Remember the early days when your pet was full of mischief? Life becomes calmer as they mellow over time, and your bond grows deeper and stronger. However, your pet’s senior phase can bring new concerns about their health.
Senior pets tend to have health problems similar to senior humans, but aren’t as good at talking about them. Try not to assume they are “just getting old,” and there’s nothing you can do, because many senior medical conditions are treatable. At Alpine Animal Hospital, our goal is to promote a good quality of life for your senior pet. Here are some ways to help that happen.
Veterinary visits and your senior pet
Regular veterinary wellness checks should be an essential part of your senior pet’s care. At our hospital, our goal is to screen for potential problems, and to suggest ways to help your pet grow older pain-free, with comfort and grace.
A senior pet veterinary visit includes discussion of your at-home observations and a complete physical exam to assess your pet’s overall health. Common senior problems we may find during a physical exam include arthritis, dental disease, masses, abnormal heart or lung sounds, and vision or hearing problems. Laboratory analysis of blood and urine samples provides important information on liver and kidney function, anemia, or infection signs, possible electrolyte imbalances, and thyroid or other hormone levels. Further testing with X-rays or ultrasound may be recommended If specific abnormalities are noted during your pet’s exam.
Pain management for your senior pet
Arthritis is one of the most common conditions we see in senior pets. Dogs may be slow to get up and down, have a stiff gait, or show obvious lameness. Cats tend to be more secretive about pain, and you may see only a hesitancy to jump, or increased irritability. Arthritis pain can significantly decrease your pet’s quality of life, as they become more sedentary and less interactive. At Alpine Animal Hospital, we use a variety of approaches, including supplements, medications, prescription diets, stem cell therapy, acupuncture, and laser therapy, to return the pep to your pet’s step.
Accommodations for your senior pet
You can make your home more welcoming for your senior pet in creative ways. A softer, warmer bed comforts old bones. Your older cat will appreciate a more easily accessible litter box, while your dog may like a ramp or stairs for getting into the car or onto the bed. Dogs who slip on hard surfaces benefit from rugs in strategic places, or traction grips for their feet. Vision-impaired pets manage well if you keep new obstacles to a minimum, and hearing-impaired pets can be taught basic hand signals.
Nutrition and your senior pet
Your pet’s nutritional requirements change as they age. Many older pets are overweight, which is hard on their joints, and leads to life-shortening conditions. Strategies for weight loss include different feeding methods, increased exercise, and weight loss diets. Treatable medical conditions, such as low thyroid hormone levels in dogs (i.e., hypothyroidism), can cause weight gain, whereas high thyroid hormone levels in cats (i.e. hyperthyroidism) can cause weight loss. Other medical conditions may benefit from specialized diets. Each pet is a unique individual who needs a specific approach for optimum health.
Dental care for your senior pet
A healthy mouth contributes to your pet’s healthy body. Pet owners often tell us how much happier and younger their pet seems after a thorough dental cleaning, but they also worry whether anesthesia is safe for an older pet. At Alpine Animal Hospital, we use the most up-to-date anesthesia protocols and monitoring equipment. We evaluate each pet with pre-dental exams and diagnostic testing to better understand the risks and benefits prior to any anesthetized procedure.
Skin masses on your senior pet
Many pets develop lumps and bumps as they age. Older dogs are especially prone to benign growths such as lipomas, sebaceous gland tumors, or cysts. Some skin masses, such as mast cell tumors or soft tissue sarcomas, are cancerous, and require aggressive surgical removal to prevent their spread. We can determine your pet’s tumor type with cytology or biopsy, and discuss if surgery is the right treatment protocol.
Cognitive dysfunction and your senior pet
Age-related brain changes can happen in pets, too. Cognitive dysfunction signs include vocalizing randomly, staring into space, getting stuck in corners, night restlessness, irritability, anxiety, or inappropriate elimination. Many other medical conditions can show similar signs, including impaired vision or hearing, so ruling those out before formulating a treatment plan is important. Learn more about cognitive dysfunction signs and treatment in pets here.
At Alpine Animal Hospital, we recognize the importance of your bond with your senior pet, and we want their golden years to be as healthy and happy as possible. Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your senior pet’s care.