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Did you know your pet is considered a “senior” as early as age 6? Senior pets undergo the same changes as elderly humans, yet at a much faster rate. A 7-year-old dog or cat can be about 49-70 years in human years!
Early detection of disease and timely treatment improves their chances of living longer, happier, and better quality lives. Studies have shown that pets receiving routine veterinary care and proper care at home have an increased life expectancy, so pet parents have the direct ability to improve their quality of life by the care we provide!
What to Watch Out For
Keep a close eye for these warning signs as your pet ages. Be sure to talk to your vet if you see any of the following changes:
- Eating or drinking more or less often
- Change in frequency or in the color or consistency of urine/poop.
- Change in attitude or behavior—wandering often, increased anxiety, repetitive activities
- Discomfort during activity or change in activity level
- Change in hair or coat
- Sore mouth, difficulty chewing, and/or malodorous breath
- Non-healing wounds
- Any new masses or bumps or a change in the size or firmness of existing masses
- Changes in weight
- Abdominal swelling
- Increased respiratory rate, i.e. more rapid breathing
Keeping note of any changes you observe will help your vet determine what tests may be necessary, and put together a clearer picture of your pet’s overall health.
What Will My Vet Do at a Senior Wellness Exam?
Comprehensive exams for senior pets consist of a thorough examination and diagnostic testing that will be based on any physical or behavioral changes in your dog or cat. Semi-annual exams, yearly bloodwork, and urinalysis are typical recommendations for seniors. This additional testing at senior visits can provide early indications of kidney or liver disease, diabetes, and many other ailments that can be treated in early stages.
Diagnostics—including ocular testing, tests for heart disease, diagnostic imaging, and more extensive bloodwork for thyroid, Cushing’s or Addison’s disease—may also be recommended depending on your pet’s history. Dental disease often becomes quite progressive in senior pets, making routine dental care more important than ever. Dental procedures are not only for tartar and bacteria removal but will also identify any serious issues that might cause significant pain for your pet.
What Can I Do for My Senior Pet at Home?
Your vet can give you plenty of suggestions for home care to keep your 4-legged friend in their best health.
- Supplements and simple changes in diet can go a long way toward improving joint and skin health, cognitive function, and other age-related issues.
- Orthopedic bedding is a great idea for any large breed dog to keep unnecessary pressure off joints.
- Brushing your pet’s teeth is also not to be forgotten in an older pet.
- Our senior pets often have changes in metabolism with age that cause them to have different diet and exercise needs. You can make a big impact with the appropriate feeding and exercise plan.
Senior pets often require more frequent and unexpected visits to the vet, which can become expensive fast. Healthy Paws Pet Insurance can provide coverage in these situations, allowing you to provide your senior friend with the best care possible without worrying about the cost. Check out our Cost of Pet Care report from 2016; it details what you can expect at the vet’s office for our most commonly seen conditions.
The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical diagnosis, condition, or treatment options.
Kristonn Colborn, DVM, is a small animal and equine veterinarian in Bend, Oregon focusing in primary and emergency care. She graduated from the University of Florida with doctor of veterinary medicine degree.