It’s hard to watch how quickly our pets turn from a cute little puppy or kitten into what we in the profession qualify as “senior”. For our feline patient’s senior encompasses anything 7+ years, and for canines 5+ years (there is more wiggle room for canines due to the varying sizes). In the medical profession we hear time and time again for senior pets that they are just “slowing down” but otherwise are healthy. To which we should think “Age is not a disease”. Our senior pets are slowing down due to the diseases that accompany age (not age itself) that we can often manage together. The two most common diseases that affect our older pets are arthritis and dental disease – both can be managed and lead to a better quality of life for your loved one, and maybe get them back to acting like a puppy or kitten again!
Dental disease – 75% of cats and dogs have dental disease by the age of three and it only continues to worsen into adulthood. Dental disease is caused by plaque that has harden to tartar and allows for bacteria build up leading to bone loss and pockets of puss in the mouth if the disease has progressed enough. There is also pain and inflammation associated with dental disease that can take a toll on your pet.
“But Doc, my pet is still eating so obviously their teeth aren’t hurting them.” – This statement is in fact incorrect. Our pets have the instinct for survival and often don’t show pain as that is a sign of weakness. They need to eat to survive and will continue to do so even with very severe dental disease/pain.
Many pets by the time they reach their senior years have significant dental disease. At this time a dental is NEEDED to improve quality of life as the pain and low levels of systemic infection can lead to lethargy and signs of “just being old”. After a dental cleaning (with possible extractions) many owners will comment on how their pet is running around like a puppy/kitten again! If you don’t own a senior pet yet it is important to keep up on regular dental cleanings and brushing/dental chews to help provide your pet with a better quality of life now and down the road. Dental disease is preventable with good care and routine cleanings.
Arthritis – Dogs and cats both are affected by arthritis although it can be harder to notice in our feline pets. Signs of arthritis include difficulty standing or sitting down, difficulty jumping into the truck or up the cat tree/on the bed, weakness or trembling. There are many different modalities or a combination of a few that we can start in your senior pets for signs of arthritis. They include joint supplements (I recommend starting this in middle age), prescription joint diets, weight loss (try to keep your pets at a healthy weight to improve overall health), pain medications, and several more advanced options. Call us to set up an appointment to talk about what we can do to help your senior pet with aging changes!
Often your pets aren’t just “slowing down with age” and that is why it is important to come in every 6 months with senior pets for wellness exams. This helps us work with you to catch diseases sooner and help provide treatment to get your pets quality of life back. We recommend bloodwork yearly for pets over 2 years of age but really stress it once pets become more senior. This helps us catch diseases earlier on when they are easier to manage/treat.
Call today to get your senior pet in for a wellness and routine bloodwork – (307)234-7333. I can’t wait to meet your senior furry friends (they are my favorite – Dr. Martin)!