Senior pet health: How to care for your aging pet
We all wish our best furry friends will live forever (or at least as long as we do). However, dogs and cats age more quickly than humans, and by the age of 7, they’re considered middle-aged. When your pet starts to come up on AARP age, their health needs change. But with proper healthcare, diet, and exercise, there’s no reason your kitty or pup can’t reach the golden years – and maybe even reach the triple-digits!
Robust healthcare for senior pets
Geriatric pets – those older than age 7, or age 6 for dogs over 50 pounds – should receive:
1. Twice yearly wellness exams.
Wellness visits include a thorough evaluation of your pet’s medical history, health risk screenings, senior pet health education, and referrals to specialty care (if needed). When we examine old pets, we look for common issues such as infected teeth, cataracts, heart murmurs, or tumors.
Regular physical exams and consultations are the most valuable tool to monitor your pet’s health. They’re an easy way to catch developing problems in your aging pet, and early diagnosis is critical to preventing and managing diseases including, but not limited to, dental disease, obesity, osteoarthritis, renal disease, and diabetes.
2. A health risk screen
As part of your senior pet’s robust healthcare regime, your veterinarian may suggest health risk screenings. There are a lot of critical values that need to be checked, including blood sugar, thyroid hormone, and kidney function.
Fortunately, there are easy tests to give us important answers, including bloodwork and urinalysis. With regular health screenings, you don’t have to wait until your pet gets sick before you realize something is wrong. We can catch any abnormalities right away, and address potential problems before they are detrimental to your pet’s health.
“As an emergency and referral facility, we see the importance of early detection of disease in our senior pets on a daily basis,” says Dr. Nikki Branam, hospital administrator at Animal Emergency & Specialty Center. “As a general rule, the sooner a problem is detected the higher success we have at treating and managing it without requiring lengthy and costly hospitalization.”
That includes early detection of kidney disease, liver disease, endocrine diseases such as Cushing’s Disease or hyperthyroidism, and more, she said.
“If a general practice veterinarian is able to detect these diseases early on by performing biannual exams and blood screening tests, the overall prognosis greatly improves,” Dr. Branam said.
Other senior pet care tips
In addition to regular, thorough exams and screenings, your senior pet should receive a nutrition evaluation – many problems can be addressed with a simple diet change! And you should also exercise your pet regularly. Regular walks for dogs, or play sessions for cats, will keep your furry friend in top shape, which is key to longevity.
Finally, keep up with parasite control, including flea and tick control and heartworm preventive, and vaccines. You don’t want your fur baby’s immune system compromised by something easily prevented!