At Gawler Animal Hospital, we spend a large amount of 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. Some of this is as simple as a change of diet to reflect the changes required with advancing years. Prescription diets can also hep with specific disease conditions that we see with our oldies. In other cases, a bit more intervention is required from us.
What do we classify as a senior pet? Well, it may surprise you to hear that one dog or cat 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 over the age of nine would also fall into this category.
What sort of diseases do senior pets suffer from? It’s not so much that diseases are specific to one age group or another, it’s just that older pets are much more likely to be affected by many conditions. 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.
What should we be doing to combat these problems? We’ve repeated this many times, over the years, but early detection is the most important aspect to dealing with any disease process. The first point, which I’ve already mentioned, is that 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. As already discussed, as pets age, their dietary requirements change and we have some fantastic diets to help with this.
Seniors ‘Package’. We recognise the challenges of keeping up with pet healthcare as the costs can mount up. At the same time, early detection helps us enormously in treating ageing diseases. As such, we’ve created a package of basic senior healthcare which provides some ‘wellness’ screening at a reduced cost. Please ask our vets or nurses about this as it’s something we’d recommend doing at least once a year – remember, twelve months is a long time in an older dog or cat!.
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, 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!