One of the most quickly advancing fields of veterinary medicine is care for older (senior) pets. In fact, many pets are now living longer, healthier lives than ever before. This is not entirely surprising since with yearly physical examinations, annual vaccinations, dental care, improved nutrition and regular blood and urine testing, we are better able to prevent or control disease.
Here is our checklist for success:
1. Annual physical and dental examinations to help detect underlying problems. At the time of the annual examination we will also give any vaccinations that might also be due. As pets age, twice yearly checkups may be advisable
2. Be certain to advise us of any changes in behavior or health as your pet ages, no matter how subtle, since these signs might be an indication of early underlying problems.
3. Annual blood and urine tests to determine whether there is any change from the previous year. Abnormalities in these tests may even arise before any signs are noticeable. In fact, in one study, over 25% of healthy older dogs and over 15% of healthy older cats had abnormalities on their tests ranging from bladder disease and Cushing’s syndrome in dogs, to thyroid problems, diabetes and kidney disease in cats, even though there were no outward signs.
4. As pets age their health and immune systems gradually decline so that the foods that maintained adequate nutrition in the young adult, may not be ideal for the older pet. As your pets age, you should be increasingly concerned about feeding a premium quality diet with just the right mix of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for your pet. In addition, weight control is one of the best ways to maintain a long and healthy life.
Based on the history you provide and the findings of our examination and blood tests we will then be able to advise whether there are any emerging health problems that might require treatment and what diet might be most suited to the needs of your pet.
What can be done if we do find problems?
With more pets now living longer lives, the field of canine and feline geriatric care is constantly evolving and advancing.
1. We now have a wide range of therapeutic diets designed for pets with diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, bladder stones, obesity, cancer and even senility. There is also a senior diet that most suits the needs of the healthy senior pet.
2. Early detection of diseases such as thyroid or kidney disease, allow us to begin treatment before complications arise. In some cases we can even slow the progress of disease and prevent further damage with early intervention.
3. New advances in veterinary care have also provided us with better ability to control two problems that may eventually arise in a majority of older pets. Drugs for the long term control of arthritis that are more potent but at the same time safer for the stomach and kidneys are now available. We also have drugs and a new diet to help improve the signs of cognitive decline (senility) and perhaps even slow the damage.
In short, we may not only be able to help you provide a longer life, but also a more comfortable transition into old age for your pet.