With the advancement and improvement of veterinary medicine and pet care, we are fortunate to see our family pets living longer than ever before. However, with this increased longevity, we may also see an increase in health conditions and issues more common in senior pets. At this point in your pet’s life, it is critical to work closely with your veterinarian to devise a health and wellness plan that best suits you and your pet. Identifying issues early can be critical in slowing progression of disease and improving quality of life.
The age at which animals are considered ‘seniors’ varies with species, size, and breed. A cat or small dog such as a Chihuahua is considered a senior at 10 or 11 years of age, while a giant breed of dog, such as a Great Dane, may be considered a senior at 5 years. As dogs and cats face their elderly years, they become more susceptible to a variety of conditions including weight and mobility issues (such as arthritis), kidney, heart and liver conditions, hormone disorders such as thyroid disease or diabetes, and tumours or cancer.
We recommend a minimum of yearly physical examinations on all of our senior patients. An examination helps us to not only identify physical abnormalities such as weight fluctuation and the presence of masses or tumours, but also allows us to discuss any changes you may be seeing at home in terms of behaviour, attitude, appetite and elimination habits. A complete blood panel and urinalysis is strongly recommended in order to evaluate the health of your pet’s kidneys, liver, pancreas and other organs. The recommended vaccinations, as for all of our patients, will be determined based on relative risk in terms of your pet’s lifestyle and habits. Diet and nutritional recommendations will be discussed due to your pet’s changing nutritional needs as he or she ages.