Senior Pet Care

Senior Pet Care

Dogs and cats over the age of 7- 8 years are considered seniors. Some giant breeds of dogs can be considered senior as early as 5 years of age. The ageing process causes many changes in the body making our pets more susceptible to disease.

It is recommended a senior pet receives a health exam twice a year by your Veterinarian. Many diseases can be well managed if diagnosed early enough.

It is very important to maintain a healthy weight for your pet throughout its entire life. This can become increasingly difficult as your pet ages as stiffer joints can decrease  general physical activity resulting in a reluctance to exercise.  An overweight pet is more prone to diseases such as joint disease, diabetes and respiratory disease. If you can’t feel your pets ribs and there is little or no waist line it is a good indicator your pet may be overweight. Shorter but more frequent light exercise that your pet can tolerate will help keep muscles toned and keep unwanted weight off. Senior pets burn energy at a lower rate so you may find the calorie intake in meals needs to be decreased to prevent weight gain. There are many different senior specific foods that can help your pet meet its dietary requirements and help stop that unwanted weight gain.

Conversely, senior pets can also become underweight. It is important to get your senior pet checked by your vet as weight loss can indicate an underlying health problem.

It is important to keep older pets warm in the Winter and cool in the Summer as they may not be able to regulate body temperature as effectively as they did in younger years. Making sure your pet has access to a cool place out of the sun in Summer and a warm dry place in the Winter is a must. Dog and cat coats during the winter are a great idea; there are also coats now available that help cool your dog down during hot days.

It is common for senior pets to experience age related loss of senses due to deterioration of cells in the eyes, ears and nose.

A senior pet that gets startled when approached from behind or appears disobedient may in actual fact be experiencing hearing difficulty. Swapping verbal cues with visual cues will help your pet if they are experiencing hearing loss.

A senior pet that appears clumsy or seems anxious to go outside at night may be developing vision issues. A common aging change is lens nuclear sclerosis – gradual cloudiness of the lenses. Cataracts often present in a similar fashion to nuclear sclerosis, but if left undiagnosed may lead to blindness or even glaucoma, so any cloudiness in the eyes should be checked by your vet. Keeping things familiar around the home and leaving your pets water bowl, food bowl, bed and favourite toys in the same place makes these items easier for your pet to find if their eyesight is deteriorating.

If your pet shows a loss of interest in certain foods try warming the food up to create a stronger aroma – this can help those pets whom experience loss of smell.

With a little extra help your senior pet will be able to adjust to life with reduced senses and will be able to continue daily routines with confidence. 

Some animals can experience ‘brain aging’ or senility, just like people. It is important to have your pet checked if they start to show odd behaviour or increased anxiety as they age.

As pets age their internal organ systems can begin to deteriorate. Blood and urine tests can be very useful when it comes to identifying common diseases seen in senior pets such as kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disease and diabetes etc. Blood and urine tests can provide an early diagnosis of a disease before clinical signs are evident which can then lead to a more successful treatment and outcome. Many senior pets require medications for common age-related illnesses and also undergo anaesthesia more frequently than younger pets – older pets are more likely to need operations for such conditions as skin growths and dental disease. Blood testing plays an important role in determining your pets health status before an anaesthetic, and before, during or after many types of medications.

Urine tests are an inexpensive and simple way to detect some types of abnormalities in the body.

If all test results are normal, not only does it offer peace of mind but also sets a baseline your veterinarian can refer to and use to identify if any subtle health changes that may occur later on.

Arthritis occurs when cartilage that cushions a joint wears away faster than it can be replaced causing exposure to bone and nerve endings. This leads to pain, inflammation and reduced mobility. Arthritis is generally caused by wear and tear as our pets age. It is much more common in senior pets but young pets can suffer from it too. Other risk factors include genetics, trauma and infection. Excessive weight will cause more pressure on the joints increasing the risk of arthritis.

General signs of arthritis include stiffness, lameness and reduced activity. Cats may show difficulty grooming and jumping on or off surfaces, whereas dogs may lag behind in walks, be stiff to rise, and show signs of discomfort when touched in affected areas.

Arthritis is not curable but early management with improved nutrition, anti-inflammatory drugs and nutraceuticals/supplements can help slow the progression of the disease and reduce discomfort providing a better quality of life. Acupuncture can be used to treat osteoarthritis as it relieves pain and acts as an anti-inflammatory by improving tissue blood flow, oxygenation, and removal of wastes and toxins. It is safe and can be used in conjunction with prescription medication. 

For more information please see our Arthritis and Mobility Care page, or arrange an assessment with one of our veterinarians.

Dental disease is more common in senior pets due to the build up of plaque and tartar on the teeth over time. For more information on dental disease please see our Dental Care page, or arrange an assessment with one of our veterinarians.

Help your senior pet by being aware of the risk factors, signs and symptoms to look out for. Discuss preventative care with our veterinarians including nutrition, nutraceuticals and exercise.

Detecting age-related disease early, and with the input and advice from our Veterinary Team, your senior pet can enjoy a longer, healthier and happier life.