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.
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