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written by Dr. Currie

Our senior pets are special family members, and in their golden years, we all want to be sure that they have a great quality of life. What are our senior pets telling us with their behavior?

“I sleep more than I used to.” This could be due to pain, change in cognition (senility), weight gain that makes them tire more quickly, other underlying diseases like heart disease or infection, or even a sign of changes in vision or hearing.

“I have more accidents in the house.” This could be a sign of infection, incontinence, senility, musculoskeletal pain that makes the walk outside to the bathroom area seem too hard, or underlying disease like diabetes or kidney dysfunction.

“I am gaining weight.” This could be due to being less active because of pain, a change in the way food is digested, slowing metabolism and still being fed the same as a more active adult, or underlying disease like thyroid dysfunction or Cushings disease.

“I am losing weight.” This could be due to being less able to digest and process food, muscle loss from neurologic or orthopedic disease, or an underlying chronic disease like organ dysfunction or cancer.

“My fur has changed.” This could be due to allergies, change in nutritional status, certain chronic health conditions like diabetes or thyroid disease, less self-grooming due to pain or weight gain.

“I vomit or have diarrhea more.” This can be due to changing dietary needs, or a sign of underlying disease like kidney dysfunction or irritable bowel disease. “

My appetite has changed.” This can indicate nausea from a gastrointestinal condition or other organ system dysfunction or chronic disease. Increased appetite can be seen with conditions like diabetes or Cushings disease.

“I don’t want to go on walks or play anymore.” This can be a sign of pain, cognition changes, chronic infection that makes them tire easily, changes in vision or hearing, or other chronic health conditions that make it harder for them to tolerate heat or cold outside on a walk.

“I am more anxious.” Anxiety can be a sign of cognitive dysfunction (senility), of changes in vision or hearing, or of pain.

Older pets are more prone to:

  • infection

  • organ dysfunction

  • anemia

  • cancer

  • arthritis

  • dental disease

So, how can we help our pets at the senior stage of life?

We can help detect these conditions in the following ways:

  • Examinations done by the veterinarian every 6-9 months. Remember pets age more quickly than we do.

  • Regular blood and urine sample testing that can detect health issues like infection, anemia, organ dysfunction, or diabetes before they become chronic.

  • Imaging like x-rays of painful limbs and x-rays or ultrasound of the chest/abdomen as indicated by your pet’s unique symptoms.

  • Good reporting by owners as to how your pets are changing as they age. You are the expert on your pet.

We can help improve they quality of life for our seniors by:

  • Feeding a high quality senior diet at the appropriate amount to maintain healthy weight.

  • Continuing regular preventives like heartworm and flea/tick medications.

  • Ensuring they get regular, appropriate exercise of 30-60 minutes daily broken down into multiple shorter walks/playtimes as needed for your pet. This is important to both physical and mental health of your pet.

  • Adjust the home as needed to help with mobility issues, adding things like ramps or rugs for traction to avoid falls.

  • Ensuring pets have good environmental enrichment like training time to learn new things, regular walks, safe climbing options for cats, and lots of cuddles!

  • Giving regular care at home for coat, eyes, ears, nails, teeth.

  • Adding supplements appropriate for your pet, like senior multivitamins, or joint or coat supplements. We can help you determine those individual needs.

  • Giving pain medications if indicated, and considering alternative pain treatment options like acupuncture, physical therapy, or others tailored to your pet’s needs.

  • Treating any any chronic conditions, and regularly monitoring these conditions as directed by the vet for ongoing associated issues.

Please tell us how we can help ensure that your pet enjoys those golden years after all the love they have given to you and your family. We are happy to talk with you about your pet’s unique needs or answer any questions you may have.

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