Thanks to advances in veterinary care, more and more pets are living longer than ever before. As your pet ages, it is important to understand their specific needs and challenges. Regular visits with your veterinarian can help detect problems early before they become problems or lead to significant illness.
Common Senior Pet Problems
Eyes and Ears
When your pet ages they will begin to develop age related conditions. For example, your pet may begin to lose their eye sight or hearing. While these challenges can seem scary for us, most pets handle these changes very well. One way to help your pet in their senior years is to consider teaching your pet hand signals. This can start at any age, not just when they are young. These hand signals can help you communication with your pet much easier as they age and become hard of hearing. Eye sight can also change as your pet ages. While this can be a normal change with an aging pet, it can also be caused by a medical condition so make sure you discuss these changes with your vet. If your pet’s eye sight does diminishes, it can be helpful to remember to avoid rearranging the furniture or creating obstacles in your house that may be difficult for them to maneuver.
You may notice that you pet spends more time sleeping as they age. Sometimes this is normal. Other times this may be because your pet is avoiding moving around. Many pets, as they age, develop osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis causes pain and discomfort in joints making it more difficult for your pet to move and be active. The discomfort associated with osteoarthritis can also make your pet avoid being petted or can even lead to depression. It is important to note that these signs could also be caused by other underlining illness. Having your senior pet examined by your veterinarian on a consistent basis can help determine if these signs are caused by osteoarthritis or something more serious. Talking with your veterinarian is important. There are many options available today to improve the quality of life for our senior pets. From specially made orthopedic beds to joint specific supplements, acupuncture and pain management therapies, there is no reason your senior pet should be in discomfort as they age.
Behavior changes, just like in people, is very common in our senior pets. While some of these changes are normal in the aging pet, they can also be due to true cognitive dysfunction. Here are some common signs of cognitive dysfunction:
- House soiling
- Increased wondering
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Disoriented behavior
- Unusual aggressive behavior
If you notice any of these signs in your pet, make sure you tell your veterinarian.
Weight is very serious situation in all pets, but senior pets are probably affected the greatest by weight. Obesity in aging pets, just like humans, cause major health concerns including increasing the risk of osteoarthritis, difficult breathing, diabetes as well as heart disease and cancer.
Weight loss that happens suddenly is also a significant concern that your veterinarian needs to know about. Condition that affect the thyroid, kidney and heart as well as cancer can cause sudden weight loss and needs to be addressed immediately.
It is important to remember that you are your pet’s best advocate and friend. You are their voice. Discussing with your veterinarian the changes you are seeing in your pet is the best way to help ensure your pet has the healthiest and longest life as possible.