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Caring for Senior Pets by Dr Spot

Geriatric pet care with Dr Spot and Campbelltown North Animal HospitalWhen is your cat or dog considered to be a geriatric or senior patient? There is not one answer that fits all pets. A general guideline is as follows:

  • Cats (all breeds) – 10-13 years
  • Small Dogs (<10Kg) – 10-12 years
  • Medium Dogs (10-25Kg) – 8 to 10 years
  • Large Dogs (25-40Kg) – 5-8 years
  • Giant Dogs (>40Kg) – 4-7 years

The information below will outline some important areas that, as an owner of a geriatric pet, you should be familiar with, in order to help provide the highest quality of life for your pet. It is extremely important to report to us any behavioural or physical changes that you may have noticed in your senior pet, no matter how minor.

Diet

As your pet ages, its nutritional requirements change. It is important to provide a well-balanced diet and change its energy intake as needed to maintain a healthy weight. These diets differ from adult formulas in that they typically have fewer calories, increased fibre, reduced fat, lower protein and lower salt levels. This can help to reduce the workload on the liver and kidneys. If a more specific problem is diagnosed in your pet, such as kidney or liver disease, we may recommend a more specialised diet in the Hills Science Diet of Royal Canin range. If you would like to try one of the senior diets we offer in clinic, please let us know and we can work out the best product to suit you and your pet from our range of Hills Science Diet, Royal Canin and Advance foods.

Arthritis

Many of us are familiar with arthritis in humans, but are unaware that arthritis can also affect our cats and dogs. As the aging process continues in your pet, the likelihood of arthritic changes causing pain and discomfort increases. Some common signs of arthritis in cats and dogs include:

  • Slow rising, especially after long periods of rest
  • Reluctance to go up and down stairs
  • Reluctance to jump onto the couch, bed or into the car
  • Reduced appetite
  • Favouring one limb or limping
  • Decreased muscle mass over the affected area

If your pet is exhibiting any of these signs, even intermittently, they are in pain and need to be examined. A thorough physical exam and possibly x-rays will help us to assess your pet and implement a plan to decrease its discomfort. There are many nutritional supplements and medications that will aid us in our goal of increasing your pet’s quality of life.

Dental Disease

Good dental health is important, no matter the age of your pet, however the incidence of tooth and gum disease and associated disorders increases with age. We have facilities to give your pet the same kind of dental clean and polish you get from your own dentist! We can also recommend products to help keep your pet’s teeth cleaner at home.

Brain Aging

As the body ages, so does the brain. Changes in your pet’s brain may be similar to that experienced by an elderly person. The effects of aging on the brain range from nothing overt to severe dementia. Signs of brain aging can include:

  • Disorientation – getting stuck behind furniture, exhibiting slower responses to sights and sounds
  • Activity changes – sleeping more and becoming more restless at night
  • Changes in social interaction – your pet may not greet you at the door, or be less interested in playing with you
  • Anxiety – fear of sounds, people or environments, desire to be with someone all the time or an increase in irritability
  • Depression – disinterest in food, toys, other pets, people and grooming
  • Changes in learning and memory – a reduced ability to adapt to new environments and learn new tasks

A thorough physical exam and potentially a neurological exam, as well as further diagnostic testing, are the first steps in determining a treatment protocol for your pet. There are medications and specially formulated diets that may improve the physical signs of brain aging.

Intact Males and Females

If your pet has not been speyed or castrated, there are several problems they may encounter:

Males

  • Prostate cancer, enlargement or infection – may cause urinary problems or straining to defecate
  • Testicular tumours – check for changes in size, shape and consistency of your pet’s testes

Females

  • Mammary (breast) or ovarian tumours
  • Pyometra – this is an overwhelming infection in the uterus and can be life threatening. Signs include increased thirst and urination, inappetence, vaginal discharge and lethargy

If your pet is not desexed, and you would like to discuss the procedure with us, please feel free to call or drop in for a chat,

Exercise

Exercise is important for all of us to maintain healthy bones, muscles and stamina, and it certainly remains important for our older pets! Frequent walks and playing with your pet not only provides exercise, but also quality time shared with you. If your pet has difficulty completing your normal walk, it may be time to slow down your pace or decrease the distance. If your pet is slowing down though, please remember the impact arthritis can have on a pet’s wellbeing, and bring him or her down for an arthritis check today. Swimming is also a wonderful way to exercise your pet, and is a minimal impact form of exercise that a lot of dogs really enjoy, and can be great for pets with arthritis problems.

Lumps and Bumps

As your pets age, they are more susceptible to developing masses. Some of these lumps are benign, but others may be malignant tumours. It is always a good idea to have us check any lumps or bumps you find on your pet. We can take a sample of the cells within the lump for examination either in-house or by a veterinary pathologist, or we may recommend a biopsy be taken to determine the type of mass you have found. The most important this for you to do at home, however, is to keep track of when you first noticed the lump, and if it has changed in size, shape or consistency. These are important pieces of information to relay to us to ensure we give you the most accurate diagnosis and prognosis we can offer.

Caring for a geriatric pet can be a rewarding experience for everyone. There are many things that you can do to increase your pets quality of life in its golden years. All of our staff are here to help you and your pet with the challenges of aging, so please don’t hesitate to call one of our friendly staff to make appointment for a consultation.