A pet is considered to be a “senior” when he/she surpassed the half-way point of the average life expectancy for its breed. For simplicity’s sake, we consider pets to be senior over the age of 7 years. During the months of October and November, we, at Mountain Road Animal Hospital, will focus on creating awareness for the diverse health issues that arise for our senior pets; such as:
Increased Veterinary Care:
When we consider that 1 ‘human’ year can be the equivalent of 5-8 ‘pet’ years (depending on breed and size), it makes sense that as they get older, we should really be performing full physical examinations much more frequently in order to try and detect early signs of illness. So many changes can occur in that time and thus, we recommend a bi-annual, instead of annual visit with geriatric animals. The senior pet exam is generally more in-depth, may include specific checks for signs of diseases that are more likely to occur in older animals. At least once a year, the geriatric pet should have general blood work and urinalysis done to help screen for hidden illnesses.
Diet and Nutrition:
Even a healthy senior pet has special dietary needs. As they age, metabolism generally slows and muscle mass tends to decrease. This is why senior pet foods are specially balanced to maintain muscle mass while limiting caloric intake. They tend to be more readily digested and have different ingredients, like joint supplements and anti-aging nutrients (antioxidants, Omega 3/6s, etc). Your veterinarian will be happy to make a recommendation for an appropriate diet for your pet.
Mobility and Arthritis:
Cats and dogs have spent their entire lives performing amazing feats of strength and agility that if the equivalent were performed by humans, they would be considered professional athletes. As with any athlete, as they age, they develop varying degrees of arthritis in the joints that absorb most of the impact: hips, elbows, knees, mid-back, etc. However, unlike us cry-babies, our pets have evolved to be stoic and hide the signs of weakness (pain) from others. For this reason, I generally recommend any senior pet to start on a joint supplement (Fish oils, Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM, Green Lipped Mussel, etc); which will help lubricate and reduce inflammation in the joint and protect the cartilage that still remains.
Pets can also show signs of senility as they age. There are different activities and exercises that can be tailored to your pet to help stimulate mental activity. There are also different nutritional supplements that can be added to help with mental acuity. If you’ve noticed any changes in your pets’ behaviour (startles easily, vocalizes more, confusion, disorientation, not as social, irritable, anxious, aggression, house soiling, etc), please mention this during your senior pet examination.
Non-neutered geriatric pets are at a higher risk of mammary, testicular and prostate cancers. A prostate exam should be part of any complete examination of a senior male dog.
To create awareness and stress the importance of annual geriatric bloodwork and urinalysis, we offer special discounted rates during our Senior Pet Focus (Oct.1-Nov30). Please call today to book an appointment!
Written by Dr. Chantal Rittwage