For veterinarians and veterinary staff senior pets are often some of our favorite patients. Their families have deeply bonded with them over many years and the devotion that we see from their owners warms our hearts. Wouldn’t it be great if all of our furry family members could live forever. Well, we all know that is not possible but we are seeing pets living longer and longer these days. Committed owners that are willing to work closely with their veterinarians often can see their pets living with a great quality of life far beyond statistical expectations. Here’s why:
Older pets need more frequent exams. Cats and dogs over age 7 (and over age 5 for giant breeds) should be examined at least every 6 months. Some with various health issues actually need to be seen even more often. Complete physical exams can uncover subtle changes in body weight, muscle mass, heart sounds, early signs of internal disease and even early stages of cancer. Issues that are addressed early can often be either cured before impacting overall health or managed before there are outward symptoms and before damage to internal organs has occurred.
Nutrition often needs be adjusted as pets age. Metabolic requirements change with age and addressing these changing needs can make a big difference to health and prevention of problems like obesity. Commonly older pets may have a concern with an organ system that is not functioning at 100% and adjustments to the diet can have a huge impact on overall health and progression of disease. Dietary supplements can also have an important role here. Science has learned so much about what supplements can do to help reduce and even reverse aging changes in various body parts and systems. Depending on what is showing the most effects of age in any given patient, whether it be joints, brain, liver, kidneys, heart, or any other organ system a supplement regimen can be tailored to give the most benefit to the pet.
Aging pets can really reap great benefits from periodic lab work. Between blood and urine test the technology for detecting disease early is ever-improving. These days we can know about certain common diseases in cats and dogs months to years before the first symptom will ever appear. The ability to get on top of a problem before it really exists is almost as good as having a crystal ball. For the diseases that cannot be detected prior to the first symptom we can often at least find out what is going on very early in the course of the disease. Pets that begin treatment early in a disease generally have the best prognosis and stand the best chance of avoiding complications.
Beyond the nitty gritty medical stuff, your veterinary team has a wealth of knowledge and experience helping owners help their pets age. Based on discussions of lifestyle and activities we can advise owners on small changes they can make around the house and to routines to help their pet. We are versed in answering questions about quality of life and what to expect as our furry family members age. We are happy to help.