Thanks to increased rates of desexing and vaccinations, improved diets and advancements in veterinary care, pets are living longer now than ever before. Nevertheless, cats and small dogs are considered seniors at only seven to 10 years of age. Large and giant breed dogs can be a senior as young as five. Our pets’ bodies age and change much faster than ours and one consequence of living longer is an increase in age-related conditions.
Regular check-ups are essential to your pet’s health, and become even more important as your pet ages. Pets develop many of the same problems seen in older people – dental disease, cancer, heart disease, kidney and liver disease, diabetes, arthritis, and even senility. Age-related changes can be subtle, pets express their pain and discomfort in ways we may not readily recognise, and early symptoms may be easy to miss. Many pets suffer unnecessarily in silence. Those ‘grumpy’ or ‘lazy’ old pets may actually be trying to tell you something…that they’re distressed, unwell or in pain.
It’s important not to dismiss changes as simply ‘normal aging’. Although many age-related conditions cannot be cured, their progression may be slowed and their effects managed and minimised. Through regular exams and blood tests, your veterinarian can detect changes before conditions become advanced. When they do, monitoring and managing their health regularly can help maintain your pets’ dignity and quality of life.
In addition, there are many things you can do at home to help your aging pet. Ensure they are on an appropriate life-stage diet; provide a warm, comfy bed to sleep on; provide ramps or steps when pets can no longer jump or access important areas; and most importantly, make sure they remain a valuable member of your family. The oldies have given you so much joy and love through their younger years and now that they are slowing down they need you even more.