By Brittany C. Anderson, DVM • South Buffalo Springs Animal Hospital • www.southbuffalospringsanimalhospital.com
Whether you had a big heart and decided to adopt an older pet, or simply looked up one day and found your furry friend is now moving slower and is getting gray around the muzzle; it’s important to understand the needs of your aging pet. It is well known that as we age our bodies change. We often lose muscle mass and energy. Some of us may develop achy joints and arthritis. We must realize that our four-legged counterparts are subject to many of the same changes, but unlike us, they can’t verbalize and let us know how they’re feeling. Our pets are considered seniors around 7 years of age depending on the breed and species.
One age-related change is a decrease in metabolism and a reduction in certain hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. This accounts for the loss in muscle mass and energy in senior animals. A decrease in metabolism is a normal age-related change, however, a severe decrease in metabolism and energy can be due to many different disease processes. Many of these diseases are treatable and can be managed if detected in their early stages. Older animals are prone to certain diseases such as liver or kidney insufficiency, joint issues, thyroid disorders, and cancers. Obesity can also increase the risk of particular conditions like diabetes and pancreatitis. This is why senior diets are specifically formulated to be more digestible and meet the changing needs of older pets.
Annual wellness exams with your veterinarian are essential for your senior pet. Senior wellness exams begin with a physical exam, blood and urine analysis, and x-rays and advanced diagnostics if indicated. These check ups are critical for identifying disease processes early, often before your pet starts showing clinical signs and it may be too late to give them the best chance possible. Many owners have questioned the significance of detecting ailments in their pets such as kidney and liver disease or cancer because they don’t believe there is anything that can be done. However, great advancements are continuously being made in medicine and our pets are included as beneficiaries. Currently, there are medications, diets, supplements, and procedures available to correct many of the conditions that may befall our senior pets. Though all of these conditions cannot be cured, most can be managed, which will give pets a longer and better quality of life.
Have your old friend’s eyes become cloudy from a harmless aging process called lenticular sclerosis or a more visually impairing process like cataracts? Is your pet just slowing down or could they be experiencing joint pain and benefit from joint support supplements and pain management? Is your pet truly experiencing hearing loss or just being stubborn and ignoring you? Your veterinarian can help you navigate through these queries.
Most importantly, your veterinarian can guide you in making sure your senior pet has the healthiest, most comfortable life possible.