Getting old is something nobody wants to think about. For us humans it brings thoughts of wrinkles, memory loss and new aches and pains. Unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil for us and also for our pets. Our pets seem to hide ageing better so it’s sometimes hard to remember that they are getting older, 7 isn’t old right? But the sad reality is that for some giant breeds, 7 years is the average life expectancy. So keeping this in mind, how do we best care for our ageing pets as they become senior citizens?
As your pet ages they start to suffer from a lot of the same ailments that we do and so things we need to keep in mind are:
As our pets age their metabolisms can also change and they may become less active. As such, it is important to keep a close eye on their waistlines and ensure that they are eating an appropriate diet to support these changes. This is especially important for breeds like the dachshund and corgi, as excess weight can put extra stress on their little backs and increase the chance of devastating spinal problems.
However, weight issues can also go the other way in some pets so it is important to also keep this in mind. If you notice that your pet is actually losing weight progressively it is important to have them checked over as this could indicate dental issues or internal organ dysfunction.
Our pets suffer from the aches and pains of ageing joints just like we do but a lot of our stoic fur babies don’t show us this in obvious ways. If your pet is starting to slow down, doesn’t want to go on the same long walks, stops wanting to hang out with you upstairs, is taking longer to get up from lying down or has a change in the way they walk, get them checked by your vet. All of these signs could indicate pain and it is possible that some simple pain management strategies could make them comfortable again and increase their quality of life in amazing ways.
Even though, as humans, we brush our teeth twice daily, as we age we can still suffer from dental disease. Our pets are no different. Consequently, dental check ups become increasingly more important as our pets age. If you have ever had a tooth ache, you know how painful it can be, and as with joint pains, our pets aren’t able to tell us that they are hurting. Having your vet check your pets mouth regularly for changes and having regular dental cleanings can save your pet unnecessary discomfort and prolong their life considerably.
Unfortunately as our pets age their organs are ageing too and the reserves that they used to have can decline quickly. This means that illnesses can start to appear suddenly when our pets seemed perfectly healthy to us just the day before. The best way to ensure that we get on top of internal organ issues before they are critical is to have regular check ups with your vet and screening blood work done. This blood work can tell us if there are any issues starting to show up with organs such as the kidneys or liver, and we can instigate treatments to help slow the decline and ensure good quality of life.
The best way to think about our pets ageing is to relate it to our own and keep a close eye out for any changes in their behaviour from normal. As vets, we wish we could just ask Fluffy where it hurts or ask Rover why he’s feeling so tired today. The reality is they that they can’t tell us what is wrong and so we need to look for the little signs they give us to let us know that they may need some help. If your pet is drinking or peeing more than usual, has increasing exercise intolerance, has a change in the way they walk, stops wanting to eat certain foods, or is starting to lose/put on weight, it is important to get them checked out by your local vet. Together we can make sure that their golden years are the best yet.