Just like people, pets have changing needs as they age. While every animal is different, there are general guidelines to determine when they become "senior citizens." Cats are considered mature at 7 to 10 years, senior at 11 to 15 years. This can also depend on the size of the animal.
There are a number of health problems that can affect older pets, in fact many of them are the same problems seen in older people, such as:
• Heart disease
• Kidney/urinary tract disease
• Liver disease
Arthritis is a common occurrence in older pets, especially large breed dogs. Cartilage between joints acts as a buffer to protect the bones from damage. When that cartilage is damaged it can inflame the joint. Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints. It can cause swelling, stiffness and pain. Symptoms may include limping or a change in gait, reluctance to move, aversion to stairs, difficulty standing or walking, and exhibiting pain when picked up. An animal may lick or chew at the aching joint and can show irritability or aggression. There are treatments including drugs and changes in diet and exercise.
Pets that have injured their joints earlier in their life also have a tendency to develop arthritis as they age. As in people, arthritis in our pets may only cause a slight stiffness, or it can become debilitating. Once- agile pets may have difficulty going up and down stairs or jumping into the car.
Dental disease is the most common change we see in older pets. Routine dental care including tooth brushing can help keep dental disease to a minimum. Pets who have not received proper dental care can develop significant dental disease as they age and can at times develop life-threatening complications. Regular dental cleanings can often prevent dental disease and the need to extract teeth. It also gives us an opportunity to address other mouth abnormalities - check for cancer, broken teeth and misaligned teeth.
Heart disease in animals often will not cause obvious symptoms until the disease becomes advanced. As a pet's heart ages, it loses some efficiency and cannot pump as much blood in a given amount of time. The valves of the heart lose some of their elasticity and also contribute to a decreased pumping efficiency. Diagnostic tests such as radio-graphs (x-rays) and an echo-cardiogram can be used to diagnose heart disease. Various medications are available depending upon the type and severity of disease. Symptoms can include slowing down, exercise intolerance, coughing after resting and weakness.
Kidney disease risk increases as an animal will age. Kidneys remove waste and maintain balance in the body. When kidneys lose their ability to perform, waste and toxins can build up in the body and wreak havoc. This poisoning of the system is referred to as kidney failure. Many things can cause the kidneys to cease doing their job. It can be a kidney stone that blocked off the urinary tract, or rupture of the bladder, or normal aging of the kidneys. Symptoms of kidney stones in dogs and cats can include drinking more water, urinating more, and having accidents in the house. You may see apathy, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, and the dog may develop an ammonia smell to their breath
Kidney function can be measured through blood tests and a urinalysis. These tests can identify a kidney problem well before there are any physical signs of disease.
Diabetes can often be mistaken as kidney or urinary issues but is related to the production of insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas. Insulin’s job is to help move glucose from the blood into the body’s cells where it is then used for energy. Symptoms of diabetes include frequent thirst and increased urination, weight loss, fatigue, irritability, recurring infections, blurred vision, and slow-healing cuts or bruises.
Diabetes in dogs is a complex disease caused by either a lack of the hormone insulin or an inadequate response to insulin. When a dog does not produce insulin or cannot utilize it normally, his blood sugar levels elevate.
Diabetes mellitus in cats is linked to obesity as in humans. Left untreated, it can lead to weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting, dehydration, severe depression, problems with motor function, coma, and even death.
Please contact our vets for more information or advice on your senior pets well-being here.
Tags: Pet, Kidney, Pain, Disease, Cat, Vet, Pet care, Veterinary Medicine, Dog, Pet Health, Senior, Elderly