All cats and dogs over the age of 7 are considered senior. When caring for older pets, they will have special health needs and may require more attention and care than younger pets. As your pet ages, changes occur in his or her physical condition that require more frequent visits to the vet. If medical problems are recognised and treated when they are first detected, the treatment may be easier for your pet and less costly for you. To aid in this early diagnosis we suggest the following:
Biannual vet checks
See your vet every 6 months to get your pet checked over and assessed. Their annual vaccinations can be incorporated into one of these checks. This is a great opportunity to discuss any issues that may have developed. An ideal senior health check includes:
- A complete physical examination
- A complete oral examination
- Body weight check and discussion on body condition
- A seniors blood test to check functioning of internal organs e.g. liver, kidney, thyroid and red and white bloods cells.
- A urine test to check kidney function and look for urinary tract infections, bladder stones or diabetes. Ideally it’s great if you can bring us a fresh (morning preferable) urine sample from your pet. Please discuss with our staff how to do this.
- A blood pressure check
- A discussion on arthritis status
- A discussion on mental status
A premium diet
We cannot stress enough how important a good quality, balanced, “senior“ premium diet is. It will significantly prolong the life of your dog or cat as well as so many extra benefits for skin, joints, teeth and weight maintenance to name a few. Supermarket brands are not considered premium foods. Look for brands such as Hills whom undertake significant research to establish what diet is best for a senior pet. There are also prescription diets available for certain “old age” issues such as kidney disease, dementia or arthritis which can have a huge impact on the health of your pet. Your vet will be happy to discuss the ideal diet for your pet.
Dental disease is extremely common in older animals and often overlooked as a source of pain and discomfort. Your vet should check your dog or cat’s teeth every 6 months and address any apparent issues. A lot of our clients are worried about putting their older animals under anaesthetic. However dental procedures are commonly performed on older animals as long as they are otherwise well so please discuss with the vet the risks and issues with performing this procedure in your pet.
Arthritis is another frequent source of pain for these older dogs and cats and is often not treated as the pet is just considered “old.” However these animals are often hiding their discomfort.
Supplements and medications are available to help alleviate pain and a specific arthritis plan can be formulated to help ease your pet’s suffering.
Senior pets need brain training just like senior people and enriching their mental state can reduce the impact of cognitive decline which is commonly seen in older animals. Some diets and supplements are also available to improve brain health.
Mental enrichment may include:
- Physical activity e.g. walks or dog parks
- Treat puzzles e.g. where they have to work to get the treats out.
- Teaching them new tricks or commands.
- Human interaction e.g. coffee shop visits.