Ageing PetsFebruary 8, 2021
Our pets are part of our families, and when we welcome them into our lives we hope that they will be with us for many years. With advancing years come inevitable changes in health and requirements that we must make adjustments for. Here we mention some of the most frequent problems, what to look out for, how to help and when to seek advice from our vets.
Some of the most frequent conditions of older pets that we see in practice are:
- Kidney disease
- Senile changes (dementia type conditions)
- Dental disease
- Eyesight or hearing loss
- Endocrine (hormonal) disorders
This is one of the most common diseases seen daily in practice and affects all our pets to some degree as they age. It can also affect some younger animals too.
Arthritis is inflammation of the joints, resulting in pain and swelling. It most often affects the limbs or spine in our pets.
Signs include stiffness or limping when walking, especially after the animal has been lying down and resting, or when they have been on a long walk/playing more than usual. In cats you may notice their coat quality changes as they can find it hard to reach areas to groom – they may require some assistance to avoid matting or other coat and skin issues.
Your vet will examine your pet for any abnormalities and may suggest x-rays to assess any changes in the joints.
We can advise you on many available options for treatment and management. These include supplements and/or medications to slow down damage to the joints and reduce inflammation and pain, along with other complementary therapies. Make sure your pets have thick comfortable bedding to help reduce pressure on their joints and muscles, keeping them comfortable as they rest.
Non-slip flooring is important – consider rugs or matting for grip if you don’t have carpet.
Maintain a healthy weight: obesity increases pressure on joints and can cause discomfort.
Arthritis can be a painful condition and if you notice lameness or change in activity level in your pets then speak with us.
Kidney disease commonly affects older pets. Signs include drinking or urinating more, changes in coat quality or body condition (weight).
Our vet may recommend analysis of urine and blood samples to gain more information on your pet’s kidney function.
Treatment is with diet and monitoring in the early stages, later stages require medications to improve quality of life. With early detection plus appropriate treatment, pets with kidney disease can live good lives.
Signs of heart disease include sleeping more, exercise intolerance, coughing and increased breathing effort or rate. Our vet may recommend an ultrasound scan of the heart or other tests. Various medications are available to treat heart disease in pets and can help to prolong their lives – and give them a better quality of life.
Dental disease is not just bad breath or cosmetic issues. Dental infections are painful and the resulting high levels of bacteria in the mouth can travel into the bloodstream and damage internal organs. Dental health is important. Bad breath, reluctance eating, pawing at the face, swellings or vomiting can all be signs of dental disease – which is usually worse than it appears from the outside.
Senile Changes (dementia type conditions)
Just like people, our pets can show signs of dementia-type diseases. These often present as changes in behaviour, such as vocalising at abnormal times, seeming lost, abnormal sleep patterns or appearing anxious.
Diagnosis is usually following exclusion of other problems. Some medications are available that help treat/slow down progression.
Eyesight or Hearing Loss
One of the most frequent ageing changes is loss of eyesight or hearing. There are many health conditions that cause sight or hearing loss and you should always make an appointment with your vet to ensure nothing more serious is going on.
Most age related changes are untreatable (and inevitable!) but some, like cataracts, may have treatment options available. Most pets cope fairly well with these changes – dogs, for example, are able to rely more on their sense of smell in familiar places. You may find that you need to make adjustments like keeping your dog on the lead on walks or avoiding sudden changes in the layout at home to help them.
Lumps and Bumps
Just like people there are many different types of masses (growths) that animals can get – some of them are benign (not harmful), such as warts and fatty lumps, but some of them are malignant (harmful). These can be internal or external. If you find any masses on your pets we advise a visit to your vet for a check-up and possible biopsies. Most lumps, even some malignant ones, are very treatable if caught early.
Endocrine (Hormonal) Disorders:
Blood tests are most frequently used to diagnose and monitor endocrine disorders which can often be treated with medications or in some cases, surgery. Some of the common ones include:
- Hyperthyroidism in Cats
This is fairly commonly in older cats and is over production of a hormone by the thyroid glands. Often cats will lose weight but still have a ravenous appetite. Many cats that have hyperthyroidism also have kidney disease and/or heart disease. A range of treatments are available, some of which are long-term, and others are curative.
- Cushing’s Syndrome in Dogs
This is a disease most frequently seen in dogs which involves over-production of naturally occurring steroids within the body. It results in signs such as: hair loss; increased risk of infections; loss of muscle tone (often seen as a pot-belly), and affects internal organs such as the liver and kidneys.
Our top tips to Keep Older Pets Comfy:
- Provide comfy, well-padded bedding away from draughts/cold.
- Gentle exercise appropriate to ability.
- Appropriate diet (senior/as recommended by your vet).
- Weight control.
- Don’t change layouts of the environment too much.
- Be patient and kind.
- Regular health checks – ideally every 6 months for seniors.
- Seek vet help if concerned.
What to do?
Watch out for any changes in your pet that could be cause for concern, such as:
– Changes in activity level: sleeping more, reluctant to walk as far or to play.
– Limping or appearing stiff when walking.
– Drinking more.
– Changes in urination habits: leaking, toileting in abnormal places, urinating more.
– Changes in appetite or weight/body condition.
– Vocalising: barking/meowing.
– Bumping into things/tripping over obstacles.
– Not responding when being called.
If you recognise these signs or you’re worried about your pet, please don’t hesitate to give our friendly reception team a call to discuss booking an appointment with us. Remember that with most of these conditions early recognition and treatment will result in a more positive outcome for your pet.