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Caring For Your Older Pets

Dogs and cats are living longer now than ever before due to advances in care. Yet, as pets get older, they need extra attention. No matter how well cared-for, your senior pet is vulnerable to certain age-related diseases and changes.

In general, senior pets may need increased veterinary care, added supplements, additional blood work, dental care, and nutritional changes and guidance. Weight gain or weight loss can increase the risk of health problems or be an indication of an existing problem. Excess weight is linked to an increased risk of arthritis, insulin resistance or diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and more.

Orthopedic changes in senior pets can be one of the first signs of aging, particularly those due to arthritis. This may present as your pet no longer being able to go on long walks or having trouble standing after laying down. For cats, it may be a reluctance to jump up on a counter or piece of furniture. Joint supplements and fish oils are beneficial for many older pets with arthritis. There are several pain /anti-inflammatory medications for dogs. There is a new and exciting once-monthly injection for cats with arthritis called Solensia.

Older pets can also develop cognitive dysfunction syndrome (aka dementia, senility). Symptoms include restlessness, aimless pacing, staring, inappropriate urination or defecation in the house, decreased responsiveness to the owner and other pets, and abnormal sleep patterns, among others. There are prescription diets that are fortified with antioxidants and essential fatty acids that may improve cognitive function and delay cognitive decline. There are also several medications that can help.

Many owners of senior pets may find themselves at some time, facing the decision to euthanize a pet, one of the most difficult, yet kindest, decisions an owner can make. Your veterinarian can help walk you through any questions or concerns you may have, including an honest evaluation of your pet’s quality of life.

Remember, aging itself is not a disease. And, although many senior pets will develop age-related complications, you can help your pet live a longer, happy, healthy and active life in their senior years by understanding their special needs. Your veterinarian can help you with all of these considerations, and provide you with the best recommendations for your senior friend.