Make Your Pet's Senior Years Golden
Sensory changes in senior pets cause a general “slowing down.” As their major senses dull, you may find that your pet has slower responses to external stimuli. This loss of sensory perception often is a slow, progressive process, and it may even escape your notice.
The best remedy for gradual sensory reduction is to keep your pet active. Playing and training are excellent ways to keep his or her senses sharp.
Pets may also be affected mentally as they age, just as aging humans begin to forget things and are more susceptible to mental conditions. Most of these changes are rather subtle and can be addressed in a proactive manner. Regular senior health exams can help catch and treat these problems before they control your pet’s life.
The physical changes are generally easier to spot than the sensory changes. As the body wears out, its ability to respond to infection is reduced, and the healing process takes longer. Many of the signs indicating that animals are approaching senior citizenship are the same for both cats and dogs, but they can indicate a variety of different problems.
The kidneys are one of the most common organ systems to wear out on a cat or dog, causing your once well-behaved pet to have trouble controlling his or her bladder. Excessive urination or incontinence may be indicative of diabetes or kidney failure. Although no one wants their pet to suffer those conditions, both are very treatable if caught early.
Many older pets benefit from specially formulated food that is designed with older bodies in mind. Obesity in pets is often the result of reduced exercise and overfeeding and is a risk factor for problems such as heart disease.
You should definitely keep your pet going as he or she gets older. If they are cooped up or kept lying down, their bodies will deteriorate more quickly. You may want to ease up a bit on the exercise with an arthritic or debilitated pet. Otherwise, you should keep them active—mentally and physically—to keep them sharp.
Them Achin’ Bones: Pain Management
Pets experience pain just like humans do, and we recommend taking steps to identify, prevent, and minimize pain in all senior dogs and cats. We use pain assessment as the fourth vital sign (along with temperature, pulse, and respiration).
The different types of pain include:
- Acute pain—Pain that comes on suddenly as a result of:
- Chronic pain—Pain that is long lasting and usually develops slowly (such as arthritis)
You can play a key role in monitoring your pet to determine whether he or she suffers from pain. Be sure to monitor behavior and physical conditions.
Signs of a problem:
- Sustained, significant increase in water consumption or urination
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Significant decrease in appetite or failure to eat for more than two days
- Significant increase in appetite
- Repeated vomiting
- Diarrhea lasting more than three days
- Difficulty in passing stool or urine
- Change in housebreaking
- Lameness lasting more than five days or lameness in more than one leg
- Noticeable decrease in vision
- Open sores or scabs on the skin that persist for more than one week
- Foul mouth odor or drooling that lasts more than two days
- Increasing size of the abdomen
- Increasing inactivity or amount of time spent sleeping
- Hair loss, especially if accompanied by scratching or if in specific areas (as opposed to generalized)
- Excessive panting
- Inability to chew dry food
- Blood in stool or urine
- Sudden collapse or bout of weakness
- A seizure (convulsion)
- Persistent coughing or gagging
- Breathing heavily or rapidly at rest
The trained professionals at Hefner Road Animal Hospital are available to help with any questions you may have about your senior cat or dog. Give us a call today.