WHEN DO THE GOLDEN YEARS BEGIN?
Most pets can be considered a young senior by age 7. This is calculated by averaging the lifespan of cats and dogs. Some large breed dogs may be considered senior pets by 5 years of age. The aging process for pets is much quicker than for us, roughly one of our “human” years is equivalent to 7 years for them!
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Just as health screening becomes necessary for people as we age, the same goes for our four legged family members. Scheduling twice yearly physical examinations is strongly recommended as part of your senior pet health assurance. During these appointments there is emphasis on heart, lungs, joints, skin, eyes, ears and prostate. There will be a body condition assessment, dental examination and consultation to review medical history and discuss new physical or behavioral changes. Remember: because our pets age seven times faster, this suggests health problems are progressing seven times faster also. That’s why it is a good idea to run blood and urine tests periodically to ensure your senior pet is healthy and to enable us to catch problems early. These tests help to detect conditions such as diabetes mellitus, kidney, heart, or liver disease, thyroid problems, bladder infections or stones, and urinary tract diseases, to name a few. Geriatric disorders tend to be chronic and progressive which require monitoring so that we can stay on top of them.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
The health and well-being of senior pets also is reflected in their diets. Proper nutrition is an extremely important factor in senior pet health. Dietary needs mirror the changes occurring in the body. Metabolism slows and fewer calories are needed. Just as we need to alter our diets as we grow older, aging pets need the same attention. When certain medical conditions are diagnosed it may be recommended to use a prescription diet to help manage the problem. Weight gain is also a problem with senior pets.
WHAT CHANGES CAN WE EXPECT?
While some signs of aging such as graying muzzle and slowed activity are easy to identify, others can be more subtle. Most age-related changes in our pets tend to be gradual. Therefore it takes a watchful eye to recognize what may be early signs of disease or health problems. Following is a list of the most common changes associated with agerelated diseases and compromising medical conditions.
- decreased activity
- less interaction with family members
- less enthusiastic greeting behavior
- sleeping more – or sleeping during the day and being awake at night
- disorientation/confusion (getting “lost” in the house or yard)
- less responsive to verbal cues or name
- weight gain or loss
- changes in appearance ( skin, coat, loss of muscle tone)
- changes in eating or drinking habits
- increased urination
- loss of house-training
- limping/stiffness of gait
- vision and hearing loss
- dental problems (offensive breath)
- increased infections
- digestive problems
The bottom line is that your pet is aging faster than you and that you can make these senior years much more healthy and happy, perhaps even prolong their life by addressing the care needed by those old bones!