Many issues that affect people as they enter their golden years can also affect your aging pet. Most pets require more frequent veterinary care and certain changes in their lifestyle once they reach 7 years of age. Keep reading to learn guidelines to help care for your senior pet, to help prolong their life and wellbeing.
Your senior pet needs more frequent veterinary care
Senior pets are at higher risk for age-related health conditions, and most pets do not indicate they are ill until the condition has progressed to a stage that makes management difficult. By having your pet evaluated by a veterinary professional every six months, these conditions are more likely to be caught in the early stages, when they can be better managed. Senior wellness care includes:
- Physical exam — Your pet will receive a thorough physical exam. Eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and dry eye, can be diagnosed. Heart murmurs and arrhythmias can be detected. Respiratory issues, such as asthma and pneumonia, can be recognized. Abdominal tumors or changes in abdominal organs may also be noted.
- Complete blood count — This blood test can check for conditions such as anemia, infection, or leukemia.
- Blood chemistry profile — This blood test assesses your pet’s organs and electrolytes, and can detect conditions such as kidney disease and liver disease.
- Thyroid levels — Senior pets are at higher risk for developing thyroid issues, and their levels should be monitored regularly.
- Urinalysis — Testing your pet’s urine can detect conditions including urinary tract infection, kidney disease, and diabetes.
- Fecal check — Testing your pet’s feces can detect parasites.
Your senior pet’s weight needs to be monitored
Overweight pets are at higher risk for developing several serious health conditions, including diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and arthritis. Weighing them regularly, and assessing their body conditioning score (BCS), can help ensure they remain at an ideal weight. You should also ask a veterinary professional to help you determine the best diet for your senior pet, and to calculate the right amount they should be fed.
- Determine the correct amount — Use the serving recommendation label as a starting point, and then factor in your pet’s age, neuter status, breed, and activity level. You can use a calorie calculator to help determine your pet’s daily energy requirements, or your veterinarian can help.
- Measure the correct amount — Accurately measure your pet’s food using measuring cups, as opposed to estimating the amount.
- Give treats sparingly — Treats should account for no more than 10 percent of your pet’s calorie intake. Ensure you adjust their meals, to allow for the treats they receive during the day.
Your senior pet should receive regular dental cleanings
Poor dental hygiene can cause bacteria to build up around your pet’s teeth and gums. The bacteria can invade under the gumline, resulting in significant inflammation, and considerable pain and discomfort. If not addressed early, the inflammation can cause your pet to lose teeth and, in small-breed pets, lead to a fractured jaw. The bacteria can also invade your pet’s bloodstream, traveling to their organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and liver. Once the bacteria affect your pet’s organs, their health can deteriorate rapidly. Yearly dental cleanings will help prevent periodontal disease from causing issues for your pet. Brushing their teeth daily at home is also a great way to improve their dental hygiene.
Your senior pet’s behavior should be monitored
Senior pets are at higher risk for developing cognitive dysfunction. This disease, similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans, has no cure, but if caught in the early stages, can be managed to slow the progression. Signs to watch for include:
- Disorientation — Your pet may act confused when in familiar surroundings.
- Decreased activity — Your pet may be less willing to play.
- Sleep habits — Your pet may sleep more during the day, and, as their condition progresses, they may be restless and vocalize at night.
- Interactions — Your normally sociable pet may not want attention, and your normally independent pet may become clingy.
- Anxiety — Your pet may become anxious more frequently.
- House soiling — Your pet may forget their house training, and eliminate inappropriately in your home.
- Memory loss — Your pet may not recognize you or other family members.
Your senior pet’s environment should be safeguarded
Your pet may suffer from mobility issues, or vision or hearing loss as they age, which can make certain tasks difficult. You can make these changes to help them negotiate obstacles:
- Ramps — Install ramps to help your pet access favorite spots on couches, beds, and windowsills. This will ensure they aren’t injured when they attempt to jump on or off.
- Stairs — Blind pets can easily fall down stairs, so block off your pet’s access to stairs, to prevent injury.
- Furniture — Do not rearrange your furniture, which can confuse pets affected by vision loss and cognitive dysfunction.
You want your senior pet to stay by your side as long as possible, and following these guidelines will help ensure your senior pet stays as healthy as possible. Contact our team at Airway Animal Clinic, if you would like to schedule a senior wellness exam for your pet.