OLD AGE IS NOT A DISEASE!
Mosman Vet (Vet, 2015)
Vet, M. (2015, 4 17). http://www.mosmanvet.com.au. Retrieved from Old age is NOT a disease!: http://www.mosmanvet.com.au/Blog/tabid/21948/EntryId/507/Old-age-is-NOT-a-disease.aspx
Did you know that if your pet is over 7 years of age that they are classed as a 'Senior Pet'. Yup, Fido/Fluffy is now officially an OAP! At 7, dogs and cats are equivalent to a 50 year old human! This is an age when most human men and women start to take stock of their health and focus on taking better care of their health. We start to have more regular check-ups with their doctor, have our cholesterol and blood glucose levels looked at, the boys get their prostates checked, and we all get ourcreaky joints checked up regularly. Just as this is important for us, it is also important for our pets.
From the outside most pets will seem 100% healthy. At the yearly vaccination our vets will check their eyes, ears, teeth, heart and lungs, skin, and body condition. The physical exam at time of consult checks the EXTERNAL parts of your pet’s health. What we can’t do is see internally, to check how your pet’s organs are working.
From 7 years of age (50 human years!) your pet should be have twice yearly checks. At this stage of life 1 dog or cat year is effectively 2-3 human years, and ALOT can change in this length of time. If our pets are not checked regularly, early changes and signs of disease can be missed.
Senior pets should have a check up every 6 months - The 1st should be the annual external check up is at the time of vaccination. At this visit your pets will receive a full external check up – eyes, teeth, skin heart, lungs, etc. The second check should be mid-year (roughly 6 months after vaccination) to check your pets internal as well as external health. At this mid-year seniors exam the Vets will collect a urine and blood sample to check how well your pet’s internal organs such as Kidneys, Liver, and Thyroid are functioning. These tests are very important as they can help us to pick up early signs of diseases, before your pet starts to show signs.
Picking up on diseases earlier means that we can start treatment sooner. Earlier treatment is often cheaper for the owners, has a higher success rate, and is more effective than starting treatment once the pet is externally sick.
Older Pets, like older people can be prone to a host of conditions including
Hormonal conditions such as Cushing and Hyperthyroidism
Fatty lumps in the skin called Lipomas
If caught early, many of these conditions can be sucessfully treated or managed, prolonging the life expectancy and quality of life for the pet.
CARING FOR A SENIOR PET.
Veterinary Tip 1: Don’t mistake Disease for ‘Old Age’
We all too often hear the words ‘ he has gotten old’ as a reason why their dog can’t jump into the car and is slower on walks. It’s important to realize that ‘old age’ is not a disease, and that the signs you are seeing may actually be a symptom of a treatable condition. Slowing down in old age may be a sign that your pets joints are starting to stiffen up with arthritis. Similarly, an increaced thirst can indicate consitions such as diabetes, and 'grumpy old cats' may actually be grumpy due to hormone imblances caused by treatable conditions such as hyperthyroidism. If your pets temprement or activity levels have changed, it is always worth getting them checked out as it may be the result of a very treatable condition.
Veterinary Tip 2: Senior checks are important.
Many Veterinary Clinics offer Senior Health Programs for older pets – take advantage of these. Veterinarians today recommend blood tests annually for pets over the age of 7 to check organ function. These tests can help to detect disease earlier, and earlier detection can mean cheaper and more successful treatment options for your pet. By keeping an eye out for Senior Specials you can also save alot of money on blood tests or examinations.
Veterinary Tip 3: Activity keeps you young, so get up and stretch those legs!
Older pets often seem less interested in exercising, but it is very important that they get regular exercise to maintain their muscle tone and keep their bones and joint strong. Daily walks or swimming can be a great form of gentle exercise for older pets, and also help to keep their minds active.
Veterinary Tip 4 : Diet matters.
The saying ‘you are what you eat’ rings true for pets AND people. Many vet clinics will offer special ‘Senior’ versions of dry and wet pet foods. Senior diets are formulated to be slightly lower in protein and phosphorus to help protect against kidney disease, are high in anti-oxidants to help slow the aging process, are higher in omega-3s to help joint, skin and kidney health. Many also contain glucosamine and chondroiten to help support healthy joints and slow down arthritic changes.
Veterinary tip 5: Don’t overlook dental care.
In animals with dental disease, bacteria can spread through the bloodstream to other organs such as the heart and kidneys, and so can pose a risk to overall health, especially in older pets or those with existing heart conditions such as murmers! Routine preventative care and yearly dental checks can help prevent this. Older pets often has bad breath and dental disease which can be painful for them and unpleasent for the owner who receives smelly kisses each morning. Getting your older pets teeth checked regularly is a good idea for everyone involved!
Veterinary Tip 6: Help your pet age gracefully.
Senior cats will often not groom as regularly as young cats and older pets are also prone to inactivity and so their nails can grow quickly. Make sure you groom and trim your elderly pets nails regularly. If you would like a lesson in how to trim your pets nails, our nurses can show you how at no charge, just pop in for a lesson.