Geriatric Pet Care
Dogs and Cats Living Longer, Healthier Lives
It may seem like just yesterday when you brought home your puppy or kitten. But lately, you've noticed a slowdown in your pet’s daily activities.
Is this a sign of old age? According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs and cats are considered geriatric at the age of 7. Large breed dogs tend to have shorter live spans and are considered geriatric when they are approximately 6 years of age.
Signs of Geriatric Pet Health Problems
Like people, pets are individual in how they age.
Geriatric pets can develop many of the same problems seen in older people, such as:
- heart disease
- kidney/urinary tract disease
- liver disease
Tips for Geriatric Pet Care
Talk to your veterinarian about how to care for your older pet and be prepared for possible age-related health issues. Senior pets require increased attention, including more frequent visits to the veterinarian, possible changes in diet, and in some cases alterations to their home environment. Here are some basic considerations when caring for older pets:
- Increased veterinary care: Geriatric pets should have semi-annual veterinary visits instead of annual visits so signs of illness or other problems can be detected early and treated. Senior pet exams are similar to those for younger pets, but are more in depth, and may include dental care, possible bloodwork, and specific checks for physical signs of diseases that are more likely in older pets.
- Diet and nutrition: Geriatric pets often need foods that are more readily digested, and have different calorie levels and ingredients, and anti-aging nutrients.
- Weight control: Weight gain in geriatric dogs increases the risk of health problems, whereas weight loss is a bigger concern for geriatric cats.
- Parasite control: Older pets' immune systems are not as healthy as those of younger animals; as a result, they can't fight off diseases or heal as fast as younger pets.
- Maintain mobility: As with older people, keeping older pets mobile through appropriate exercise helps keep them healthier and more mobile.Waych for signs of pain or discomfort. Your veterinarian can prescribe medications to help.Do not use over the counter human pain medications as some can be fatal to pets.
- Vaccinations: Your pet's vaccination needs may change with age. Talk to your veterinarian about a vaccination program for your geriatric pet.
- Mental health: Pets can show signs of senility. Stimulating them through interactions can help keep them mentally active. If any changes in your pet's behavior are noticed, please consult your veterinarian.
- Environmental considerations: Older pets may need changes in their lifestyle, such as sleeping areas to avoid stairs, more time indoors, etc. Disabled pets have special needs which can be discussed with your veterinarian.
- Dental care: Dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health, and dental problems can cause, or be caused by, other health problems. Your pet’s teeth and gums should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian to check for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.
Grow Old Together
Just because your pet is heading into his senior years doesn’t mean you can’t still have the fulfilling relationship you’re used to. Becoming informed about the special needs of older pets is the first step in keeping your pet healthy. With the proper care and attention, your pet might just be there as you enter your golden years!