Did you know that when your pet reaches 7 years of age, he or she is considered a senior? Yes, 7 years old! With advancements in veterinary medicine and nutrition our furry senior companions are now aging more gracefully and comfortably.Since a pet’s life span is very short compared to that of their human owners, health conditions tend to develop much more rapidly. One very important way in which you can help your pet live a healthier, longer life is to have your senior pet receive a comprehensive physical examination twice yearly. Many leading veterinary associations like the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital Association feel that in order to stay current with your senior pet’s health, twice-a-year exams are a must. This allows your veterinarian the opportunity to detect, treat or ideally, prevent problems before they become life threatening.
Not only do senior patients require twice yearly examination, but they also need more extensive evaluations than their younger counterparts, such as senior blood and urine tests, blood pressure monitoring, eye pressure tests, and joint assessments. The tests are age-specific and often customized to each animal’s breed and health history.
It is important to note that not only are the examination and appropriate tests a large part of your senior pet’s visit to the veterinary hospital but so is your discussion with the health care team. The veterinarians, technicians and customer care specialists are extremely knowledgeable on symptoms of age-related health problems. For example, something as seemingly insignificant as a change in the way your pet chews or sits can signal a problem. Also because you know your pet’s daily patterns and behavior best, sharing your observations with the healthcare team is essential.
Some symptoms creep up so slowly owners do not notice them. Often times a pet owner will comment after their pet has been prescribed a medication to alleviate pain, that they didn’t realize they were uncomfortable. It is not until after their pet was on the medication that they noticed them being much more active and getting around much more easily. They just assumed that their pet was “slowing down” due to age.
It is often very helpful to keep a list of your pet’s behavioral changes or physical abnormalities as they occur. This will aid in the veterinarians assessment of your pet’s health. Look for any changes in their coat and skin, gait, oral health (bad breath or difficulty eating hard foods), weight, sleep patterns, and hearing/sight. Below are some signs that indicate that your pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian.
- Increased water consumption
- Excessive or inappropriate urination
- Changes in appetite
- Staring and disorientation
- Increased reaction to sounds
- Increased vocalization
- Decreased interaction with humans
- Increased irritability
- Decreased response to commands
- Increased aggressive/protective behavior
- Increased anxiety
- Changes in gait
- Difficulties rising from a laying positon
- Matted fur indicating decreased self-hygiene/grooming
- Compulsive behaviors (eg. increased licking)
- House soiling/Not using the litter box
- Change in sleep cycles
Today our furry companions are living longer than ever and with attentive veterinary care they can live better than ever! Remember, old age is not a disease. With simple adjustments to your pet’s veterinary care, they can enjoy an excellent quality of life for many years come.