In recent years, the health of our senior pets has received much attention. It’s good news that with advances in medicine and technology, our pets are living longer and the human-animal bond is growing stronger. But why is special care for senior pets important? In fact, what does it mean to have a “senior” pet?

Most vets agree that cats and dogs enter their senior years around 7 or 8 years of age. Just as with humans, animals are at higher risk for the development of disease during these senior years. Common disorders seen in aging pets includes arthritis, endocrine problems, heart disease, cancer, and glaucoma or cataract development, to name a few. Fortunately, there are treatments to alleviate symptoms or slow down progression for many of these problems, especially if found early in the course of the diseases. However, recognizing beginning stages of disease may be difficult, so the establishment of a preventive health care plan is important.

Preventive medicine starts with routine examinations. The veterinarian performs a 12-system check of the body that includes evaluation of the oral cavity, eyes, ears, lymph nodes, heart, lungs, abdomen, skin, joints, and muscles. During the the exam, the vet may ask about changes in behavior, activity, or appetite. If problems are found, recommendations may be made for further diagnostics or treatment.

In addition to routine exams, diagnostic tests such as blood work, urinalysis, tonometry, and ECG are available to aid in the early detection of diseases for senior pets. Blood tests are available to evaluate organ function, to detect endocrine disorders, and to look at your pet’s immune status. Performing blood work also helps establish a baseline for your pet and helps monitor their response to treatments that may be needed. Routine urinalysis allows for evaluation of kidney health and aids in the detection of diabetes. Tonometry measures the pressure in the eyes to check for glaucoma. ECG (electrocardiogram) is a test that looks at the health of the heart. Many vets recommend these tests yearly, because detecting changes early gives us a better chance for treatment.

Healthy senior pets are still active and enjoy a good quality of life. Please keep us informed of your pet’s appetite, activity level, and any recent changes in behavior. Please let us know if you have witnessed any of the following in your pet: weight loss or weight gain, excessive thirst or increased frequency of urinations, changes in appetite, changes in behavior, difficulty jumping, playing, or climbing stairs, stiffness, development of lumps or bumps on the body, or noticeably bad breath.

We want to help you keep your pet healthy and enjoy their senior years. Please call for more information or for questions you may have regarding your beloved pets. And remember, always give your senior pet lots of extra hugs and love!!

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