As veterinarians with over forty years of experience, we like to think of ourselves as spokespersons for our pets. Our passion both inside and outside of the clinic is to promote responsible ownership and preventative health care for all pet life stages.
Watching our pets slow down and grow old is inevitable, but supporting our furry family members through their senior years is also a great honour. Our older pets have probably been with us through many major life events and those memories, and sometimes their positive effect on our own well-being is immeasurable. The least we can do in return is offer the same love and devotion they have shown us, especially when it comes to their health.
We have seen many incredible advances in veterinary medicine over the years, and one benefit of these is our pets are now with us for a great deal longer. The average lifespan of a dog is now 12 years, and 14 years for a cat, although some cats are now living into their twenties!
Of course, our pets’ senior years are not always without a challenge. Health concerns and risks can increase over time as it has been reported the average dog over nine could have up to eight previously undiagnosed health conditions.
Age-related changes are normal, but there is no reason why we cannot support our pets and slow down the progression. We have compiled our top 5 facts every senior pet owner should know to help your golden oldie enjoy their old age.
No pet should have to grow old with painful teeth – Not only is dental disease painful it also complicates several other common conditions seen in our seniors. A recent study estimated the risk of endocarditis to increase six-fold in pets with moderate to severe dental disease. Dental disease can also complicate diabetes, weaken the jaw bone leading to broken jaws and if bacteria enter the bloodstream, cause organ damage. Our dental awareness blog contains great information on how to care for your pet’s teeth.
9 out of 10 cats and 8 out of 10 dogs over the age of eight have signs of arthritis – Sleeping more and reduced activity or general stiffness is often put down to ‘just getting old’ but old age is not a disease, arthritis is, and the associated pain can be managed. As we know all too well, cats are masters at hiding pain. Remember our blog on hidden pain in pets? You may also like to take a look at our mobility blog for advice on how to support your pet.
Obesity rates are known to increase with age – Obesity can cause serious health problems and worsen existing conditions such as joint disease, heart disease and diabetes. Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, contributes to inflammation and inflammation causes pain. Leptin may also influence bone changes occurring in arthritic joints. So excess fat cells are bad news for our pets! Our weight management blog tackles the problem of excess weight.
A third of dogs and more than half of cats over 11 show signs of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) – Sight, hearing, memory, general awareness and the ability to learn can all deteriorate in affected pets. You may notice signs such as ‘forgetting they have been fed’ or confusing night and day routines, slower to react to common commands or being startled easily. Mental stimulation has been shown to slow the progression of CDS, a bonus of our slow feed puzzle bowls for dogs and cats. Here is a short video of Piper enjoying the puzzle aspect of her bowl.
Know your own pets ‘normal’ – This step alone is key to noticing the early warning signs of the onset of disease in your pet. Keep a record of their ‘normal’. How much on average they eat or drink in a day, how frequently they go to the toilet. By monitoring your pet’s health at home you are more likely to notice any changes quickly, you are then able to consult your veterinarian for advice earlier and start any treatment sooner.
How Do I Become a Senior Wellness Advocate for my Pet?
If you can do ONE thing for your pet. Please REMEMBER our homecare routine W.E.T.S.
Weigh – monthly weight check to note any unexpected changes.
Examine – nose to tail check of eyes/nose/ears, any sore skin, swollen or painful areas
Teeth – having a gentle check for any sore looking gums, teeth or oral lumps.
Always report any unusual changes in your pet’s behaviour or routine to your veterinary team, many will already offer senior pet clinics, and will be only too happy to help. If we can work together throughout our pets’ lives to prevent health problems where possible and intervene to slow progression where needed, we can all hope to have healthy, happy pets for many years to come.
Please share our blog with family or friends who may also benefit from this advice, and remember we love to share your pet’s stories. Why not send us a picture or short clip of your senior pet to share on our social media streams? Everyone loves a golden oldie!