Senior pets routinely suffer from a wide range of age-related health conditions, but you can help them age with grace. Read the following stories about senior pets and their medical issues, and learn how their owners helped resolve their problems.

Marmalade the cat’s litter box problems

Marmalade is a gorgeous, longhaired, tortoiseshell cat who is approaching her golden years. While we never ask a lady her age, rest assured that Marmalade’s age measures in double digits. Long accustomed to the finer things in life, Marmalade enjoyed her fluffy bed, premium diet, and daily grooming sessions. However, her top of the line, self-cleaning litter box left something to be desired at Marmalade’s stage of life—lower sides. Marmalade struggled to get in and out of her pristine, robotic litter box, because osteoarthritis was causing increasingly painful joints. 

Because Marmalade experienced so much pain when trying to enter her litter box, she began to avoid her normal toilet, and found softer, easier places, like the laundry pile and the bathroom rug. Dismayed by Marmalade’s behavior, her owner scheduled an appointment with Alpine Animal Hospital, to discover the problem.

Marmalade’s diagnostic testing results showed that the poor kitty suffered from degenerative joint disease in her elbows, hips, and lower back, which made clambering over the litter box’s tall sides extremely difficult. Her blood work also displayed evidence of early stage kidney disease. Common in older cats, kidney disease is a lifelong condition that requires special food, supplements, and fluid therapy to manage. 

To help Marmalade remain happy and healthy, we recommended:

  • Switching to a low-sided litter box
  • Changing to a prescription kidney diet
  • Beginning a kidney health supplement
  • Adding a water fountain, to encourage drinking
  • Scheduling frequent follow-up appointments, to monitor her kidney disease

Griffin the schnauzer’s house troubles

Griffin the schnauzer was considered an old man among his doggy pals, having celebrated his 15th birthday this past month. Although he still felt spry, Griffin was beginning to have difficulties navigating his home. His owners had recently rearranged the living room furniture, and the poor pooch was still banging into the couch and chair as he wandered through. He also began having trouble finding the door to go outside, and routinely ended up on the wrong side, waiting for the hinges to open. And, every time the doorbell rang, Griffin acted like he was under fire, and began panting, whining, and clinging to his owners. Griffin was also ravenous, thirsty, and peeing everywhere, so, sadly, many issues had begun plaguing this poor pup once he turned 15!

Confused by the change in their dog’s behavior, Griffin’s owners scheduled an appointment at Alpine Animal Hospital. After undergoing several diagnostic tests and a thorough physical exam, we determined that Griffin had two main problems—diabetes and cognitive dysfunction. Schnauzers are known for a predisposition to diabetes development, and Griffin’s age made him a prime candidate for cognitive dysfunction. Plus, Griffin was rapidly forming cataracts because of his uncontrolled hyperglycemia.

While Griffin’s blood sugar could be regulated through insulin injections and an appropriate diet, he needed some help keeping his mind sharp. To help boost cognitive function and ameliorate the signs associated with a decline, we recommended that Griffin engage in daily interactive play, eat from food puzzles, and enroll in a training class. Environmental enrichment and interactive play are key to warding off cognitive dysfunction in aging pets, and you can never play with your furry pal too much. 

Ways to support your senior pet’s health

Although Marmalade and Griffin are fictitious pets, their situations commonly occur in senior cats and dogs. As your furry pal ages, you can support their mental and physical health to keep them young, active, and happy. Here are a few senior pet care tips to get you started:

  • Play with your pet daily — Nothing helps keep your pet mentally and physically healthy like daily interactive play. You can train, groom, pet, and exercise your pet each day, to ensure they stretch not only their legs, but also their mind.
  • Encourage regular low-impact exercise — Osteoarthritis affects many senior pets, but low-impact exercise, like swimming and walking, can help support joint function, and maintain muscle mass. 
  • Feed an appropriate diet — As your pet ages, their dietary needs change. They may require a special prescription food to help manage a chronic health condition, or simply need the reduced calories found in a senior pet diet.
  • Be cognizant of your pet’s joint health — Help your arthritic pet navigate your home more easily by placing stairs, ramps, carpet runners, and orthopedic beds in necessary spots.
  • Avoid sudden changes in your home and routine — Senior pets are susceptible to disruptions in their environment and schedule, and often are anxious or forgetful. Try not to change your furniture layout and routine, to avoid unsettling your pet.
  • Schedule more frequent veterinary visits — More frequent veterinary visits help detect disease and begin a treatment plan sooner, providing a better outcome. While age is not a disease, many conditions develop because of advancing age, but regular wellness visits can catch them more quickly.

Is your furry pal beginning to turn grey in the face? As your pet reaches senior status, their health care needs change, so contact our Alpine Animal Hospital team to schedule their wellness appointment.