As our pets age, they continue to hold a very special place in our hearts. Senior pets require additional care to help them carry on long and fulfilling lives. It is important to be aware of the changes in our senior pets’ health and to provide them the care they deserve. Here are some ways to help care for your senior pet:
Regular Health Check-Ups
It is recommended that all pets receive annual physical exams to ensure that your pet is in good health. As our pets age, it is even more important that they receive regular health care. As with people, dogs experience a number of health changes as they age. Preventative care is key to keeping your senior pet happy and healthy. It is recommended that your senior pet receive a health examination every 6 months. During each exam, your veterinarian can monitor health and recommend changes to help keep your senior pet comfortable.
At Centreville Animal Hospital, we are pleased to provide the Senior Wellness Bloodwork Panel. This panel is a wonderful aide in keeping track of your senior pet’s health. This invaluable panel measures many important body systems, including organ values, red and white blood cells, and includes an urinalysis. All of these components can tell a lot about your pet’s health. If the levels are abnormal, it can be an indicator of cancers or diseases. If such diseases are detected early, medications or dietary changes can be made to help restore health.
Senior pets are susceptible to discomfort changes such as arthritis. Sometimes your senior pet may seem stiff while getting up or moving around. This is certainly uncomfortable and can easily be managed by administering pain medication at home. A simple, daily dose can greatly impact your pet’s comfort. At Centreville Animal Hospital, we perform a pain assessment during your pet’s physical examination. By determining your pet’s level of pain, your doctor can provide recommendations for keeping your pet comfortable.
Keeping Comfortable with Rehabilitation
With aging joints and limbs, your senior pet could greatly benefit from rehabilitation exercises. After a consultation with your veterinarian, she can customize a plan that will allow you to perform exercises during rehabilitation appointments and at home. Keeping your senior pet active is very important as it will help maintain muscle mass and more comfortable movements. Acupuncture is a method of rehabilitation that involves applying very small needles to certain points of the body. This provide relief for a wide range of conditions, including relieving discomfort. Acupuncture is a painless, natural method that has been very effective for both pets and humans.
Recognizing Nutritional Needs
Your pet’s nutritional needs are important to help sustain health. What your pet consumes can greatly impact his overall health. By referring to the Senior Wellness Bloodwork Panel results, modifying and supplementing your senior pet’s diet can greatly impact the necessary vitamins and minerals your pet may be lacking as he ages. There are several prescription diets that are designed to help treat certain diseases and others for general senior care.
By recognizing changes in your pet’s health as he ages, these preventative and treatment methods will greatly impact your senior pet’s health and comfort. As pet owners, we want nothing but the best for our furry companions, and Centreville Animal Hospital is committed to providing you with options that will offer a better quality of life.
He was abandoned on the side of a busy road, without food, water, shelter or the ability to walk.
Life was looking bleak for a dog named French Fry until kind-hearted volunteers from Centreville Animal Hospital
and the Fairfax County Animal Shelter made it their mission to get him up, rolling and into a ‘forever home.’
During the Winter months it’s easy to feel tired and a little blue because it’s so cold and the sun isn’t out as much. While we may be able to cope with the cold, our dogs have to rely on us to get them up and moving! There are plenty of indoor activities and remedies for the winter blues associated with the season. From doggie daycare to trick training sessions, rest-assured that your dog (and you) will keep yourselves active!
Brave the cold- take a nice walk outside!
A good amount of dogs will enjoy a nice walk in chilly weather. Although, please remember that the sidewalks are treated with salt and/or chemicals to help prevent any ice from forming, which can be harmful to your dog. Try booties to keep their paws safe, or rinse them off once you get home to stop irritation and keep them from ingesting any chemicals that may have been left behind. Lastly, if your dog has a short or thin coat of hair, consider having them wear a jacket or sweater.
Make meal time exciting!
There are many ways to stimulate your dog’s body and mind without having to venture out into the cold weather. You can try presenting the meals in a feeding toy instead of the usual food bowl. Studies have shown that dogs will enjoy their food more when they have to work for it. This will also help your dog eat slower, which improves digestion and nutrient absorption, and helps prevent some serious gastrointestinal conditions such as tummy aches, and bloat in larger dogs.
Giving treats can be exciting, too!
There are two easy ways to make giving your dog a treat more interesting: First, try using a treat-dispensing toy, similar to the one you would use for his meal time. Secondly, play a game of hide-and-seek. Keep your dog in one room while you hide treats in another. Then let him loose to find all the hidden treasures you’ve left! Make sure the treats are fairly obvious to find at first so he understands the game. The more he understands, the more difficult hiding places you can add.
Work on new tricks inside!
There are endless amounts of tricks and training exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home. Start with simple dog tricks such as “stay,” “shake,” or “sit,” and slowly work up to something more complex like “roll over.” These tricks will result in well-mannered behavior and help you bond with your dog. Tip: try to keep the dog training/trick sessions to about 15 minutes. This will help keep your dog’s attention, which will make sure everyone has a good time.
Consider day boarding!
