The Golden Years

posted: by: Dr. Joanne Carlson Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Tick-toc, tick-toc, time seems to fly by us and we find ourselves astonished at our ages and stages. Our pets experience the same phenomenon, aging. Unfortunately, they do not live as long as we do so their aging process is more progressive than ours. In celebration of September as Senior Pet Care Health Month we are focusing on the special needs of our furry senior friends.

Dogs and cats, like humans, are living longer due to advances in nutrition and medicine. To determine if your pet qualifies as a senior we have some general guidelines to offer; dogs are considered seniors at seven years of age and cats are seniors at eight to ten years of age. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are 18 million senior dogs currently in the United States. That’s quite a few old pooches! Keeping them healthy starts from birth, however, there are some things to do along the way to ensure a life of good health.

Exercise is vital for optimal health. For best results plan exercise into your pet's daily regime, start slow with 10 minutes daily and work up to 30 minutes depending on your dog. Please check with Drs. Carlson or Carlson before starting any new exercise program. As your canine friend ages, problems such as arthritis can make exercise more challenging and you may need to adjust the exercise type. Cats can be encouraged to play with a variety of toys, stimulating them to get off the couch and burn some calories. Just like with us, some imagination and creativity are required to stimulate our feline friends to move it!

Veterinary health care examinations should be done every six months to monitor any changes in your pet's health. We offer senior wellness profiles, combining blood work, urine testing and radiographs as a screening tool to detect any early signs of disease. Often early detection can prevent simple problems from developing into major issues. Kidney disease can be an insidious culprit, not showing any signs often until two-thirds of the kidney function is lost. When blood tests indicate mild changes in the kidney values, special diets to reduce the kidney load can be prescribed by your veterinarian to slow the progression of kidney disease. The common senior pet concerns are heart disease, periodontal disease, cancer, obesity, arthritis, and diabetes and kidney failure. Regular visits to our office will help to detect problems before they become out of control.

Dental care cannot be emphasized enough. Tooth loss and gum disease are very common in the older pet. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 85% of dogs and cats over four years old have some form of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a painful inflammatory condition in which the bacteria in the oral cavity attack the gums, ligament and bone tissues that surround and support the teeth. The bacteria from the oral cavity can also enter the bloodstream and travel to major organs, starting infections and seriously compromising your pet's health. Prevention is the key and it begins at home with regular brushing of the teeth and gums. This does not have to be as difficult as it sounds! Special paste for pets, which does not require rinsing makes it easy, and finger brushes aid in reaching those pearly whites in the back of the mouth. Dry food and dental treats help to decrease plaque formation. Most senior pets will require professional veterinary cleanings annually. Contact us for further recommendations.

Grooming your pet weekly will allow you to detect any hair loss, external parasites or tumor growth. As your pet ages, skin problems occur at a more rapid rate since the skin is thinner and does not repair itself as easily as it once did. Any new developments should be conveyed to Drs. Carlson or Carlson, especially lumps and bumps.

Hearing and vision loss are typical with senior pets, just like with us. Animals tend to compensate well and we often may think the problems happened overnight, when they have been brewing for months. Dogs may experience a series of behavioral changes, which have been linked to the Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Often these dogs will seem confused, disoriented, and less active and have decreased interest in their environment and you. Talk to Drs. Carlson or Lullo to determine treatment options if you observe these signs in your senior dog.

Diet is an essential component to keeping your senior furry friend healthy. Recent advances have allowed senior needs to be assessed and special diets formulated for your pet's needs. Diets are available to aid the senior pet suffering from hair balls, arthritis and skin problems. These diets contain less fat, higher fiber, added vitamins and fatty acids and are crunchy for the tooth benefit. Avoid table scraps and treats, which can add unwanted calories and danger to your pet. Senior treats are designed to complement the diet you feed your pet. Smaller meals should be offered throughout the day to aid in digestion and avoid overeating.

Arthritis is a common painful condition, which results in joint inflammation and stiffness. An estimated one out of 5 adult dogs suffers from this ailment. Furthermore, 80% of arthritis occurs in dogs over seven years of age. Try to help prevent this problem by keeping your pet at the ideal weight and exercising regularly. When problems begin, see Drs. Carlson or Lullo. Special medications exist to help improve joint function and ease the pain.

Enjoy the golden years with your beloved furry friends and realize that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!