Like older people, older pets have special needs that must be addressed in order to remain healthy. Knowing how to care for senior pets can improve their quality of life and extend their lifespan. These tips will help you keep your older pet happy and in good shape.
The Life Stages of Senior Pets
We talk about animals being senior pets by the time they reach the age of seven, but that's just a general estimate. It all depends on your pet's breed. Smaller animals tend to live longer than larger ones, and cats usually live longer than dogs. No matter what age your pet is when it's considered a senior, that's the time when they begin a general physical decline. Their physical condition slows down, their immune system begins to break down, they're more susceptible to disease, and they're at a much greater risk of developing health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. Aging isn't a disease, but it's the process by which the body allows more disease to develop and thrive because the body can't fight it off as easily as before.
As pets age, their metabolism begins to slow. Unhealthy weight—whether that’s a weight below or above the ideal weight—is a common problem in older domesticated animals. This can cause older pets to be more susceptible to diseases like cancers, diabetes and other ailments. Proper diet can help pet owners manage their pet’s weight. Speak with your veterinarian to find out which brands and formulas are appropriate for your pet.
Once a pet reaches a certain age, the likelihood of contracting a chronic disease or developing a painful condition can increase. Prevention and early diagnosis can extend the life of your pet. This is why many veterinarians recommend an increase in veterinarian visits once a pet gets older. It’s important to bring your pet to all regularly scheduled vet appointments, even if your pet seems healthy. Veterinarians know what to look for, and may be able to spot health problems that you aren’t able to identify.
Geriatric pets need regular physical activity just like younger pets, but some animals may need to have their activities altered as they begin to experience problems like joint pain. The ways in which your pet’s physical activity will change will vary depending on the health of your pet, so speak with your pet’s veterinarian to adjust your pet’s activity to the right levels.
Perhaps the most important part of senior pet care is ensuring that the pet receives regular veterinary care. Watch for changes as your pet ages, and talk to your pet’s vet about any symptoms you find concerning.
Pets are living longer these days than ever before because of advances in veterinary medicine. At Silver Heights Veterinary Hospital we care for a wide variety of aging senior pets, and we advise all of their owners that preventative medicine is the best way to keep their furry family member healthy and active for the longest time possible. It's only natural that health problems will appear more often as pets get older. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key.
Look for Signs of Illness in Your Pet
The best way to tell if your pet is showing signs of aging is to bring it in for regular annual pet wellness exams. In between checkups, it's important that you watch your pet for signs that its health may be fading in any number of ways. Some of the signs to look for are:
- Any change in appetite and water intake
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- The inability to climb stairs or get onto furniture
- Collapsing or sudden weakness
- Coughing that won't go away
- Drooling or extremely bad breath
- Change in urine and bowel movements
Pet Wellness Checkups for Senior Pets
When your pet ages, it's even more important to watch for developing diseases and health problems. The earlier we spot a budding problem, the better chance we have for treatment and a cure. We generally recommend having our senior pets come see us at least once a year if they have no obvious health concerns. Our veterinarian may advise more frequent visits for pets with medical problems. Call our office today to schedule your pet's next exam at 204-504-5600.