Your Pet as a Senior
Over the past few decades the life expectancy of cats and dogs has been increasing. This is helped by a number of factors:
- A greater understanding of cats and dogs nutritional needs and the availability of prepared pet foods that provide a balanced diet.
- Advances in veterinary medicine enabling vets to successfully diagnose and treat more conditions.
- The growth of preventative healthcare programmes to detect problems at an early stage and so start treatment sooner.
To keep your senior pet looking good and feeling great requires a little more attention than when it was younger. Both cats and dogs tend to become less attentive to their own grooming so require a little more help from you, especially with their coat and oral hygiene.
Skin and Coat Care
As cats and dogs age their coat can become thinner, losing its shine and the skin can become thicker and less elastic. This changes not only how your pet looks but also how it feels when stroked. In some cases the skin will feel rough and you may find warts or growths on the skin. By establishing a regular grooming routine you can monitor any changes in your pets skin and have any areas for concern checked by your vet as they become evident. Remember to continue to treat your pet for fleas and worms even in their senior years.
As pets age they become more prone to dental problems that can cause pain and discomfort.
The problem often begins with the build up of dental plaque and tarter which, if left untreated, can lead to gingivitis (gum inflammation) and absesses. Such conditions need veterinary dental treatment. Watch out for the following signs when your pet is eating or chewing to help detect any problems at an early stage.
- Eating cautiously or refusing to eat
- Dropping food from mouth when chewing
- Avoiding eating or chewing of dry food
- Drooling saliva when eating.
Ask your vet about an oral care regime that you can carry out at home for your pet.
Keep a record - preventative healthcare planning
Cats are generally considered to be senior citizens from around 8 years of age. A large breed dog is considered a senior from around 5 years whereas smaller breeds age more slowly. At this stage they can be more prone to health problems that can ultimately affect their life expectancy. Once they reach their senior years it is recommended that you take your pet for veterinary check up 2 times per year to ensure early detection of any developing health problems.
When we care for our pets day in and day out, it can be difficult to know if their behaviour or appearance has changed significantly over a period of time. By keeping a record of its general health and appearance you will have a better indication of how your pet is ageing and be able to provide useful information for your vet at each consultation.
This checklist can be used to monitor your pet's health and record any changes that occur.
- Sleeping for longer periods
- Weight changes
- Fussy eating
- Decrease or increase in appetite
- Increased thirst
- Bad breath
- Build up of tarter on teeth
- Incontinence at night
- Urination or defecation problems
- Increased urination
- Dullness of the coat
- Lumps on the skin
- Morning stiffness
- Cloudy appearance in the eyes
- Muscle wasting, particularly around the head and hindquarters
- Less energy
- Reluctance to exercise
- Shortness of breath
- Behavioural changes
- Loss of hearing
- Loss of vision