Just like people are living longer, so are our pets.
And just like us, the longer we live the more opportunity exists for disease to develop. Now let's be clear: age is not a disease. So, just because a pet is "seasoned" is not a reason to not perform necessary care or procedures. Early identification of disease is the key. Let's talk about some of the most common maladies of older pets.
Dogs and cats commonly get diabetes. Watch for drinking lots (polydipsia) and urinating lots (polyuria). Diabetes is treated with insulin injections as the oral meds usually don't work. Also, excessive weight encourages diabetes and vice versa.
This one is super common. Watch for your pet to be sluggish to rise, difficulty with steps, unwillingness to do activities we used to do. There are all kinds of treatment options for arthritis and are very beneficial. Excessive weight is also a killer here.
When the kidneys have trouble working, a number of negative things happen. One of these is the build-up of toxins, which is easily identified with lab work. This is one disease where early identification is so critical. If kidney disease is noted early, simply changing food can add two years to a pet's life, whereas in the late stages little can be done. Watch for weight loss, inappetence, and frequent urination.
This one is sometimes difficult to see and is identified later in the course of the disease. Watch for coughing, loss of energy, quickly tiring during play, and rapid breathing. Again, early recognition is very important.
Please note that almost all of these common illnesses respond best in the early stages of treatment. Being observant is a must. Walk your pets, keep up activities, schedules, and eliminations. The more you as the pet owner and advocate detect chronic illnesses early, the better you can help them live longer healthier lives.
The way we help as your veterinarians is by offering senior wellness visits. In addition to annual vaccination visits, we strongly recommend a semi-annual exam. As pets get older in age, these routine exams include sending of lab work and getting in sooner than the one-year mark. This lab work makes sure that everything internally is functioning as usual. This is key in giving us the opportunity to detect and manage these and other chronic diseases early.