Due to advances in veterinary medicine and nutrition, our pets are living longer than ever before. As they reach the later years of life, our pets are prone to age-related diseases similar to health problems in older people. Older dogs and cats can experience heart disease, arthritis, kidney problems, dental disease, and cancer. Fortunately, many of these problems are treatable. Early detection gives us the best chance at eliminating or slowing the development of these problems.
Both these pictures are of individuals who have celebrated 10 birthdays
Since our pets age more quickly than we do, yearly exams are critical. A yearly physical for an elderly animal is the equivalent of a complete physical for a senior citizen once every seven years! Geriatric pets who are experiencing problems should have exams several times per year to ensure many great times to come.
Depending on breed, dogs and cats are generally considered geriatric by the age of 7. Even though your pet might act like a youngster, their bodies begin to slow down. A veterinarian is trained to look for signs you might not see (like kidney disease, heart disease, and cancer, to name a few).
There are things you should look out for as your pet ages:
- Decreased self-hygiene/grooming
- House soiling
- Increased vocalization
- Increased aggression, irritability, anxiety, etc.
- Change in eating habits
Important things to consider as your pet ages:
- Weight can have a severe effect on an elder pet's health
- Exercise is still very important for geriatric dogs and cats but might need to be tailored to their new needs (e.g. shorter walks, water therapy, etc.)
- A pet's food should be consistent with its age. Choose foods appropriate for your senior pet.
Your pet might be older but that doesn't mean you have to stop having fun together! Learn about your pet's specific needs so you can create new routines and memories!
Some common medical concerns for senior dogs and cats are:
- Arthritis: also known as degenerative joint disease, arthritis is one of the most common ailments in senior dogs and cats.
- Dental Disease: infections in the mouth can worsen or stimulate diseases involving the kidney, liver and/or heart.
- Kidney Disease: kidney disease/failure is a common problem in senior pets. Understanding your pet's kidney function is best done with blood and urine tests.
- Urinary Incontinence: the involuntary release of urine is known as incontinence. There are a few reasons why your pet might be experiencing incontinence and your vet will work with you to determine the best course for helping your pet regain their bladder control.
- Cancer: dogs get cancer at the same rate as humans--cats are at a lower rate, but are still at risk.