If your job requires you to be out of the house for more than eight hours a day, or you can’t head home to let your dog out, Doggie Daycare would be a great option! Here at Centreville Animal Hospital, we offer excellent day boarding options. Your dog will be catered to and taken care of with the same love and attention we give to our own pets. With group or individual playtimes for at least an hour, and a minimum of four walks a day, you can be assured that your dog will be very active! And to give you peace of mind, we also send out daily photo updates to let you see just how happy your dog is! Plus, we have an indoor playroom for those cold, snowy days, and a treadmill, for those pups that need a little extra activity.
Last, but not least- Stay Attentive!
While it’s good to keep your dog healthy and in shape, make sure to keep a close eye on them during Winter. Changes in your dogs daily routine because of the season may lead to weight gain or loss, so keep a close eye on their body conditions and talk to your veterinary care provider if you have any questions or concerns.
Stay active, and warm this Winter!
Hill’s Pet: www.hillspet.com/en/us/dog-care/play-exercise/keeping-dogs-active-in-winter
Lillian Forney, Boarding Attendant
Maintaining your pet’s weight is very important so that they can live a longer, healthy, and happy life. Without proper weight management your furry friends run the risk of possibly developing diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, lung disorders, high blood pressure, immune dysfunction, and cancerous tumors. Here we’ve listed a few tips to help keep your pets happy and healthy by maintaining their weight!
Much like some of us, our pets will eat when they’re bored. Refraining from giving them 24/7 access to their food is always a good start. Keeping that in mind, it’s also a good idea to talk with your veterinarian so you know just how much to feed and what type of food would be best for your pet. It is also highly recommended to not feed them any table scraps. We all know it can be difficult to tell them no when they give you that look, but stay strong!
Exercise is very important for any pet. At least 30 minutes a day of active play will reduce the risk of weight gain and help them lose weight. Not only does exercise help maintain your pets weight it also has great health benefits that include, reducing the risk of heart disease, digestive issues, and the chances of urinary tract infections. If your furry friend is more active they also have less of a chance of developing depression, which means a longer, happier life span.
It might be a strange thing to consider, but keeping track of your pet’s calorie intake is actually a very huge help! Unfortunately, a lot of people forget to include treats in their counting. A lot of treats are high in calories so it is very important to factor those in and adjust your pet’s food intake accordingly so that they receive the correct amount of calories.
Having a set schedule for when your pet eats and exercises will not only be helpful for you, but will also benefit your pet greatly. Make sure you feed your pet at the same time, in the same place every day to help establish healthy eating habits.
AAHA Weight Management Guidelines for Cats and Dogs– https://www.aaha.org/public_documents/professional/guidelines/weight_management_guidelines.pdf
ASPCA Dog Nutrition Tips– https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-nutrition-tips
ASCPA Cat Nutrition Tips– https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/cat-nutrition-tips
AVMA 7 Things to do to Keep your Pet Healthy– https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/pet-health.aspx
We are constantly reminded that one year of our pet’s life is equivalent to roughly seven human years, six for larger breeds. As your pet ages they need even more care and attention which is why it’s up to us to modify their veterinary care to keep them happy and healthy in their golden years.
Step-up Vet Visits to Twice a Year
A great way to contribute to your senior pet’s good health is by scheduling regular preventative exams. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends senior pets see their vet every 6 months for a checkup. By visiting your veterinarian twice a year, they are able to identify signs of geriatric diseases earlier, including:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
Screenings Uncover Hidden Diseases Early
Along with their increasing age come many diseases that commonly affect older pets so regular health screenings are key to catching them in the earlier stages. Proper veterinary care can then help alleviate symptoms and slow progression. Health screenings can also help identify diseases that often go undetected in the earliest stages, such as heart, kidney and liver disease.
Health screenings for a senior pet should occur twice a year and include:
- Chemistry (kidney, liver, and pancreas markers and electrolyte values)
- Complete blood cell count (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets)
- Thyroid hormone levels
- Pro-BNP (indicator of heart disease-NEW TEST!)
Identifying these diseases and starting treatment sooner will extend our pet’s lifespan, often times by many months to years.
Maintain Mobility and Exercise
Your pet may be slowing down with age, but it doesn’t mean they can’t still go on daily walks with you. Mobility and exercise are critical to keeping your senior pet healthy. One of the most common ailments for our senior pets is arthritis, causing discomfort leading to a decreased quality of life and enjoyment of every day activities. There are several treatments for arthritis including:
- Joint supplements (glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids)
- Prescription pain control
- Physical therapy
Your veterinarian can help implement a treatment plan to control your pet’s discomfort and improve their quality of life that suits your family and lifestyle.
Enjoy Each Day
Aging is a privilege denied to many so monitor your senior pet’s health carefully, and schedule regular check-ups with your vet. Snuggle up, go for a leisurely walk and appreciate the time you have together.
American Association of Feline Practitioners: http://aafp.com/senior-care-guidelines.aspx
American Animal Hospital Association: https://www.aaha.org/resources/senior_care.aspx