Whether your pet is just starting into their senior years, or into the geriatric stretch, this newsletter is all for you! Most of us don’t like to think about the aging process, but it doesn’t have to be a negative thought. There are many, many advances in modern medicine that allow our pets to live their elder years in excellent comfort. The key is to pay attention to their needs, and develop a game plan with your veterinarian as their bodies change. Working together we can help ensure that every day for your pet is a positive one.
From feeding your pet high-quality food, to exercising his body and brain, Dr. Marty Becker shares the best ways to help your senior cat or dog live longer.
Feed Them Right: Feeding a high-quality food is so important. Commercial dog and cat foods are highly researched, and I would venture to say that plenty of pets eat a healthier, more balanced diet than a lot of people do.
Watch Their Waistline: Obesity is one of the more common problems we veterinarians see in pets, and it’s especially troubling in older pets. Carrying excess weight stresses the joints and can exacerbate osteoarthritis or hip dysplasia. Being overweight can also cause your pet to have difficulty breathing, make him less tolerant of heat, and contribute to high blood pressure and diabetes. Fat cats and dogs are also at higher risk of problems when they must undergo anesthesia. Those are just a few of the ways obesity can affect a pet’s well-being, especially as they age.
Care for Their Body — and Brain:Your senior pet might be arthritic or have a heart condition, but physical activity is still important. You just need to tailor it to their abilities. Walk instead of run; take shorter strolls instead of all-day hikes; play in the yard or indoors; and practice obedience skills such as sit, down and come to get them moving.
Mental exercise is equally important. Employ puzzle toys that require your pooch to manipulate them to get at the goodies inside. Even better, put their kibble inside a food puzzle or slow feeder and let them “hunt” for their meals. Another way to do this is to hide small amounts of their food throughout the house so they can search for it while you’re gone.
Last but definitely not least, schedule veterinary visits at least annually — and consider going twice a year once your pet becomes a senior. The immune system can weaken with age, and a titer test can determine if they needs any booster vaccinations to help protect them against disease. In addition, organs can also begin to work less effectively at this time of life, and aging pets are more prone to cancer. If we can catch these things early, through physical exams and bloodwork, we have a much better chance of treating or managing disease successfully and usually at lower cost to you.
While we don’t like to think about our canine and feline friends getting old, it is important for us to make sure we are watching for changes in their health. Early intervention often means extended quality of life, and lower veterinary costs, which makes both you and your companion happy! The attached link is to a Geriatric Questionnaire that helps your veterinarian identify symptoms, to better aid your aging pet. We’d love for you to complete the questions, and bring it with you during your pets next visit. You are also welcome to email it to us, and we can let you know right away if Dr. Paterson recommends coming in for an appointment to help get your pet back on track.
As veterinary medicine advances and pet lover’s awareness grows, longer and healthier lifespans are possible. Average pet lifespan varies greatly between dogs, cats and breeds. Being aware of the changes age brings will help owners prepare for optimal pet health in the senior years.
As a general rule of thumb, dogs and cats are considered “senior” around age seven. Larger dogs sooner (age 5 or 6), and smaller dogs later (age 8 or 9). Dogs have such a large variety of breeds and sizes that there isn’t a single age that automatically translates to senior status.
The most accurate way to plan for your pet’s senior years is to make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s specific needs and age-related plan for optimal health.
Check out some age-related myths from the Aging Pet Care Awareness Survey.
As dogs age, their dental health may decline, which means older dogs are often in need of a dental cleaning. But is there such a thing as a dog being too old to get his teeth cleaned?
The answer is that it depends on several factors. Of course, no procedure done under anesthesia is entirely safe. Even in people, a consent form must be signed making you aware of the risks for complications.
While a dental cleaning done on a 12-year-old dog may be more risky compared to a dental cleaning done on, say, a five-year-old dog, there are several things that can be done to reduce the risks for complications. Most likely your vet will already do all these things by default, but it doesn’t hurt to check and make sure that these precautions are in place. Here are some questions that you may want to ask.
- Will my dog have blood work done prior to the procedure?
- Should antibiotics be given prior to the procedure?
- Will my dog’s mouth be x-rayed?
- Will IV fluids be given during the procedure?
- Will my dog be monitored by an experienced person during the procedure?
Fortunately, veterinary anesthesia has become much safer over the years. There are now safer anesthetic drugs, advanced monitoring machines, and vets are taking precautions such as screening pets with pre-anesthesia bloodwork and giving IV fluids during anesthesia. Also, owners of old dogs should consider getting the cleaning to be done sooner than later, considering the dental disease tends to get worse rather than better, and the longer one waits, the older the dog. As to ultimately considering the risks, Dr. Dan’s quote below goes a long way.
“The public is scared of the anesthetic and that is because they have lost a pet or know someone who has lost a pet under general anesthetic. I know people who have died in car crashes. I still choose to drive. — Dr. Dan”