Senior pets make excellent companions, but they are at increased risk for many age-related conditions and require special care to ensure they remain as comfortable and healthy as possible during their golden years. Our teams at Angels Camp Veterinary Hospital and Mother Lode Veterinary Hospital would like to provide a few wise ways to help you care for your senior pet.
Wise way #1: Bring your senior pet in for wellness visits every six months
Age-related issues can be subtle, and your pet may not exhibit signs of a problem until the condition is advanced and difficult to manage. Bringing your senior pet in for wellness visits every six months will help ensure any issues are caught early when they can best be controlled. A typical senior wellness visit includes:
- Physical exam — Your veterinary professional will assess your pet from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail to detect conditions such as cataracts, dental disease, heart conditions, lung disease, abdominal tumors, abnormally sized abdominal organs, and arthritis.
- Complete blood count — A screening blood test will be performed to evaluate your pet’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets to detect conditions such as infection, anemia, and clotting disorders.
- Biochemistry profile — This screening blood test will help detect conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, and kidney disease.
- Thyroid tests — Senior pets are at higher risk for thyroid conditions, and their thyroid levels should be monitored to determine if they need treatment.
- Urinalysis — Testing your senior pet’s urine will allow conditions such as urinary tract disease and diabetes to be detected.
- Preventive medicine — Regular wellness visits can help ensure your senior pet’s vaccines and parasite prevention are up to date.
Wise way #2: Keep your senior pet at their ideal weight
If your senior pet is carrying excess weight, they are at higher risk for several conditions, including arthritis, cancer, heart problems, and kidney disease. Your veterinary professional can help determine your pet’s ideal weight and whether they need to lose a few pounds. Managing your pet’s weight involves:
- Monitoring — Once you know your pet’s ideal weight, you will need to regularly weigh them and assess their body condition score (BCS) to keep track of their progress.
- Food — Your senior pet has special nutritional needs, and your veterinary professional can help you determine the appropriate food for them.
- Portions — Once you find the best food for your senior pet, use the food label to help determine how much they need. You also will need to factor in their breed, neuter status, activity level, and age. Calorie calculators are available to help you decide your pet’s energy requirements. After making this determination, use measuring cups to accurately portion out their food.
- Treats — Don’t give your pet too many treats, and adjust the portion size of their next meal to account for the treats they receive.
Wise way #3: Pay attention to your senior pet’s behavior
Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease that can affect senior pets. In its early stages, CDS can be managed to help slow its progression. You are in the best position to notice changes in your pet’s behavior that could indicate early CDS. Signs include:
- Disorientation — Your pet may become confused in normal circumstances and seem lost in familiar surroundings.
- Changes in social interactions — Your pet may no longer seek your company and may no longer want to play with other pets.
- Sleep habits — Your pet may sleep more during the day and start vocalizing at night.
- House soiling — Your pet may forget their house training and inappropriately eliminate in the house.
- Activity changes — Your pet may become less active.
- Anxiety — Your pet may become anxious more frequently.
- Memory loss — Your pet may not recognize family members and forget well-known commands.
Wise way #4: Make your home senior pet friendly
Conditions such as arthritis, vision loss, and CDS can make navigating around their environment difficult and uncomfortable for your pet, but there are changes you can make to help them adjust, including:
- Soft bedding — Ensure your senior pet has a comfortable place they can rest that will support their aging joints.
- Ramps — Provide ramps to high areas where your pet likes to relax to prevent them from jumping on or off these surfaces.
- Stairs — Close off your stairs if your pet has vision loss to prevent them from falling.
- Furniture — Don’t rearrange your furniture because this can confuse pets affected by vision loss and CDS.
Wise way #5: Keep your senior pet’s mouth healthy
Dental disease can cause significant pain for your pet, and, if not addressed, the condition can progress to loose teeth and possibly a fractured jaw. The bacteria that build up under your pet’s gumline also can travel to other organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, and cause significant life-threatening damage. Take steps to keep your pet’s mouth healthy:
- Professional dental cleaning — Have your veterinary professional perform regular dental cleanings of your senior pet’s teeth.
- Teeth brushing — Brush your senior pet’s teeth daily to help promote their dental health.
- Dental chews — Provide treats approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to help remove plaque and tartar.
Following these wise ways will help your pet stay happy and healthy through their golden years. If you would like to schedule a senior wellness check for your pet, contact our teams at Angels Camp Veterinary Hospital and Mother Lode Veterinary Hospital.