Thanks to better care, pets are living longer now than they ever have before, but as pets get older, they need extra care and attention. Regular veterinary examinations can detect problems in older pets before they become advanced or life-threatening, and improve the chances of a longer and healthier life for your pet.
Dogs are considered “senior” at about seven years old. Nonetheless, they still have plenty of life left in them at that age. Larger breeds tend to have shorter life spans than smaller breeds, so they are often considered senior at 5 to 6 years of age. Perhaps the best indication that a dog has become a senior is the emergence of age-related health problems.
These are only some of the problems that you can see in your senior cat-this is by no means a complete list.
Cartilage between your pet's joints acts as a buffer to protect the bones from damage. When that cartilage is damaged, it can cause joint inflammation, swelling, stiffness & pain. Symptoms may include limping, change in gait, reluctance to move, aversion to stairs, difficulty standing or walking & exhibiting pain when picked up.
2. Gait changes
Gait changes can vary from limping, knuckling, uncoordination, lameness, limb weakness & arching of the back.
Cancer becomes more prevalent in dogs as they age and is the leading cause of death in senior dogs. It is important to notice if your dog has any lumps or bumps on his body, changes in weight, sores that heal slowly, bleeding from the mouth, nose or ears. You may also see drooling, coughing, excessive panting, difficulty eating, and extreme tiredness.
4. Organ disease
-Diabetes is caused from poor production and functioning of insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas. Insulin’s job is to help move glucose from the blood into the body’s cells where it is then used for energy.
-Kidneys remove waste and maintain balance in the body. When kidneys lose their ability to perform, waste and toxins can build up in the body and wreak havoc.
5. Eyesight loss
Blindness can occur over time in some dogs and is best when caught at the onset when the eyes are just beginning to fail so you can start teaching your dog to rely more heavily on his hearing and other senses of smell and touch. Deteriorating eyesight is part of the normal aging process for dogs. One of the early signs can be cataracts. Cataracts make the eye appear to be covered by a white coating.
6. Behavior changes
As dogs age, you may see changes in their personality & behavior. Some dogs will mellow out, while others may become more aggressive or seek attention less often.
7. Weight gain
With age, dog's metabolism slows similar to humans. They sleep more, play less, & if they continue to eat the same amount of food at meal time, they will gain weight. That is why it is so critical to keep an eye on your pet's body condition score. Weight gain can lead to more senior problems such as arthritis, diabetes, & gait changes.
8. Memory loss
Dementia or canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a medical condition that causes memory loss, personality changes, confusion and disorientation. Alzheimer’s disease in humans is almost the same as CDS. Senior dogs with CDS may even forget tricks, their name, and spend long periods of time staring blankly into space. Pacing is also common, as well as other repetitive, compulsive behaviors like walking in circles.
9. Gum disease
It can cause swelling, stiffness and pain. Symptoms may include limping or a change in gait, reluctance to move, aversion to stairs, difficulty standing or walking, and exhibiting pain when picked up. Plaque and tartar can build up over the years, particularly if teeth aren’t brushed or professionally cleaned on a regular basis.
If you are seeing any signs of senior pet problems, or just have questions, please feel free to contact our clinic to schedule an appointment.
Don't forget....Age by itself is not a disease. Although senior pets may develop age-related problems, good care allows them to live happy, healthy and active lives in their senior years. Work closely with your primary veterinary clinic & their staff to ensure the best care for your pets in their later years.