Senior Pet Health Care
Senior pet health care is one of the biggest considerations that pet owners have to deal with but, with the right steps, you can ensure that your pet enjoys old age in comfort. In many ways, we have to treat this form of health care much like we would in humans. There are certain factors that come into play when humans reach their senior years, such as bone and joint problems, organ problems, immunity deficiencies and general frailty, and the same can be said for dogs and cats. The only difference is that our pets reach senior status much faster and have different physiology. When is your pet considered to be a senior, what problems do you need to look out for and what can you do to help?
When is your pet considered to be a senior?
Old age in pets depends on the breed and life expectancy, as well as on environmental conditions. The general rule that a dog ages seven years for every human year, but this can depend on the breed. A 10 year old cat is seen to be the same as a 63 year old human, so would essentially be reaching retirement, while a 10 year old dog can be anything from 56 to 78 depending on the breed. This means that larger breeds should be treated at senior when they reach 7 or 8, just to be on the safe side.
What are some of the key senior pet health problems to look out for?
Osteoporosis and arthritis: A deterioration in bone heath is also common in pets and can affect their abilities, health and mood. Look out for stiffness in movements, if they favor a certain leg, a decreased interest in playing or an inability to climb the stairs.
Organ problems: Liver, kidney and heart disease are all potential killers in our pets and there are the related issues of diabetes, urinary issues and potential heart failure. Look out for changes to toilet habits, house soiling, blood in their urine, vomiting and decreased appetite.
Blindness and hearing loss: Just as with humans, the senses start to go in old age and pets can suffer with poor vision and hearing too. Learn about adaptations for blind and deaf dogs if your pet starts to loss either sense and learn how to make their life easier.
Senility: The cognitive function of pets can deteriorate in similar ways to humans, with memory loss and confusion making their day-to-day lives more difficult. Keep an eye on their mood and abilities and look out for confusion, anxiety and agitation.
Dental problems: Oral health and dental care are often overlooked in our pets and this can take its toll in later years. Be sure to brush their teeth and provide dental treats and toys that can maintain oral health. If you don’t, it could result in tooth loss and mouth pain, which can affect eating and weight maintenance.
Weight gain and weight loss: It is more important than ever to maintain a healthy weight in a pet’s senior years. Poor health and diet can lead to a decreased appetite and weight loss that is unhealthy. A decrease in activity and problems with bones and joints can lead to weight gain. Obesity in dogs can pose all sort of health risks and put strain on organs that are already at risk. It is all about providing the right exercise regime and diet.
Immunity and general heath: Poor immunity means that pets can be more susceptible to disease and infection from parasites, ticks and fleas. This mean that it is important to keep an eye on issues while grooming, to keep up with relevant medication and to talk to your vet about vaccinations.
Cancer: Cancer is a big problem with senior pet health care. Mammary, testicular and prostate cancer not just seen in humans so it could be worth neutering and spaying pets to reduce the risk. Look out for problems with breathing and eating, unexplained lumps and swelling, poor digestion, and bleeding from orifices.
What changes can you make to help with senior pet health care?
Dietary changes: A change in diet and a shift to specialized senior pet food can make a big difference when trying to maintain a healthy weight and address certain senior pet health problems. Specialist formulas can target deficiencies and problems to help keep your pet on the right track, such as food for joint health and food for heart health.
Changes to the living situation: There are all sorts of ways that you can adapt your home to help an ageing pet. You can put ramps in to avoid steps, bring in softer flooring options and provide a more comfortable place to sleep.
Changes to their routine: It is important to look at their exercise regime and toilet habits. Exercise is still important, but it needs to be tailored to their needs and ability. It is a good idea to increase exercise if your pet has become overweight, but don’t put too much strain on a poor heart or bad joints.
Brain training for pets: Pets that have expressed problems with their mental state can benefit from increased cognitive training and stimulation. Play games with them and give them food puzzles to break a routine and get their brains working.
Your vet is your closest ally when dealing with senior pet health care concerns.
Once your pet reaches their senior years, it is important that they receive regular check-up to look out for the problems listed above. Ideally, this should be done twice a year. The check-up give your vet the chance to run blood work, provide a full examination and administer any necessary medication or vaccinations. It is also the perfect opportunity to discuss any of the changes mentioned above, like dietary supplementation and routine changes. A vet can also monitor a pet’s progress over time to see if there is an improvement or decline in their health and abilities. With their guidance, you can determine their quality of life and plan ahead for end of life care.
Euthanasia is the most difficult step to take and should only done when it is in the best interests of all concerned. A low quality of life and irreparable health means it may be time to say goodbye so that they no longer suffer. It is important to keep this in mind, but it is also crucial to remember that this can be avoided with the right care and attitudes towards senior pet health care. If you know the signs, monitor the health of your pet carefully and do all you can to ease any symptoms and health problems, you should be able to ensure that their senior years are pain-free, enjoyable and manageable.
Again, just like for humans, senior health care is an ongoing process. Sometimes the care has to be delivered even before the pet is considered aged, sometimes not. Care can be delivered at the office or in the home. In Charlotte, a person can go to a hospital or agencies like First Home Health Care deliver medical care to the patients home. Some vets will visit in the home, like The Visiting Veterinarian.
Whether at home or at the office be sure your loved ones get the care that they need.