If you have a senior pet, you probably know that she requires a little extra TLC. Most veterinarians agree that senior pet care should begin at age seven for both dogs and cats. We have compiled the following list of seven ways you can take the best care of your senior pet so she enjoys her golden years in good health.
Visit the vet every six months
During most of an animal’s life, an annual visit to the vet for a general wellness check is sufficient. However, diseases can settle in and cause significant damage to the body between yearly visits. Once a pet reaches senior status, she should see the veterinarian at least every six months.
During biannual appointments, your veterinarian will have an opportunity to diagnose diseases in their early stages, when they can be managed and treated more effectively.
Have blood work performed once a year
At least once a year, general blood tests should be performed to evaluate your pet’s overall health. A physical exam can allow the veterinarian to detect clinical signs of disease, but many health conditions show no outward signs until they are quite advanced. Blood work can pick up early indications of organ degeneration, diseases like diabetes or thyroid malfunction, and general inflammation or infection.
Monitor for kidney disease
Kidney disease is one of the most common diseases to affect older cats. An early detection test for kidney disease should be included on the list of your pet’s annual blood tests. Animals with kidney disease do not display noticeable signs until 75 percent of kidney function is gone. However, there are blood and urine tests that can detect signs of kidney disease before they are outwardly visible.
Have her teeth cleaned
The most common health condition to affect pets, dental disease is present in most animals by the age of three if preventive steps—like daily brushing and regular dental cleanings under anesthesia—are not taken to stop its progression. Although it does not wait for old age to start wreaking havoc on the mouth, by the time your pet reaches her senior years, dental disease can become quite extensive if left untreated.
If your pet is already on a regular dental cleaning schedule, keep it up! If, however, tartar has accumulated on your furry friend’s teeth, her breath has started to smell bad, or she’s having trouble eating, it’s time to see your veterinarian for treatment. Dental disease causes pain, infection, and tooth loss. The tartar that builds up on the tooth surface is teeming with bacteria that can enter the bloodstream and cause infection elsewhere in the body and even heart disease.
Monitor for signs of pain
Aging often brings degenerative disease—like arthritis—that can be quite painful. As an owner of a senior pet, it is important for you to carefully watch for signs of pain. Pets normally slow down with age, but they should not walk gingerly or with an abnormal posture. Vocalization, decreased appetite, moodiness, changes to normal activities, reluctance to play, and even hiding (especially in cats) can also indicate that your pet is painful. Most painful conditions can be treated with medications prescribed by your veterinarian. Never give an animal human anti-inflammatory or pain control medications. Many human medications, including ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen, are toxic to pets.
Reassess her diet
A less-active older pet will not need the same caloric intake as a young, rambunctious one. When your pet starts to become less active, you should adjust the type and amount of food she eats. There are many foods formulated specifically for older pets that have ingredients to help support an aging body. Follow label instructions for proper feeding amounts and measure out each meal so your older pet does not become overweight.
Keep her comfortable
As your pet ages, you’ll likely need to make lifestyle adjustments to help keep her comfortable. Walking up and down stairs often becomes difficult for elderly pets, so litter boxes and food bowls should be moved to the main floor of the house. If your pet normally lounges on the couch or your bed, you may want to invest in a set of steps or a ramp for her to walk up so she doesn’t need to jump.
Older pets may not be able to hold urine and feces for as long as they used to, so more frequent bathroom breaks may be necessary.
Questions about your senior pet’s health? Give us a call at 704-827-7422.