Senior Pets – How Life Changes

As the manager of Carver Lake Veterinary Center, I see my share of pets throughout the day.  And when I go home at night, this doesn’t really change much 🙂  I own three cats, ages 12, 11, and 9 and a Golden Retriever who will turn 10 this fall.

I came to the realization not too long ago, that all of my pets are now seniors.  I spend a lot of time talking to clients about caring for their senior pets, and now I can speak from experience.

Becoming a senior pet doesn’t mean that life has to slow down, but it does mean we have to start paying more attention to things that we didn’t have to before.

BIANNUAL EXAMS:  Senior pets age quite a bit faster than younger pets.  So, for every human year that goes by, your senior pet is actually aging the equivalent of around 10 years!  That is why I bring my pets in for biannual exams.  These exams allow my veterinarian to exam my pet, listen to their heart, check their weight, and assess their over all health.  We also spend some time talking about any concerns I have or changes that I am seeing in their behavior.

ARTHRITIS:  Arthritis is another issue that most senior pets, even cats, begin to deal with.  My dog is on a prescription diet for joint health, and all of the pets are on Dasuquin, a daily joint supplement.  For the cats, this combination has kept them mobile and happy.  For my dog, we have recently added a Non-Steroidal AntiInflamatory medication called Rimadyl, to help keep him comfortable.

WEIGHT:  Although it is important to keep pets of all ages at a healthy weight, it becomes extrememely important in a senior pet.  Extra pounds add extra strain to joints, thus making arthritis worse.  Overwieght pets are also more at risk for many diseases such as diabetes.  Keeping our pets at a healthy and stable weight makes it easier to monitor for changes that could indicate an underlying disease.

LABWORK:  Every 6-12 months I run a series of labwork on my pets.  Each pet requires a little something different.  The labwork could include bloodwork to look at liver, kidney, and thyroid function, urine tests to watch for kidney issues, x-rays to monitor arthritis concerns, and more depending on my pet’s needs.  Even if my pets aren’t showing clinical signs of disease, I run this labwork because it allows my veterinarian to see what is “normal” for my pet, and also to screen for underlying diseases that may not be visible through symptoms yet.  Catching these diseases early allows me treat those disease in the early stages, before they start causing my pet discomfort, and it also generally costs less to do so!

DENTAL HEALTH:  Dental health is important to pets of all ages, but it becomes more of a concern in senior pets because the majority of them begin to suffer from dental disease.  Dental disease causes more than just bad breath.  Bad breat is the result of dental infection.  This infection can affect more than just their mouth, it can spread through the bloodstream and impact many other organs, including the heart and lungs.  Home dental care can help prevent this, but only a professional dental procedure can treat the infection.  With four senior pets, I pretty much plan on (and budget for) at least 1-2 of my pets needing a dental procedure each year.

DIET:  As you read above, all of my pets are now on prescription diets.  One cat for chronic urinary issues, the other cats for dental disease prevention, and my dog for joint health. I think of their food as medication in a bag, feeding them this food is like giving them a medication to help with these issues at every meal.

ACTIVITY:  Having a senior pet doesn’t mean all fun activities need to stop.  It just means that you may have to alter some of the things you do together.  For example, I no longer take my dog jogging with me, it just got to be too hard on his joints, but he loves to swim, so instead of jogging, we go swimming more often, which is less stress on his joints, but just as much fun!  My cats aren’t as interested in playing chasing games, but love to snuggle and be brushed now.

So, as you can see, life does change a bit when you have senior pets, but with the proper veterinary care, food & medication, and a little extra TLC, our senior pets can live full, happy lives well into their “golden years.”

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