By: Dr. Lucia Delgado de la Flor
Thanks to the advances in veterinary medicines, dogs and cats now live longer than they used to. Obviously, this is great; they are part of the family and we want them to be with us as long as possible. One consequence of this is that we are now faced with a whole new set of age-related conditions than we didn’t used to see very often. Things that were uncommon before (kidney disease, arthritis, heart conditions) we now see daily, so we all need to adjust to make sure we are doing our part to keep our pets healthy and happy for longer.
So what can you do to help Fluffy?
1. Regular exams: Senior pets should be seen by a veterinarian at least every 6 months, which is about 2-3 years for a human. Can you imagine being 80 and only going to the doctor every 2-3 years? During these visits, general blood work should be processed; this way we can get specific values for your pet and diagnose and/or treat any abnormalities before they become problems. Cats and dogs are very good at hiding signs of disease, most of the time owners won’t see any signs until it’s something that’s being going on for a while. The longer we wait the harder it’s to treat, so we want to catch any problems as fast as possible.
2. Vaccinations and parasite control: The same way your pet’s lifestyle changes while they age, their vaccination protocol should also change to accommodate that. Parasite prevention will also change with age, but keep in mind that as they get older our pet immune system may not work as well so it’s up to us to keep them protected.
3. Diet: There’s a lot of talk about nutrition, food and ingredients nowadays, and that could fill a whole other blog. What’s important to remember is that seniors have different requirements than younger pets; protein percentage, digestibility, caloric content, etc. The diet he has been on for his whole life may not necessarily be the best for him anymore. Depending on their age and any medical conditions we are happy to go over the options with you.
4. Weight control: This actually goes both ways. Obesity has become a huge problem in pet populations in the last decade. As in humans, extra weight puts more strain on their joints and their heart; and can interfere with regular activities. Obesity can drastically shorten your pet’s lifespan, robbing you off a couple of years you could have spent together. On the other hand, weight loss can also be a huge concern in senior pet, it could be a sign of an underlying condition that should not be left untreated. And yes, I know half a kilo doesn’t sound like much but when your total body weight is about 6 kilos then it makes a big difference.
5. Dental health: Keeping them smiling is very important for senior pets. Can you imagine how would your teeth look if you didn’t brush them for 10 years? I bet your breath wouldn’t smell so good either! This is from a mix of food debris and bacteria that’s accumulates on, around and between the teeth. The bacteria causes irritation on the gums that can lead to gum recession, tooth abscesses and, eventually, tooth mobility and removal. Even worse, the bacteria can enter into the bloodstream and make a home for itself in the heart or kidneys (to name a few) leading to worse conditions than will reduce your pet chances of reaching 15.
These are only a few of the reasons why senior pets should be monitored closely and seen by a veterinarian at least twice a year. We at Dundas Euclid Animal Hospital are committed to try and make sure they stays healthy and happy for as long as possible!
Dr. Delgado de la Flor