Does your pet have terrible breath, arthritis or numerous lumps? Do they grumble or bite when someone tries to pat or pick them up? Are you’re finding more and more accidents inside? Most people might put these changes down to old age and see them as a reason for euthanasia. They may even leave problems untreated as ‘they’re just getting old’. But old age is not a disease and definitely not a reason to avoid treating manageable conditions.
Many older cats and dogs have one or more health concerns, but the good news is that their problems often can be managed or cured. A lethargic or cranky cat or dog may have pain associated with arthritis or dental disease. Imagine having a horrible toothache for months on end… You’d still have to eat to survive but certainly wouldn’t be enjoying life as much. Addressing these problems (especially pain and infection) often leads to a new lease on life, increased happiness and vitality.
Kitty is a 19 year old domestic short hair who came into the care of her lovely owner last year. She had rotting painful teeth and a large ulcerated lump on her neck. Kitty also had some signs of kidney disease and a heart murmur. After discussing options, her new family decided to book her in for a dental and lump removal. With a personalised anaesthetic and treatment plan, we proceeded to take out her rotten teeth, cleaned and polished the remaining teeth and removed the infected lump from her neck. Kitty was transitioned to a special kidney diet which took the pressure off her kidneys and she is now like a new cat! She has so much more energy, her appetite has improved, her coat is shiny and sleek and her quality of life has improved dramatically.
Pets can be masters at hiding illness, which is a protective mechanism for survival in the wild. That's why it's so important to examine them (especially seniors, 7 years of age and older), at least twice a year. Remember one year is equivalent to seven years for most pets! Preventive healthcare includes obtaining a thorough medical and behavioural history, performing a comprehensive physical examination and diagnostic testing, with comparisons to their previous test results. It's amazing what we discover each day when running yearly wellness blood work on our patients.
Some obvious signs of pain that an owner might notice at home include ‘slowing down’, dull attitude, loss of appetite, decreased mobility, stiffness or limping and crying out. The more subtle signs may be restlessness — being unable to sleep or lay in one position for an extended period of time, decreased grooming (especially for cats), panting, quiet behaviour, depressed appetite, being less interactive, changes in water intake, poor interest in being petted or weight loss. Letting your vet know if you see any subtle changes in behaviour can allow for early detection of disease when the condition is easier to manage or treat.
With regular senior care and changes in the home environment to keep your pet comfortable (such as a warm bed inside in winter, or being lifted in and out of the car), these pets can continue to be beloved family members and go on to live many more comfortable years.