November is Senior Wellness Month at Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group, so we’re highlighting preventive care and testing for older pets. All throughout the month, we’re also offering discounted blood work for senior pets.
Call us to schedule your pet’s Senior Wellness Exam today, and read on to learn more about why these exams are essential for your senior pet.
When Is My Pet Considered a Senior?
Thanks to good veterinary and at-home care, many pets today are living into their teens and even early 20s (for cats). Although senior status varies by pet, generally:
- Most dogs are considered seniors around 7 to 8 years of age.
- Large-breed dogs may be considered seniors at 5 or 6.
- Most cats become seniors starting somewhere between 7 and 11.
Changes in Senior Pets
Although some pets let us know when they aren’t feeling well, many pets (cats especially) hide signs of disease and other health issues. Older pets also tend to be at higher risk for certain illnesses. That’s why as pets age, regular veterinary visits and screening tests for early disease are crucial for helping to catch any medical conditions as soon as possible. And vaccines and parasite preventives remain as important as ever for helping to keep your pet protected against preventable diseases.
As your pet moves into his or her senior years, you may notice some common signs of aging, such as decreased hearing and vision, changes in how much your pet sleeps, and whitening of the fur, especially on the face.
Other changes may be less obvious, particularly if your pet hides signs that anything is wrong. And because pets age faster than people, their health condition can change faster as well. That’s why your veterinarian needs to see your pet more often as he or she gets older.
Regular senior wellness exams, testing for early disease, and vaccinations all play an important role in helping to keep your pet as healthy as possible as he or she ages.
Common Diseases in Older Dogs and Cats
Some common diseases and conditions that may affect senior pets include:
- Arthritis—This chronic, painful joint disease affects both dogs and cats, but when it’s diagnosed early, it can be managed more effectively, slowing the disease, minimizing pain, and maximizing pets’ mobility.
- Cancer—Screening tests are essential for helping to catch cancer as early as possible. We have more treatment options than ever before for enhancing quality of life for pets with cancer.
- Diabetes—Drinking and urinating more frequently are classic symptoms of diabetes. It’s important to catch and control this disease early.
- Heart disease—Older pets are prone to developing heart problems, and high blood pressure (hypertension) is also common in these pets. A special diet and medications can help us manage heart disease and keep senior pets enjoying life.
- Hyperthyroidism/Hypothyroidism—These thyroid problems affect dogs and cats differently. Older cats tend to have hyperthyroidism, which speeds up their metabolism, making it hard for them to keep weight on, despite being hungry and eating a lot. Older dogs, on the other hand, tend to have hypothyroidism, which slows down their metabolism and makes them gain weight. Dogs with this condition also tend to be tired and have hair loss and skin problems. We have options that can help these pets, but the earlier we catch them, the better. Untreated, these thyroid issues can cause other serious diseases.
- Kidney disease/urinary tract disease—Drinking and urinating more can also be signs of kidney trouble, but these symptoms aren’t always obvious, and kidney disease isn’t curable. However, if the disease is diagnosed early, your veterinarian can recommend a special diet to help slow down the disease, as well as other management options to help pets feel better.
- Liver disease—Depending on the type of liver disease, pets may only have vague symptoms or not show any obvious signs until the disease is advanced, so early detection and treatment are crucial. Besides medications, we may also prescribe a special diet to help manage liver disease in some pets.
Testing for Early Disease in Pets
Routine lab work, including blood and urine tests, can help us determine whether your pet has any diseases we need to treat. And early detection means we can start treating your pet sooner, rather than waiting until a disease has advanced and may be harder to manage.
If a disease is detected early, your pet may have more options for care and maintain a higher quality of life.
Certain diseases show similar signs, so determining the cause of your pet’s symptoms is essential. Testing plays a big role in helping us figure out what’s wrong and how to properly treat your pet.
Ideally, we like to begin screening pets at 7 years of age or earlier, so we can get a baseline of what’s normal for your individual pet.
Vaccines for Senior Pets
At Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group, we recommend keeping pets current on vaccinations, as recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). At your pet’s wellness exam, we’ll discuss which vaccines are appropriate for your individual senior pet.
If you notice that your pet is behaving differently or if your pet just seems off, contact us at Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group right away. When possible, however, we want to catch anything that isn’t normal as early as possible. Call us to schedule your pet’s senior wellness exam today!
- American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). Friends for Life: Caring for Your Older Cat. https://catfriendly.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Senior-CareBrochure-WebView.pdf
- AAFP Cat Friendly Homes website. Seniors. https://catfriendly.com/category-page/seniors
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Senior pets. https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Senior-Pets.aspx
- American Kennel Club (AKC). Caring for the senior dog. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/health-problems-older-dogs-senior-old-age
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Loving care for older cats. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/loving-care-older-cats
All accessed November 5, 2019.