Many pet owners see signs of disease in their pets as normal aging changes. Even though there are changes in our pets that are normal and unpreventable as they age many of these changes are actually signs of disease that can be treated to give our pets not just longer lives, but the best quality of life possible. We want pet owners to take an active role in the care of their senior pets, you know your pet better than anyone and if you think something isn’t right it probably isn’t. Many owners have brought in a pet because something was “off” and they couldn’t quite put their finger on what it was and they’ve been right. Don’t worry about sounding silly, you are the best advocate your pet has.
Because not all pets exhibit visible symptoms, these diseases can often go undetected. Early detection of these diseases results in faster treatment and better overall health for your pet. Generally fewer doctor visits equals a greater number of preventable and treatable diseases. This is especially true in older pets. Early diagnosis is key in keeping our pets healthy and happy.
Common diseases in older pets.
Heart disease is common in dogs. Common signs and symptoms can include general weakness, getting tired easily, weight loss, fainting, breathing heavily and coughing. Coughing is often the first thing pet owners notice. Diagnosing heart disease early and proper treatment is critical to the long term comfort and happiness of your pet.
Prevention plays a major role in arthritis. There are many veterinary strength supplements on the market that can prevent or delay the onset of arthritis. Your doctors recommendation will vary based on your pets age, breed and current health. Talking to your veterinarian about what they would recommend for your particular pet is key. If your pet is already showing signs of arthritis, talk to your pets doctor.
So many older pets show signs that could be missed if you’re not looking for them. Some common signs of osteoarthritis are reduced activity, change in temperament, having trouble getting up, being reluctant to climb stairs, difficulty jumping, limping, difficulty posturing to go to the bathroom. It’s not uncommon for an older dog to get up slowly after a nap, not play as much or seem stiff after a walk or playing outside but these things can be significant. There are so many options, they don’t have to suffer with it, we can help!
As pets get older yearly blood tests are recommended. One of the things the doctor is looking for is early signs of kidney disease. It is one of the most common medical problems in older animals. The kidneys main job is to filter out waste products form the blood an eliminate them. As they age they have a hard time doing their job effectively. By the time the kidneys show signs they are struggling more than 2/3 of kidney function has already been lost. It is imperative to detect the signs early. Often times pet owners will notice signs of kidney disease at home and bring their pet in for an exam. Signs of kidney disease include excessive drinking, excessive urination, loss of appetite or vomiting. Many times pet owners will think that because their pet is urinating large amounts frequently it is a sign that their kidneys are healthy. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true. As the kidneys struggle pets will drink more and urinate more in their bodies effort to rid the blood of waste products. Ideally, kidney disease would be detected in your pets blood work BEFORE they start to show signs of the disease. Once kidney disease develops it can’t be reversed, so early detection is key in slowing the progression of the disease.
Most people don’t think their pet has great breath but sometimes dog breath is more than just “dog breath”. If your pet has a foul odor coming from it’s mouth it’s time for a veterinary exam. Every year when your pet comes in for it’s exam our doctors look in their mouth. They’re looking for signs of infection, inflammation and teeth that have seen better days. While even younger pets need good dental care it is especially important in older pets. Dental disease can have a major impact on the overall health of an animal. Sometimes a simple teeth cleaning is all that is needed, sometimes more work is necessary but it can make a huge difference in your pets health. Often times a pet owner will be surprised that their older pet feels like a puppy or kitten again after taking care of some bad teeth and/or infection in the mouth.
Just like people, pets can become overweight. Too much food in the bowl and not enough exercise can lead to obesity. An obese pet is not a healthy pet. Extra weight puts a strain on your pets body and many medical conditions are worsened by obesity. Some health problems related to obesity are breathing problems, heart disease, arthritis and skin and coat problems. Our doctors would be glad to have a look and give you a plan and a goal if weight loss is needed.
Annual or bi-annual exams are critical to the long term health and happiness of our pets. It is always better to detect any disease earlier rather than later. With early detection most diseases can be treated or the progression slowed to keep our pets comfortable and happy in their golden years.