As we are growing older, we sometimes forget that our pets are getting older with us. Thanks to better care, progressive and innovative medicine, pets are living longer now than they ever have before. And as they get older, they need extra love, care and attention or as we like to call it, TLC (Tender Loving Care).
Dogs and cats are especially skilled at hiding their age, which makes it our job as their family and veterinarians to ensure that we are prepared to face the new set of age related conditions and are ready to support our pets during these “senior” years by developing good health habits.
IS MY PET A “SENIOR?”
The perception of age varies with the species, breed and type of pet you have. The term “senior” is simply used to describe the aging and older pets. According to the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) learning deficits in dogs may be found as early as 6-7 years of age, and cats are considered to be seniors at 7 to 11 years of age. It is important to keep in mind that important factors such as species, breed and organ system have a big hand in a pet’s senior years. For ex: Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans compared to smaller breeds and are often considered senior when they are 5-6 years of age. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) dogs do not age at a rate of 7 human years for each year in dog years. Naturally, as pets age they develop age related problems, but with sincere love, care and attention they can go on to live hearty, happy and active lives.
FIGURE: Provided by AVMA
HOW TO GIVE OUR SENIOR PETS THE BEST CARE?
We can understand that sometimes taking care of your senior pet can get challenging . As a veterinary hospital, we know that feeling far too well. There are some really great lifestyle tips put forth by accredited organizations such as AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) and AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) to help you give your senior pet a healthy graceful life:
1. Monitor your pets weight:
- A pet’s bodyweight can tell you a lot about their health. Weight loss can be a source of concerns, especially in cats. Diabetes and kidney diseases are common causes of weight loss in senior cats.
- Obesity in older pets increases the risk of arthritis, difficulty breathing, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and other conditions.
If you notice any sudden changes in your senior pet’s weight, or would like to keep track of their weight, feel free to come in for a weight check.
2. Behavioral changes:
As our pets age, their behavior changes as well. These changes might be due to changes in their hearing and sight, arthritis, joint pain, all of which is a normal aging process. Some changes can be due to cognitive dysfunction. Common behavioral changes to look out for:
- Increased vocalizing, barking/meowing
- Accidents in the house
- Decreased activity level
- More irritable than usual
- Confused or disoriented behavior
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Easily disturbed by loud sounds
3. Maintain good oral health:
Just like humans, pets tend to develop plaque and tartar on their teeth if proper hygiene isn’t maintained. The accumulation of bacteria in their mouth can then progress into periodontal disease, which can case these oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream causing other health problems.
Your veterinarian at Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital can talk to you more about your pet’s oral health, dental cleaning procedures offered, point out problems areas in your pet’s mouth and suggest at home cleaning tips and tricks.
4. Senior Pet Wellness Testing:
Pets are stoic beings and are very good at masking their illness or pain, which means diseases may be present even in animals that do not appear to be sick. The purpose of wellness exams and blood tests is so we are able to detect early or hidden signs. This is especially crucial for senior pets, since as they get older they are more predisposed to age related diseases. A simple wellness bloodwork panel could involve: Complete Blood Count, Blood Chemistry Profile, Thyroid levels and a Urinalysis.
Early detection of diseases in your senior pet can ensure your pet a healthy active life.
5. Nothing Compares to TLC:
This is by far the best “tip!” Be patient as your senior pet ages, be prepared for when he or she needs your support, love the process! They need all the companionship, love, attention and care you can give. Without you, they wouldn’t be able to lead the beautiful life you can give them.
If you have any questions concerning the health of your senior pet don’t hesitate to contact Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at 201-646-2008 or visit us at www.meadowlandsvethospital.com