A vet is trying to make area pet owners aware of the special wellness needs of senior pets. According to Dr. D. Peter Firth, animals develop specific age-related risks and conditions that call for adjustments to their normal preventative wellness routine. “Just as humans are prone to arthritis, cataracts and other issues as they grow older, senior pets need a higher degree of health monitoring and in, in some, cases, changes to their diet or other lifestyle factors to achieve a happy, healthy old age,” he says.
Dr. Firth is quick to point out that the exact definition of “senior” may vary from breed to breed, explaining that smaller dogs and cats mayreach that milestone around the 10-year mark while larger breeds age more rapidly, becoming seniors around age 7.
“The first step in this form of wellness care, therefore is advising the owner as to when their pet may require senior care,” he says. General signs of aging include the adoption of a slower-paced, relatively sedentary lifestyle, and slower responses to commands.
The veterinarian states that these changes may indicate the presence of degenerative joint disease that makes activity painful, or vision and hearing problems that make the pet less aware of external stimuli.
“The senior years are a time when progressive chronic ailments such as congestive heart failure and kidney failure become much more common,” he adds. Thorough blood work and other diagnostic testing can detect these problems in time to control them through various treatment methods, ranging from nutritional supplementation to surgery.
Dr. Firth warns that lack of activity combined with overeating makes obesity a serious problem for senior pets. He explains that as degenerative joint diseases discourages the pet from getting exercise, the amount of calories he is used to taking in becomes excessive, and the resulting weight gain puts more stress on the joints.
“We must combat obesity in senior pets by treating the joint pain, modifying the diet and getting the pet to take some gentle exercise. The use of therapeutic laser treatments is an excellent non-invasive treatment for those sore areas that are age related allowing for easier exercising and more comfort.
Obesity increases the risk of multiple health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and even cancer,” he says.