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SENIOR HEALTH CARE
As pets age, stress upon vital internal organs is likely to become more serious. Just as our health care needs change as we age, your pet’s health care needs also change. Nutritional needs, exercise habits, and many aspects of your pet’s daily routine can change as your pet ages. Vitamin requirements generally increase, and nutritional needs differ greatly from those of younger pets. Sources of chronic infection, such as tooth and gum disease, can adversely affect internal organs and contribute to failing health. Aging also increases the risks of arthritis, disk disease, and other skeletal problems. Many of these problems are readily detectable and can be controlled if diagnosed early and treated properly.
As pets approach the “Senior Years,” it is the time to become more concerned with the early diagnosis and detection of internal problems that are not readily apparent on routine physical examination. As an example, without appropriate screening, we would not be able to diagnose diabetes, liver or kidney disease, bladder problems, or other serious problems like heart disease. Unfortunately, these problems are in the very advanced stages before clinical signs can be observed. Much damage is already done.
Just as there is a major emphasis on human wellness programs, veterinary medicine now offers the same for our pet family members. We care about your pet’s quality of life as much as you do, and we want your pet to live as long as possible without unnecessary suffering or illness. We also recognize that it is much less costly for owners when problems are detected early and treatment instituted then rather than waiting for many of these aging problems to cause severe, irreversible damage.
Pet Age Chart
PETS CAN NOT TALK AND HIDE PROBLEMS WELL:
Physical examination can only detect diseases that produce clinical signs. However, recent advances in diagnostic blood screening, ECG screening, and glaucoma screening now make it possible to detect many aging conditions long before clinical signs are present. When problems such as kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, thyroid abnormalities, anemia, diabetes, and glaucoma can be caught early, the appropriate steps can be taken (such as dietary changes or medications) to either reverse the problem or at least slow it down. We can now become PROACTIVE rather than reactive to make recommendations to provide the best life possible for your pet.
THE OBJECTIVE OF OUR SENIOR WELLNESS PROGRAM:
Is to make pets feel their best and have the longest, productive and useful life. There is nothing that can prevent aging, but there are many things that can be done to slow down the process and/or make the pet much more comfortable. Our senior wellness program will stress:
COMPONENTS OF OUR RECOMMENDED SENIOR PET WELLNESS PROGRAM:
Depending on specific findings from above testing, additional screening procedures may be indicated:
These senior pet wellness tests helps establish baseline values and identify problems early, thus increase the safety by reducing the risks of unknowns if and when any future anesthesia is required.
We feel this senior pet wellness screening is essential for your pet’s best quality of life. Each year of a pet’s life represents 5-10% of it’s total life span. Performing these procedures once each year is the same as once every 5-7 years for a senior adult person.
The older pet requires far fewer calories, lower fat, higher fiber, and controlled levels of calcium, sodium, and phosphorous. Being overweight is a real problem for the older, less active pet. It greatly increases stress on joints, heart & lungs, and other internal organs. Food created specifically for the aging pet can help keep your pet’s weight under control and reduce consumption of nutrients that are risk factors for the development of diseases. Increased fiber and proper amounts of calcium, sodium, and phosphorous aid in digestion and prevent heart, bone, and kidney disease.
PREVENTIVE HEALTH CARE & DENTISTRY:
We want to be proactive in keeping your senior pet healthy for as long as possible. Since pets cannot tell us when something is wrong, many problems go undetected in the early stages because the changes are so subtle no outward physical signs are visible. The natural resistance to disease is significantly reduced in the older pet. It is very important that all vaccinations, internal parasite exams, and comprehensive physical exams be done as recommended. AAHA recommends that healthy senior dogs and cats visit the veterinarian every six months for a complete exam and laboratory testing. Mouth infections and periodontal disease are quite common in the older pet. Regular dental exams and cleanings when needed help to maintain strong, healthy teeth and prevent mouth infections from spreading to the kidney and heart.
In addition to routine comprehensive physical exams, laboratory screening procedures, and ECG screening can often pick up these changes early when they are much easier to treat and manage. When your pet is healthy, laboratory tests provide a means to determine your pet’s “baseline” values. When your pet is sick, the veterinarian can more easily determine whether or not your pet’s lab values are abnormal by comparing the baseline values to the current values. Subtle changes in these laboratory test results, even in the outwardly healthy animal, may signal the presence of an underlying disease. AAHA recommends that dogs and cats at middle age undergo laboratory tests at least annually. During the senior years, laboratory tests are recommended every six months for healthy dogs and cats
THE PAIN OF AGING & HOW TO MANAGE IT
As pets age many parts of the body begins to show wear and tear. The aging process brings many changes that affect a pet’s ability to take part in normal daily activities. This can result in internal organs that no longer function at peak capacity and pain as bones begin to thin and arthritis sets in. Any condition that causes pain in humans also causes pain in animals.
Not only does pain hurt, it also can further debilitate older pets potentially resulting in further injury or other problems. Pain also can affect the pet’s behavior. Behavioral changes can range from depression to aggression. Chronic pain can lead to inappropriate elimination problems (loss of housetraining), as well as changes in frequency of urination and defecation. Pain often times decreases activity compounding problems that come from a lack of exercise. The AAHA guidelines encourage veterinarians to use pain assessment as the fourth vital sign (along with temperature, pulse and respiration. You can also help your pet by monitoring your pet to determine whether he suffers from pain. For more information, see our article on Pain Management for Pets.
It is no secret that daily fitness and a healthy diet are essential for the overall health and well being of our pets. Daily exercise for your aging pet will only help to prevent their bodies from deteriorating. Getting outside and uncovering new scenery not only puts your dog in a good mood and stimulates their senses, but it is also one of the key ways in which dogs develop mentally. Plus, because much of their physical and mental well being comes from walks around the neighborhood or playing in the outdoors, pets need daily exercise and fitness just as much, if not more, than their human counterparts.
However, this is not to say that you cannot exercise alongside your furry friend and reap the benefits that daily exercise can bring, such as a healthier mind and body. In fact, most fitness exercises recommended for dogs can be a mental boost for humans as well, while also boosting the relationship between the two of you. We recommend you discuss your pets exercise capabilities and limitations with your veterinarian throughout the aging process.
Most pet owners don’t realize the effects of aging on their pets. Pets age more rapidly than humans, and the appearance of aging problems may be both unexpected and distressing. The GOAL of our SENIOR PET WELLNESS PROGRAM is to make the pets FEEL BETTER and HAVE THE LONGEST PRODUCTIVE, USEFUL LIFE possible. Although there are no cures for aging, there are many problems that can be prevented, minimized, or at least slowed down if they are caught early.