Going back many years, I remember being pleased to be asked to play in a ‘Golden Oldies’ rugby tournament. Immediately afterwards, on reflection, I was a bit horrified to realise that meant I was becoming pretty ancient as 35 was the minimum age for this classification. Oh, how I’d like to be that ‘ancient’ (and that fit) now!!
Speaking of Golden Oldies, we spend a large amount of time, each day, dealing with what we’d classify as senior pets. One of my lecturers at university was very keen to point out to us that ‘Age is not a disease!’, and I agree with him completely. However, older dogs and cats do tend to present with a plethora of diseases by comparison with our younger patients. Just as with our human medical colleagues, a lot of our efforts and time are spent dealing with these ‘older age’ conditions.
We’d classify dogs over the age of 6 and cats greater than 9 to be senior.
- It may surprise you to hear that one dog year would be equivalent to about seven of our years
- There is a bit of a breed discrepancy, particularly with dogs (small-breed dogs live a lot longer than giant-breeds as a rule), but any dog over the age of six would be considered senior.
- Cats generally live a bit longer than dogs and will sometimes go into their twenties
- Burmese cats seem to have found the gene for long life and we commonly see them persisting into old age.
Senior pets suffer from a number of age-related diseases.
- Many organ systems deteriorate with age including heart, kidneys, thyroids, liver, eyes and brain.
- Dental disease and arthritis are amongst the most common complaints and would affect most, if not all, aged dogs and cats.
- Unfortunately, cancer in its many guises does not discriminate between pets and their owners and we see many different forms of this terrible disease.
- Finally, our oldies can start to demonstrate behaviour changes. We all know about dementia in people – it often happens in pets as well, particularly dogs.
There are many things we can do to help oldies but the first and most important thing is always early detection of disease.
- As I’ve already mentioned, dogs and cats age far faster than we do. As such, we strongly recommend six-monthly health checks so we can pick up any signs of problems before they have a chance to develop too far.
- We’d also recommend doing some screening for common diseases – simple blood panels and blood-pressure tests are easy and inexpensive procedures.
- Regular dental exams and lifelong oral hygiene treatments are hugely important.
- As arthritis is a progressive disease, ongoing preventive care is crucial in keeping this crippling condition at bay.
- Don’t forget that, as pets age, their dietary requirements change and we have some fantastic diets to help with this.
Although we all feel the effects of the ageing process, keep in mind that your pets don’t have to suffer as they get older. There are so many things we can do to keep your furry friends in a happy, healthy, pain-free state. If you have any questions about your senior pet(s), please feel free to give us a call or book directly online to see one of our fantastic vets. We can’t turn back the clock but we can keep them feeling as young as possible up to a ripe old age and that has to be a great thought!