Caring for senior pets
Defined as cats and most dogs older than seven years of age, senior pets have a different set of health care requirements than puppies, kittens and young adult animals. Giant breed dogs are classified as seniors at an even younger age, most of them around age five.
The vaccine schedules of our seniors may be different; and they may have a metabolic or endocrine disease like diabetes or an over- or under-active thyroid that requires daily medications.
One of the most common ailments of senior pets is osteoarthritis. Arthritis may need to be managed with prescription-strength pain medications, nutraceutical supplements or with alternative pain modalities like lasers or magnets or a combination of modalities.
It is often recommended that bi-annual health exams be performed. A complete physical exam from nose to tail will evaluate all body systems such as oral health, heart rate and rhythm, eyes, ears, etc. Also recommended are annual blood panels to check for anemia, inflammation, clotting ability, as well as evaluation of major organ function including liver, kidneys, pancreas and thyroid. If, with these exams and diagnostics, a problem is uncovered, it is best to be proactive and potentially start early medical intervention.
By intervening early a better prognosis and quality of life may be afforded to our senior pets. Since osteoarthritis is a frequent finding in both senior dogs and cats it is important to determine a pain management regimen to help keep them comfortable to maintain their family interactions and overall good quality of life.
Contact your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your senior pet. Remember, they have been loyal and valuable family members for many years, most of them requiring only a yearly exam, vaccines and routine preventative care.
It is important to note that we need to adjust our focus towards our senior pets at home and in the clinic. We will need to pay closer attention to their needs and know that there are different health care options and treatments that they may require.
Dr. Kim Crisanti is a Vet with Airdrie Animal Health Centre.