Our senior pets need a little extra care and attention because they age faster than we do. It is fairly well known that on average every 1 year of a dog or cat’s life is equal to 7 human years. As a general rule we consider age 8 to be the beginning of the senior years and 12 to be geriatric. However, large breed dogs such as Great Danes and Mastiffs are considered senior at 5 years of age while cats and smalls dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers would be considered a senior at 10.
As with senior humans, a pets metabolic functions need to be more closely monitored to diagnose things such as kidney disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, or liver problems. More advanced testing is often needed to check for problems such as cardiac dysfunction or glaucoma. Hypertension and arthritis are common maladies of older pets as well as people and require medication to maintain control and pain relief. These medications can have ill effects on the kidneys which should be monitored on a regular basis to watch for trends that would point to a pending problem that may be corrected if caught early.
So often we hear from our clients that their pet is slowing down, sleeps more, or is acting their age which can be a natural phenomenon but it can also be a sign that there is a problem that can be remedied and improve their quality of life. No one likes to be in pain and our pets don’t either! Dogs are a little more demonstrative at showing pain by limping or having difficulty going up or down stairs or eating less. Cats on the other hand are much more subtle. They will hide, be less social, become aggressive or stop jumping up on the furniture. Cats are the masters of disguising illness until they are seriously ill. Owners must be diligent in watching for subtle changes.
Our goal as veterinarians is to make sure our senior patients have the best possible quality of life for as long as possible.
Debbie Justice-Obley, DVM
September 1, 2016