By the age of 7, your pet is considered a senior here at the Park Road Vet Clinic. An annual visit to your veterinarian is important even if they appear healthy, but there are many things you can do at home to ensure optimum care for your pet.
Importance of an Annual Exam
As our pets age, they become more susceptible to health risks, but you shouldn’t wait for signs of illness before heading to the vet. Once a senior, it is recommended we see them for an exam bi-annually (every 6 months) as problems can arise much quicker and should be identified before they become out of control or life-threatening. While healthy, exams provide baseline information which can increase the probability of detecting possible problems later in life!!
Feed your Senior a High-Quality Diet
A specialized senior diet includes the essentials that your ageing friend needs to cope!
- Lower in calories but keeps a feeling of fullness
- Higher in fibre
- Adequate protein and fat
- Joint Supplements -> Glucosamine
If other health problems are an issue, there are many different brands of food offering specialized diets for pets with kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, and many others. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best food for your dog based on your dog’s individual situation
** We see increases in the risk of health problems with weight gain in older dogs whereas weight loss is a bigger concern for older cats **
Monitor changes in behaviour/activity
You know your dog better than most, so you know when something may not be right. Do not disregard changes in a pet’s personality, behaviour, or
- Recent weight loss/gain
- Loss of hearing/vision
- Overanxious/ lethargic
- Inappropriate urinating/defecating
- Mobility issues
- Changes in eating/sleeping routine
- Confusion (wandering, not coming when called, etc.)
- Compulsive behaviours (excessive licking, pacing, fixations)
Remember it is much cheaper to prevent disease than it is to treat it
Keeping their weight in their healthy range
- Overweight dogs are more prone to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, skin disease, even cancer.
- Body condition scoring is crucial to determining whether your senior dog is overweight, underweight, or at an ideal body weight.
Taking care of your pet’s mouth
Dental care is important to keep bacteria out of the bloodstream, affecting the heart and other organs. Brushing your pet’s teeth may seem like an unnecessary task, but keeping up with their dental hygiene can help prevent dental disease (causes bad breath). If you cannot brush, consider dental treats and toys that help keep the teeth clean.
Provide your older pet with special accommodations too
- A pet with mobility/arthritis issues may need a more comforting/supportive bed to help with muscle stiffness.
- Custom made braces can be made to help with mobility
- An overweight or unstable cat may need a shallower litterbox to get in/out of
- Ramps can be used to make stairs easier to navigate if they cannot be avoided
- Accidents may become an issue if bladder muscles weaken. This may mean more frequent trips outside with your dog or cleaning the litter box more often.
Although this point may be overlooked by many cat owners, our feline friends need exercise too! To incorporate daily physical activity in your cats’ lives, try:
- Playing! Get some of their favourite toys and throw them around
- Moving their food and water in different locations of the house to encourage them to walk to get what they want
- Using a laser pointer
Proper exercise can help keep your older dog lean and maintain/preserve healthy joints, muscles and bones.
- Depending on age, breed, and other health issues, proper exercise may be a walk around the block, or just down the street and back.
- If your senior is not used to exercise, start slow and gradually increase the intensity — and only after you’ve consulted a veterinarian.
“How to look after your Senior pet” brochure – Hill’s Pet Nutrition Canada 2012
Animal Care Technologies “Caring for the Geriatric Patient Part One” video
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Written by: Nesha Thich