Health Care for Senior Pets
More than 59 percent of American households have pets they consider family members. Although dogs and cats have shorter life spans than humans, they now live longer than ever before. This means that millions of people have senior pets to care for.
Increased longevity brings new health concerns—heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis, and some kinds of cancer.
Regular check-ups are critical for an older animal. Health exams allow veterinarians to identify and treat problems and to discuss preventive measures, which keep animals enjoying a healthy life as long as possible.
Many tools are currently available for monitoring an aging pet’s health, including blood analysis, urinalysis, and EKG. Animals can’t tell us how they feel, but your veterinarian can use these diagnostic tools to gather a great deal of information.
What preventive health care measures are available?
- Dental: Dental exams should be a part of your pet’s routine exam so that your pet’s teeth are cleaned when needed. Excess plaque can lead to inflamed gums and infection around the root of the tooth, which causes severe pain and possible tooth loss. Infections can also spread to the lungs, heart, liver, or kidneys. Brushing your pet’s teeth can be a stress-free habit for both pet and owner if started early. (Be sure to use products approved for animal use.) Good dental hygiene can add three to five years to a dog’s or cat’s life!
- Senior Testing: As pets get older, their organs slowly deteriorate and lose function. Aging animals are prone to many of the same diseases older humans experience: diabetes, renal disease, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and hyperthyroidism. Senior testing helps establish healthy baseline values so that problems can be identified early. Don’t wait for obvious signs of tragic illness!
- Weight Maintenance: Improve the quality of your pet’s life by not allowing it to become overweight. Provide regular exercise, proper nutrition, and do not feed it table scraps. Being overweight makes your pet sluggish and prone to heart disease and problems in the joints and muscles.
- Vaccinations: Keep vaccinations current. Deadly infectious or viral diseases such as canine distemper and feline leukemia can be controlled with vaccinations.
- Allergies: Pets suffer from allergies—to dust, pollen, fleas, feathers, foods, and even other pets. Animal allergies typically cause itchy skin. Your veterinarian can recommend a diet to keep your pet allergies in check or can prescribe allergy medication. Do not give your pet human allergy medication.
- Mental Activity: Keep your pets mentally active by teaching them new tricks and spending lots of play time with them. Sometimes older pets will also take responsibility for a new household pet by showing it the household "ropes."
- Medication: Advances in medication have brought new products to the market for the senior pet. You can discuss these with your veterinarian.
To improve the quality and length of your pet's life, discuss its symptoms with your veterinarian.