Aging pet

Caring for your aging pet

If you have an aging pet, more careful monitoring is needed by you as an owner to assess them for any possible deterioration. Large breed dogs have a shorter lifespan than small breed dogs. While some cats can reach a very ripe age, other breeds tend to be more prone to organ malfunction earlier in life. Caring for these pets as we would older and more fragile people is a good attitude to have. Take your older pets for shorter walks, be more patient with them, and give them thicker bedding. In general, be more patient with them: the days of being a puppy or kitten, are now in the past.

Once your dog reaches the age of 7 or 8, with large breeds; and 9 or 10, in smaller breeds and cats: more regular visits to your vet are recommended. Routine checkups will ensure your vet can assess if there are any ‘red lights’ regarding deterioration. Routine blood tests to ascertain organ function are also important to do in aging animals. This can be potentially very helpful in highlighting a potential problem early on. Required treatment and patient management, and a consequent increase in the patient’s lifespan are attained.

The so called ‘end stage organs’ include the heart, the liver, and the kidneys. These three organs can take an immense impact, damage and functional loss before the animal presents any clinical signs. Once the symptoms of failure are observed though, there is very little function still left, and thus the treatment is limited in its effect. Thus, if one pre-emptively tests the organ function, and finds a sub-clinical presentation of a problem (for instance, heightened liver or kidney values): then pre-emptive treatment and management of the patient can afford the animal a good quality of life for a longer period of time.

Mental, or neural, degeneration is also a common finding in ageing animals. With delirium from neural deterioration being a finding in older dogs especially. Feeding the right diet for the stage of life is very important, as these patient’s needs differ as they get older. Vitamins and minerals, in the correct ratio, are needed to supplement the aging body. Consult your veterinarian for the diet which would best suit your pet’s needs.

Osteoarthritis of the joints (also known as degenerative joint disease) is very commonly found in aging animals. It is important to maintain a healthy weight in your pet, so as to put less strain on both the musculoskeletal system, as well as the heart. Once arthritic signs are noted, however, management of this and supplementation with joint supplements is recommended. Consult your veterinarian for a potential medical management of arthritis, should your pet struggle to walk, or have pain during motion.