hair coat, vomiting, trouble eating and trouble urinating. There are also common symptoms of cancer in pets, including; abnormal swellings or sores, weight loss, loss of appetite, bleeding from body opening, offensive mouth odour, difficulty eating, decreased mobility, lameness and difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating. Arthritis is also a common joint disease that is seen in many older pets. Animals suffering from arthritis will show signs of favouring a certain limb over the other, have difficulty sitting or standing, will sleep more, have the hesitancy to jump or climb stairs, decrease their activity level, and tend to be less alert.
Overall, it is extremely important to maintain the health and wellbeing of our senior pets in the last years of their life. If you have any concerns with your senior pet or want to maintain preventative screening please feel free to contact us at the Hurontario Animal Hospitals veterinary team.
This information and more regarding senior pet care can be found at https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Caring-for-an-Older-Pet-FAQs.aspx