Just like us, older pets often develop health problems such as arthritis, dental disease, cancer, diabetes, heart, kidney and thyroid disease, and incontinence. But your precious pet doesn’t necessarily have to live with the ill health that comes with old age. We can diagnose and help you manage these health problems to extend your pet’s quality of life.
The earlier senior health conditions are diagnosed and a treatment program implemented, the longer your pet will live in comfort – remember, geriatric health problems can start in dogs as early as 7 to 8 years of age and for larger dog breeds can be as early as 4 years.
Old dogs don’t need to live a life of pain with arthritis, and it's possible to help them live comfortably with chronic kidney disease. It’s amazing the difference a dental treatment can make to the health of an old pet with loose, infected teeth and sore gums.
Geriatric blood screening test
The physical examination and blood tests we perform in house at Crookwell Veterinary Hospital for geriatric pets are much the same as you will receive from your doctor as you grow older. We specifically test the function of kidneys and other vital organs and check for diseases common in older dogs and cats. If required, we’ll work with you to develop a treatment schedule. That might mean finding the most effective and safe medication for pets with arthritis, or tasty prescription diets that help increase the efficiency of failing kidneys.
Senility is also a common problem in geriatric pets and there are now effective medications that can make a real difference to pets with obvious neurological symptoms and old age-related changes in behaviour.
Common problems of the ageing dog
So, what do we look for in senior pets? Here are some common problems:
- Arthritis – affects 1 in 5 adult dogs. Look for lameness, reluctance to jump or climb, stiffness and pain.
- Diabetes – obesity, as in humans, is a contributing factor. Your pet will drink and urinate excessively, and lose weight despite constant hunger and eating.
- Kidney disease – look for excessive drinking, poor appetite and loss of energy.
- Thyroid problems – this manifests as both over or under active thyroid and both conditions are treatable. Hyperthyroidism causes excessive hunger and eating with concurrent weight loss. Low thyroid function causes obesity, lower activity levels, and a thin coat.
- Heart disease – ageing dogs often develop congestive heart failure. Be alert for coughing and panting, poor exercise tolerance, an extended fluid filled abdomen.
- Urinary incontinence – you and your dog don’t have to put up with her dribbly bladder! This may be easy and not costly to correct.
- Neurological and behavioural problems – senior pets develop senility, just as we do. You may see confusion, withdrawal from the family, changed sleeping patterns, barking, shaking. New veterinary medication can really help pets with age-related senility regain a better quality of life.
- Cancer – as in humans, many animal cancers can be treated successfully. Be alert for new lumps and bumps, or a pet losing weight rapidly.
- Dental disease – smelly breath, drooling, difficulty chewing and dropping food and, if you can check your pet’s mouth, teeth that are covered in tartar. All these signs point to the urgent need for dental treatment.
- Obesity – it’s amazing how a previously overweight pet regains exuberance and the capacity to exercise (and an often dramatic improvement in arthritis symptoms) following a loss of weight. We have a range of highly palatable weight loss prescription science diets that really do work.