Three of the most common questions that pet owners ask us include:
- “How long will my pet live?”
- “When is my pet considered a senior?”
- “What can I do to help my senior pet stay healthy?”
The oldest recorded age is 34 years for a cat and 29 years for a dog. With the high level of care they receive today, pets are living longer than ever. Now, cats and small dogs are considered geriatric at age 7, while larger breed dogs have shorter life spans and are considered seniors at age 6. Older pets develop many age-related conditions. To help address senior pet health needs, older pet issues can be grouped into four main categories—physical support, dietary adjustment, veterinary care, and pain management.
Senior pets need more physical support
Mobility in older dogs often decreases, which can lead to increased fall hazards. If your home has slick tile or wood floors, consider non-slip pet booties or grip socks, or non-skid mats and rugs. Ramps can assist pets who struggle with climbing stairs or jumping. More mobility-challenged pets may benefit from towel-walking or support harnesses or lifts. Senior pets also have decreased muscle mass, are less active, and tend to feel cold more easily, so consider orthopedic beds, which are more heavily cushioned to support bony pressure points, and help them stay warm. Keep bedding clean and dry, and provide special attention to incontinent pets. Avoid dehydration to help senior pets stay healthy by providing fresh water in several locations, and considering elevated bowls.
Senior pets need dietary adjustments
Older pets need specially formulated senior pet diets for many reasons. Your pet’s golden years come with changed nutritional needs because of lower activity levels and decreased muscle mass. Pets with an ideal body condition score benefit from decreased joint stress and diabetes risk, and senior diets are designed to provide the correct caloric intake level and the proper protein balance, and to be more readily digestible. Senior pets often benefit from canned food or softened kibble to increase fluid intake and decrease mouth and tooth pain. Some senior pet foods are formulated with natural dietary supplements, which makes providing the correct balance and amount of these nutraceuticals much simpler. For example, for senior pets who experience decreased cognitive function, “brain support” diets are available that provide supplements and antioxidants to treat senility and Alzheimer’s-type dementia. Joint-care diets contain the needed balance of fatty acids to aid arthritic pets, and joint supplements come in prescription and injectable forms. Ask our team about the best diet and supplement options for your senior pet.
Senior pets need increased veterinary care
Did you know that almost half of dogs over age 10 are diagnosed with some form of cancer? Senior pets also have an increased incidence of heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disease, and diabetes, so they require an increased level of veterinary care. Schedule a physical exam any time you notice a change or problem, but also schedule appointments when your senior pet seems healthy. We recommend at least twice-yearly regular physical exams, along with blood, urine, and other laboratory tests, to help screen senior pets for problems and diagnose disease at early stages, when more can be done to treat or slow the disease. As pets age, their dental care needs also increase. Pets often mask or hide tooth pain, but regular oral exams at our clinic will uncover the all-too-common senior pet problems of gum disease, dental tartar, tooth root problems, and jaw bone deterioration. Lastly, senior pets’ immune systems change, so we will make any needed adjustments to their vaccination and parasite-control plans.
Senior pets need pain management
Older pets are at risk for increased pain from arthritic joints, back problems, dental disease, and other issues that may go unnoticed, since pets naturally tend to hide or mask their pain. Subtle signs of pain in your senior pet include avoiding stairs or jumping, stiffness, or being slow to get moving. Pets in pain may lick or rub a particular area, or have decreased appetite or activity levels. Sixty to 90% of cats older than 12 are estimated to suffer from arthritis. Cats hide their pain extremely well, however, so referring to the “grimace scale” may help you detect pain from your cat’s facial expression.
The best thing you can do to determine if your pet is suffering in silence is to schedule a Pain Assessment Package appointment with the Westerville Veterinary Clinic team. Our pain assessment package starts with three X-rays and interpretation by a board-certified veterinary radiologist. Next, we perform thermal imaging to pinpoint problem areas of pain and inflammation. Lastly, the package includes one free laser treatment. Laser therapy works at the cellular level to promote healing and reduce pain and inflammation. Our Westerville team employs the most up-to-date technology, tools, and techniques to keep your senior pet happy, healthy, and pain-free.
We want to meet all your senior pet’s needs, from dietary adjustment to pain management, and everything in between. Make an appointment at Westerville Veterinary Clinic so your pet’s golden years can shine.