Welcome to the first installment of a brand new feature on FamilyAnimalMedicine.com - ASK THE VET.
In this series, we ask our three veterinarians the same question, and they each give their best answer. Today's topic is...
TIPS FOR SENIOR PET CARE:
What things make the biggest difference in maintaining their quality of life as they age?
DR. GENA GUERRIERO:
One of the biggest problems we see with our geriatric patients is obesity. It's so very important to keep our older pets slim because it helps with their mobility. Keeping them active with daily, controlled exercise is great for their stiffening, arthritic joints as well as important for cardiac/heart health.
Exercise and walks in the park are great for their sense of adventure and keeps geriatric pets' minds sharp.
A high quality senior diet with access to plenty of fresh water is a must. Twice yearly visits to FAM is ideal. Geriatric pets (like humans) may begin to develop diseases (diabetes, kidney disease, cataracts, heart disease) that if caught in the early stages can be easier to manage. We hope to see more of those cute, shuffling, graying critters - we love em!
DR. CARMIN BIEBERLY:
Yes, yes, and yes to all of Gena's comments! I would add that it is helpful to notice subtle changes in pets as they age. Watch for them getting up and sitting down more slowly, and with more hesitation. Are they jumping? Running? Also watch for changes in their drinking and eating habits. These subtle differences can be the first signs of disease processes that we can diagnose, and potentially slow down in their progression, leading to an improved quality of life.
It's also important to stay vigilant with heart worm prevention, fecal checks, and dental cleanings. The immune system in our older pets are not as healthy and strong as those of their younger counterparts. Because of this, preventative care may be even more important as our pets age.
DR. JENNY NOBLES:
I agree with everything Dr. Gena and Dr. Bieberly said above me - one thing I'd add is that 'slowing down' with age is to be expected; however, often times they are battling a condition silently and we should not just assume its due to age. Hence the need for twice-a-year visits to the vet for geriatric pets. I would stress to owners to not ignore the older cat that doesn't groom her coat like she used to, or the new lump that just appeared on the geriatric dog. There are cancers cured with surgery, there are conditions that can be managed well for years with appropriate medical care. We can't stop what aging does to their bodies and minds, but there is so much we can do to make them more comfortable and happier with special diets and supplements and medications. If we don't see them at FAM, we can't diagnose them, and we can't help them. And to touch on a sensitive topic...I think most of us agree that when we can't make life better for a suffering friend, euthanasia is the kindest way to relieve them of sickness and pain. FAM is not the type of clinic that pushes invasive diagnostics when it will be of no benefit to the patient - I like that about us. If you ever have questions about your pet's quality of life, we can help you make the decision that is best for your pet.
Do you have a senior pet?
Dogs and cats are considered senior age around 7 years old. Our veterinarians recommend senior pets visit the vet twice per year to make sure they are nice and healthy. Schedule your pet's appointment with Dr. Gena, Dr. Bieberly, or Dr. Jenny today!
Have any ideas for the next edition of ASK THE VET? Let us know in the Comments here!