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Senior Wellness

For the Health of Your Senior Pet

Like people, pets are living longer…….and that is GRRRRREAT news!!

We all value the affection we share with our pets. Nothing helps that friendship last longer than working with your veterinary team to maintain your pet’s health and quality of life. As your pet ages, changes occur in their physical condition which warrant extra care in addition to their annual physical examination. That’s why we want to develop a complete health maintenance program to provide optimal care for your older pet.

Do I need to change my pet’s food?

Older pets are apt to gain weight as the body’s metabolism and the pet’s activity level slow down; therefore, food consumption must be balanced with the activity level of your pet

Most premium brands of pet food have life stage formulas. For your senior dog or cat it is a good idea to use a senior formula. These senior diets are formulated with the health needs of an older pet in mind. In addition to feeding a good diet it is always best to measure out each meal (using a measuring cup) and meal feed. This will help maintain your pet’s ideal weight and body condition.

How often should I exercise my pet?

Regular exercise is important to maintain bone strength, muscle tone and stamina. Taking daily walks and playing with your pet are excellent methods of promoting physical activity as well as enjoying their companionship.

However, if your pet has difficulty rising or walking, degenerative joint disease or arthritis may be the problem. Arthritis is a common aliment, especially in older dogs and cats, often impairing the ability to stand or walk. There are products available such as Rimadyl®, Deramaxx® , Dasuquin®, Meloxicam, and Tramadol that can aid in the pain and discomfort associated with such aliments. Bringing your pet swimming may be an option available for you, and this exercise has less impact on the joints.

Should I groom my pet more often?

Weekly grooming is an ideal time to notice the general condition of the skin and especially the eyes, ears, mouth, paws, anus and genitalia. Because your pet is getting older, it is important to know that skin problems may occur more often since the skin may be thinner, less elastic and does not repair itself as quickly. If it seems that your pet is losing more hair, it may be due to disease or because hair follicles are not as active as in the younger years.

Tumors in and under the skin become more likely as your pet gets older. If you notice any abnormal odors, discharges, swellings, or lumps during the grooming, give us a call to schedule an examination.

What other changes might I expect in my pet?

As your pet ages a number of degenerative changes may occur that affect your pet’s behavior. Hearing and vision may appear to decrease. This decrease may be due to specific diseases involving the eyes or may be related to various behavioral changes. You might interpret this as simple aging, but it actually might be due to a treatable geriatric disease, such as cognitive dysfunction. Some typical signs include; confusion, disorientation, decreased activity, changes in sleep/wake cycle, loss of housetraining, or signs which suggest a decrease in your dog’s interest in or ability to interact with its environment or with you.

You should also be aware of any unusual changes in activity level and attitude, appetite, water intake, urination, bowel movements, or body weight. These and other signs of illness such as vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, or sneezing should be promptly reported to us.

  • Even if your pet seems perfectly healthy, regular wellness examinations are important to manage many of the changes associated with aging. We recommend your pet have a through physical examination with blood work every 6 months. Remember, 6 months in your senior or geriatric pet is as long as 5 years for people.

Diagnosing & Treating Disease Early

Pet ownership carries with it the responsibility of being proactive in providing healthcare for your “furry family member”. Being able to diagnose and treat diseases in their early stage, when the success rate is much higher, is our goal.

The following are some early signs of disease.

  • Sustained, significant increase in water consumption
  • Sustained, significant increase in urination
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Significant decrease in appetite or failure to eat for more than 48 hours
  • Significant increase in appetite
  • Diarrhea that lasts over 3 days
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Difficulty in passing stool or urine
  • Lameness that lasts more than 5 days, or lameness in more than one leg
  • Noticeable decrease in vision, especially if sudden in onset or pupils that do not constrict in bright light.
  • Masses, ulcerations (open sores) or multiple scabs on the skin that persist more than 1 week
  • Foul mouth odor or drooling that lasts over 2 days
  • Increased size of abdomen
  • Decrease activity or increased amount of time spent sleeping
  • Hair loss, especially if accompanied by scratching or if in specific areas (as opposed to generalized).
  • Rapid or heavy breathing at rest
  • Inability to chew or eat dry food

Some of these changes are minor and may not seem significant; however, they might indicate an underlying medical condition and if caught early, could be treated more successfully.

Pain – Recognizing the signs

What is pain?
Pain is an unpleasant sensation occurring with varying degrees of severity as a consequence of injury, disease, or emotional distress.

What kinds of pain are there?
Acute and Chronic are the two types of pain. Acute is a sudden pain resulting from injury, surgery, or infection. It is usually temporary and goes away when the condition that caused it is treated. Chronic is a long lasting pain and usually slow to develop. A common cause is arthritis, but cancer or bone disease may cause it as well. Some animals gradually learn to tolerate chronic pain and live with it. This makes it harder to detect.

When we learn to observe our pets for a change from normal behavior, we may begin to recognize pain. Listed below are some changes that might be noticed and resulting from pain:

  • Limp or change in gait
  • Licking, rubbing, or scratching an area
  • Reluctance to move; or moves with apprehension or stiffness
  • Inability to rest or sleep normally (restless-always adjusting)
  • Worried or anxious expression
  • Sitting in a hunched position
  • Won’t lift head, or looks up only with the eyes
  • Won’t wag tail, or holds tail at a lower position
  • Slight changes in breathing rate (panting when not warm)

Some pets never show signs of pain, but they still feel it. Cats may even purr and dogs wag their tails.

Pain plays a clear biological role in an animal’s survival. It signals impending or actual tissue damage and may prevent injury. It also plays a protective role after injury, such as preventing movement that may cause further trauma. But unlike humans, animals are programmed to hide pain because of their survival instincts and their desire to please their human owners.

Please help your pet by reading early signs for pain and call us!

Accommodations we can make for pet’s that face physical challenges:

  • Keep food dishes at a comfortable height – raised dishes
  • Have litter boxes on multiple floors for cats with difficulties going up/down stairs
  • Put non-slip rugs down on slippery floors
  • Use ramps to help pets on stairs or into vehicles
  • Place baby gates to close off rooms or stairs that risk the pet injury
  • For a large dog, use a sling to help pet rise or walk
  • Wrap hot water bottles and place in pet’s bed to warm them- replace as needed as they cool. Leaving cool water in the bottles may cool your pet instead.
  • Groom pet regularly- keep nails short and hair on feet and between toes trimmed
  • If outdoors, keep pet in sight at all times, danger from the environment or other animals could be everywhere
  • Keep collars off pets when confined in a small kennel- they are likely to get snagged and can choke the pet
  • Make sure to keep the pet moving, exercise is still important (use it or lose it!)

Safety Precautions everyone should know:

Never give cats Tylenol® (Acetaminophen), Advil®(Ibuprofen), or Aleve®(Naprosyn)
Never give dogs Advil®(Ibuprofen) or Aleve®(Naprosyn)

Wellness Plans Available:

Proactive preventative care will not only improve the quality of your pet's life but also will add years to it.  We are offering an opportunity to spread the cost of your pet's preventative care conveniently over 12 months.  Click on this Senior Canine Wellness Plan or Senior Feline Wellness Plan link for more details.