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Like People, pets are living longer…

That is good news! We all value the affection we share with our pets. Nothing helps that friendship last more than working with your veterinarian to maintain your pet’s health and quality of life.As your pet ages, changes occur in it’s physical condition which warrant veterinary care in addition to the annual check up. We are here to help you develop a complete senior pet care maintenance program to provide optimal care for your older pet.

At what age is my pet considered “senior”?

The aging process varies with breed and lifestyle. These guidelines help determine when your pet reaches his or her golden years. However, we recommend yearly blood work starting at age 7.

Small Dogs: (less than 20 lbs) – 9-13 years

Medium Dogs: (21-50 lbs) – 9-11.5 years

Large Dogs: (51-90 lbs) – 7.5-10.5 years

Giant Dogs: (over 90 lbs) – 6-9 years

Cats: (most breeds) – 8-10 years

What do I do with my overweight pet?

Older pets are apt to gain weight, as the body’s metabolism and the pet’s activity level slow down; therefore, the food consumption must be balanced with the activity level of the pet. Tour Veterinarian can recommend appropriate exercise and a proper diet to meet your pet’s needs.

How often should I exercise my pet?

Regular exercise is important to your pet’s senior care program and helps maintain bone strength, muscle tone, and stamina. Taking daily walks and playing with your pet are excellent methods of promoting physical activity as well as enjoying their companionship. However, if your pet has difficulty standing or walking, a degenerative joint disease, or arthritis, may be the problem. Arthritis is a common ailment, especially in older dogs, often impairing their ability to stand or walk.

How important is dental care when my pet is in their “senior” years?

Very important! Tooth loss and gum disease are more common as your pet gets older. Such problems may make eating very painful for your pet. Tumors of the mouth and gums also are more likely to appear in an older pet.  Our doctors can provide advice on dental exams, dental x-rays, and cleanings as determined by the condition of your pet’s teeth and can educate you on home dental care.

How often should I groom my “senior” pet?

Weekly grooming is an ideal time to look for external parasites, as well as notice the general condition of the skin and especially the eyes, ears, mouth, and paws. Because your pet is getting older, it is important to know that skin problems may occur more often since the skin may be thinner, less elastic, and does not repair itself as quickly. If it seems that your pet is losing more hair, it may be due to disease or because hair follicles are not as active as in younger years. Tumors in and under the skin become more likely. If you happen to notice any abnormal odor, discharge, swelling, or lumps during grooming, report immediately to your veterinarian.

What other changes might I expect in my pet?

As your dog ages, a number of degenerative changes may occur which effect your pet’s behavior. Hearing and vision may appear to decrease. This decrease is due to specific diseases involving the ears and eyes or may be related to various behavioral changes. You might interpret this as a simple aging, but it actually might be due to a treatable geriatric disease, such as conjunctive dysfunction. Some typical signs include confusion, disorientation, decreased activity, changes in the sleep/wake cycle, loss of house training, or signs that suggest a decrease in your dog’s interest in, or ability to interact with its environment or with you.

How does a “senior” exam differ from my pet’s usual exam?

A “senior” exam is more extensive than a simple check-up. In addition to a standard physical exam we conduct an oral, rectal, eye, ears, and thyroid exam. We recommend blood work yearly, from age 7,  which includes a complete blood count (CBC), heart worm/ lyme disease/ehrlichiosis/anaplasmosis test, thyroid, urinalysis, general health profile and electrolytes test. In some cases your veterinarian may suggest testing endocrine (outside lab) and other blood test. It is important to establish a baseline of normal values for your pet in order to identify changes.

Even if your pet seems perfectly healthy, regular “senior” check-ups are important to manage the changes associated with aging.  Dogs and cats over the age of 7 should be examined twice yearly. The incidence of cancer increases with age, but cancer may occur in pets after the age of ten.

A complete “senior” pet care program can provide a means to target age-related health problems, institute preventive health care measures, and detect any disorders early enough to provide the appropriate medical attention. This program also educates you, the pet owner, on health risks to your older pet and prevention steps.

All of these components, as well as following your veterinarian’s recommendations for exercise, administration of any medication, and proper diet, are essential to the health and quality of life of your older pet.