Taking care of our older pets
Many people tend to accept a declining quality of life for our aging pets as a fact of life. Some of us will do everything we can to help them in their ageing process, others believe it is just an old dog or cat and leave them as they are. I always say that pets give unconditionally to us their entire lives, as they get older, it is time for us to give back to them, and that is making sure they are comfortable, happy, healthy and pain free.
Like people, older pets tend to encounter more health problems than younger pets. We need to pay close attention to aging animals, as they age approximately 7 years for every 1 year of human life. Studies show that 36% of senior dogs suffer from osteoarthritis, 18% show signs of Cognitive Dysfunction syndrome, and almost all older animals have dental disease.
Some of the signs you should look out for to indicate that there might be early problems with your older pet include: difficulty climbing stairs, difficulty jumping up, increased stiffness or limping, loss of housetraining, drinking more water than normal, passing urine more often than normal, lethargy, panting excessively, shaking or trembling, less interaction with the family, changes in behavior (excessive barking / confusion), changes in sleep patterns, eating more or less, bad breath, changes in weight.
Senior dogs should have check-ups at least twice a year. By diagnosing and treating problems earlier, we may be able to slow the disease process and prevent pain and discomfort.
It is also important to remember that older animals have different nutritional requirements – they should consume fewer calories as they are less active and have less energy needs. Having an overweight older animal increases the risk of diseases like arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and musculoskeletal disorders.
Some common disease of older pet’s include: dental disease, Cushing’s disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism (cats), hypothyroidism (dogs), kidney and liver insufficiency, heart disease, arthritis, vision loss, cancer, senility and obesity.
What people may pass off as just ‘getting old’ can actually be symptoms of a treatable disease. Please remember to take your older pets to the vet so they have a good quality of life as they get older rather than suffering in silence.