There is something special about watching our pets age, mature, and get a little grey in the face. The memories of younger days glow in their eyes, and we love them a little more as they curl up on the couch next to us or lay at our feet. We cherish the moments we have had with our senior pets and hope there are many more to come.
One of my roles as a veterinarian is to help our senior pets live the best that they can as long as they can. I have said many times that I cannot make a patient live forever, but I can make that pet's golden years as happy and comfortable as possible.
As pets age, it is common for them to slow down, sleep more, have changes in eating or sleeping habits, and react differently to us and other pets in the home. While these can simply be age related changes, they can also be signs of some common age related medical conditions.
Pain is one of the most common medical problems in older cats and dogs. The challenge is that signs of pain are similar to signs of aging, slowing down and interacting less. With a thorough exam, your pet's doctor should be able to tell you if your pet is in pain. One of the most rewarding and heartbreaking things for me is to see a senior pet that has lost energy and is sleeping all the time, then we diagnose and treat pain, and the owners report the pet acts years younger.
Older pets are also prone to a number of medical conditions like kidney disease, thyroid disease, Diabetes, and cancer. Increased drinking, increased urination, and weight loss are common signs for a number of conditions such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. Exams and labwork can often detect this conditions. If found early enough, many of these age related diseases can be manageable for long periods of time.
Regular screening labwork, every 6 to 12 months, helps your pet's doctor be able to diagnose and treat many conditions before they become severe.
What can you do to help your senior pet? Give your pet comfortable bedding, a little extra TLC in the form of one on one personal attention, talk to your vet about your pet's diet, get some labwork done to see if there is any medical condition that would require treatment, and see your vet if you notice any changes in your pet's routines.