Older Pet Care | Care First Blog

Roy siamese cat at Oberlin

Throughout their lives, our pets give us unconditional love, never share our deepest secrets, and make us smile with their playful antics. We are responsible for their health, and by providing them with the top preventive care we can help them live a long, comfortable life. In general, dogs are considered geriatric when they reach 7 or 8 years of age, and cats at 10 years of age. Different breeds also age at different rates; for example a Great Dane’s life expectancy is around 8 years, while a Chihuahua may live to be 20 years old! Our veterinarians provided these tips to care for older pets.

Some tips to aid your pet in aging gracefully and comfortably:

Twice yearly exams

Dr Strunck at Grace Park in Morrisville performing an exam on a dogAs pets age their health changes more quickly and problems can progress more rapidly. A full physical exam is advised every 6 months so that we can detect issues more quickly and begin treatment, sometimes preventing more serious issues. During the physical your pet’s veterinarian will examine all aspects of your pet’s body, listen to their heart and lungs, palpate (feel) their abdomen, and evaluate their limbs. Is your pet having difficulty getting up and moving around? Are they wheezing or snoring? Have you noticed a new lump? Do their eyes look cloudy? These are just a few of the questions that our veterinarians will address as they examine your pet!

Digital Radiology and Ultrasounds

Survey radiographs of your older pet’s chest and abdomen can tell us a great deal more than what we can see just with a physical exam. Lung changes detected on radiographs may lead us to recommend changes in exercise or medications. Masses detected early can be surgically removed or treated, extending the quality of life for your pet. Ultrasonic evaluation can evaluate organ size and structure, and appropriate medications or treatment can be started to help increase your pet’s comfort level.

Jake the house cat at Falls Pointe in Raleigh relaxing

Weight Management and Appropriate Nutrition for Older Pets

Especially for older pets, weight management is vitally important to maintaining good health. An overweight pet is more at risk for joint problems and arthritis, as well as metabolic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes. Do you measure out your pet’s food with a measuring cup or just eyeball it? Discuss with your veterinarian your pet’s food and the amount they are receiving. Depending on your pet’s weight, we may advise to feed more or less, or gradually switch to a different high quality brand of food. Your pet can greatly benefit from proper nutrition!

A Yearly Blood and Urine Wellness Panel

This panel evaluates multiple organ and endocrine function, and examines a pet’s white blood cell and red blood cell numbers, urine sample, and thyroid level. Is your pet on long-term medication, such as Carprofen, Phenobarbital, or thyroid medication? If so, a yearly wellness panel will help us to determine if these medications are working properly or if there are any adverse effects. With some medications we may recommend more frequent bloodwork. As pet’s age, the wellness panel gives us information on what medications or supplements may be needed in order to keep a good quality of life.

Laser therapy being performed on a cat at Care First Animal HospitalPain Management

Pets, especially cats, are masters of disguise and can hide pain well. As pets age they can develop arthritis, which can be painful and limit mobility. During the twice yearly exam, we’ll discuss your pet’s activity level and behaviors at home, and evaluate them closely for signs of pain. Based on those findings and your observations, we may consider adding in a pain relief medication or supplement to increase their comfort level. We can also consider alternative veterinary medicine, such as acupuncture or laser therapy. Physical therapy may also be indicated based on your pet’s condition. Often with decreasing a pet’s pain we can drastically improve their quality of life, taking a pet who just “lies around all the time” to one who will join you for jogs again!

young girl with her older dogYou provide your pet with toys, bedding, a comfortable home, and all the love they need. We’ll provide the best veterinary care to keep them living longer. With Your Love + Our Care, your older pet will be around to listen to your secrets even longer.

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