As a general rule we consider a pet to be ‘Senior’ if he or she is 7 years of age or older. In the case of large or giant breed dogs, the threshold for being considered ‘Senior’ might be as early as 5 or 6 years of age. Knowing when to consider your pet to be a senior helps both you and your Veterinary Team to know when to start looking for more age-related health problems and when to start modifying your pet’s diet to one that is appropriate for the considerations of a mature pet. Just like people, your cat’s or dog’s health will change as he or she ages. Our doctors like to check our blood work as we age. Your Vet likes to do that as well, but remember that 1 year of our life might be equivalent to 5-8 years for your pet.
Similar to people as we age, pets have an increased risk of developing diabetes, cancer, heart, kidney, liver and even hormonal diseases. These diseases show very few outward signs in the early stages, but preventive healthcare and blood work might help us to diagnose these problems early on and to start your pet on treatment or management that will help to lengthen your pet’s life and improve the quality of that life as well! At your pet’s annual exam it would be a great idea to get us to draw a blood sample so we can run some blood work here in the clinic that will help us to screen for many of the diseases that become more of a risk as your dog or cat ages.
All too often people say to us ‘Fluffy has really slowed down, but he’s just old.’ People seem to expect their pets to get slow and sedate and fat as they get older. It is true that with age often comes a certain amount of ‘sensibility’ and composure, and your dog or cat may not run around like a playful and exuberant puppy or kitten anymore, but other more insidious or painful reasons could be playing a part in slowing your pet down.
Arthritis and hip dysplasia are two common things that we see that can cause a great deal of pain to our aging friends. Thankfully there are many treatments that we can discuss that can help to alleviate that pain. There are different (pet safe) anti-inflammatory drugs, nutritional supplements or different therapies (like our Therapeutic Cold Laser treatments) that could be used to help manage pain in your pet. Please let us know if your pet is slowing down, is jumping less (particularly for our feline friends), seeming depressed, has a decreased appetite, is gaining or losing weight, has a decreased exercise tolerance or if he or she is yelping or crying when moving about or stretching. It’s common for us to hear people say that their pet is acting like he or she did as a youngster again after we start treatment.
Another thing to watch for as your pets age, is cognitive dysfunction. This simply means that the mind isn’t as sharp as it once was and the animal gets confused easily. Sometimes you’ll see your pet wandering aimlessly (especially at night), having accidents in the house when that has never been an issue before and altered sleep/wake cycles. Maybe your dog sleeps all day now and wanders and howls or barks all night. Maybe your cat goes and stands facing the corner with his head down. Although this can be a challenge to deal with too, we have some options for you.
Please don’t hesitate to talk to any of us, or call the clinic at 613-382-2900 if you have concerns or if you see any of the above signs or symptoms in your pet. If we don’t think to mention senior wellness bloodwork at your pet’s next annual exam, please feel free to ask us about it. If we do uncover an issue, then we can get right on top of it to help improve your pet’s quality of life and to maximize the longevity of your relationship with your furry friend.