We as veterinarians regularly get asked the question: “ When is my dog considered old, and what should I be looking out for?”
These days our animals live much longer than they used to, this is in part due to better nutrition and advances made in veterinary medicine. They have become part of our family and we want to do what is best for them.
How do I know my dog or cat is getting old?
Pets are classified as geriatric once they are in the last 25-30% of their expected lifespan. This means that smaller dogs and cats with a longer life expectancy would be classified as geriatric from 8-10 years whereas bigger dogs could already be classified as geriatric from as early as 4 years of age.
What should I keep an eye out for?
As animals get older there are certain problems that become more prevalent, for example: kidney failure, thyroid problems (deficiencies, complications), arthritis, cancer and diabetes to name a few. Your pet’s behavior could give you an indication that something is wrong. Keep a look out for the following symptoms:
- Your pet is uncomfortable, struggling to stand up and less active
- The skin and coat condition is deteriorating, they are picking up weight without eating more
- They are drinking more water and urinating more often. They are losing weight.
- They seem disorientated and confused about normal daily occurrences like where their beds are.
- They keep to themselves and are interacting less with you as the owner.
- Behavioral changes like aggression or getting cold more easily.
- They are walking into objects and seem blind.
- Poor appetite, red inflamed gums or breath that stinks. They might also struggle to eat or let food fall from their mouths.
- Coughing with quick, superficial breathing. They might seem out of breath.
If you see any of the above symptoms you should contact your vet immediately.
What can I do to pick up problems sooner?
A lot of the diseases can be treated if it is caught early on, unfortunately by the time obvious symptoms develop the disease is usually already at an advanced stage.
The diagnostic tests available to diagnose these problems have improved a lot which means that we can diagnose diseases much sooner which in turn means earlier treatment and better outcomes for our pets.
With this in mind it is very important to bring your geriatric pets in yearly and even every six months for senior check-ups. This might sound a bit over the top, but you have to keep in mind that if your pet ages 1 year it is equal to you aging about 7 years.
What can I expect during the senior consultation?
The senior consultation includes the following:
- A complete history and physical exam
By doing this the veterinarian can get a good idea of possible symptoms indicating problems
- Full blood count
This provides important information about underlying inflammation, infection or anemia
- Biochemistry profile including SDMA
Blood contains many enzymes, proteins, electrolytes and minerals. Changes in the normal levels of these point us toward underlying organ pathology, cancer or hormonal problems. With the new SDMA test we can pick up kidney problems 2-4 years earlier than previously.
Urine concentration, white blood cell count, bacteria or glucose in the urine are some of the things that could give us important information with regards to the health of your pet.
This is the basic senior consultation which all senior animals deserve. Other diagnostic tests might be recommended on top of these if your pet is showing signs specific to certain diseases. They might include:
- X-ray photos
- Specific hormonal tests for the thyroid etc.
During your consultation we will also have a look at your pet’s nutrition and specific recommendations will be made according to your pet’s results.
LETS MAKE SURE THE YEARS WE HAVE LEFT WITH THEM ARE THE BEST THAT THEY CAN BE
For more information contact us to make an appointment on 012 993 2315