With continued improvement in veterinary care and available veterinary medicines, animals are living longer lives. This means that some diseases and conditions that were once rare are now more common in this older population. For example, older animals can face weight management challenges; mobility problems; osteoarthritis; conditions affecting the kidneys, heart, and liver; tumors and cancers; and disorders such as diabetes and thyroid imbalance. In other words, the changing health care needs of our pets parallel those of people. Older animals need special care. However, with planning many of these health challenges can be managed.
The American Animal Hospital Association has created senior pet care guidelines to assist veterinarians and their clients make the best decisions as a pet ages. Consider these comprehensive recommendations to support the well-being of your older pet.
At St. Matthews Animal Clinic, we recommend examinations twice a year rather than just once, as well as a group of blood studies that can pinpoint health troubles before they become major issues, potentially enhancing the length and quality of life. Keep in mind the idea of “dog years” or “cat years” and remember that while an animal may be only a few years old, he or she could be well into middle age or beyond. In fact, some larger dog breeds can be considered full-fledge senior citizens at as young as 5 years of age. Our veterinarians can help you understand the true “age” of your animal and allow you to be proactive in helping to maintain health and vitality. For older animals, regular examinations are even more important than for younger animals, so be sure to plan ahead. This is the best way to identify health challenges, the early signs of disease or other health conditions, and take the right steps to preserve your animal’s health. Be sure to work closely with your veterinarian to develop a health plan for your senior pet!