The role of our four-legged friends has changed over the years. They have gone from being outdoor tools (like guard dogs or herders) to being loved members of the family. Because we are now being more proactive over our animals’ health they are living longer. Our goal in this blog is to educate you on how we can ensure that your senior/geriatric pet is living not only longer but healthier lives.
It’s important to know that one of our calendar years is 365 days. In our dogs and cats, one of our years can range anywhere from 6 to 8 years of theirs. The general rule is that the larger the animal, the more rapidly they age. Because of this, it is important to recognize the signs of aging.
Signs of Aging
Weakness, weight loss/gain, stiffness, change in appetite, vision/hearing loss, disorientation, change in activity levels, reluctance to jump
Signs of Illness common in older pets
Weight Loss, increased drinking/urination, lack of appetite, slowed eating, vomiting, loose stool/diarrhea, incontinence, quick to tire, coughing, heavy breathing, growth/masses, abdominal bloating, reluctance to jump. While these signs are not exclusive to older pets, they tend to be some of the more common first signs of aging.
How can you help?
- Be aware of changes to your pets health! Monitor for signs of aging! Do not assume that these signs are due to just age alone. Many times when these changes are noted it can be indicative of illness!
- Provide nonslip surfaces to help pets gain traction
- Refrain from making dramatic environmental changes within the home. If this has to be done, try to do it gradually and allow pet access to one room at a time to allow familiarity with changes
- Shorter, more leisurely exercises tend to allow pets less strain on their joints than longer more strenuous activities
- If there is a risk of falling or slipping from high areas, the use of baby gates or other blocking mechanisms is advised
- For our visual or auditory impaired, try to make yourself known well before approaching your pet. This can include things such as; turning on lights, calling the pets name, vibrations with heavier footing, and use of night lights
- Know your breed’s predispositions. If you don’t know, ask your veterinarian what conditions your pet may be prone to as they age
How can we help?!
- Senior animals should be evaluated by a veterinarian ideally every six months but at a minimum annually
- Be prepared for your veterinary team to recommend senior bloodwork as many of our animals will not show signs of illness until their internal organs are severely impaired. At this time, options and therapies may be limited
- Start your pet on natural supplements such as joint supplements, omega fatty acid supplements, and potential prescription diets
- Follow the recommendations of basic preventative care curated by your veterinary team