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Our "senior" patients are very dear to us and we make a sincere effort to give them special attention and care.
Just as in people, it's difficult to predict how quickly individual pets will age. Most veterinarians consider pets to be entering their senior years by the age of seven. However, it's important to keep in mind that larger dogs tend to age more quickly than smaller dogs. Therefore, many giant-breed dogs may show signs of entering their golden years by age five or six, while smaller dogs and many cats may not show signs of aging until they are seven or eight or even older. Not sure of your pet's age in human years, then try this pet age calculator!
No matter when your pet actually becomes a senior, there are a number of things you can do to keep it healthier and more comfortable.
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What's Up, Doc?
One of the most important things you can do as your pet ages is make sure that it visits us regularly. We recommend twice-yearly visits for senior pets. These checkups include some routine laboratory work to look for problems seen more commonly in older pets. Our Senior Pet Care Program includes a complete physical examination, complete blood count, chemistry panel (checking for kidney and liver disease, diabetes, anemia and others), a thyroid test, a urinalysis, a fecal exam for parasites, a glaucoma test (dogs), and blood pressure (cats). In some cases we may recommend radiographs, (x-rays) of the chest and abdomen, and an ECG (a heart rhythm test). Because we feel that participation in our Senior Pet Care Program is so important for your pet, we are providing the packages at a significant reduction in cost compared to the prices of the tests performed individually.
Your pet's doctor will devise a senior wellness plan for your older pet. For example, it's important to make sure that you are feeding an appropriate senior diet. Since obesity is a major problem among older pets, your special friend may need to be on a diet that is calorie restricted or a diet that will benefit a pet with kidney disease, heart disease or arthritis. We will be able to make specific recommendations for your pet to fit your goals and budget.
Older pets are also prone to dental disease, so regular dental checkups are a must. The doctor may also recommend treats and chew toys that can help remove the plaque and tartar that may build up on your pet's teeth. You can also learn to brush your pet's teeth at home using a special pet toothbrush and pet toothpaste. Some words of caution: Never use human toothpaste on your pet. Human products may contain substances that are harmful to pets.
Some Common Problems in Older Pets:
As they age, dogs and cats tend to lead more sedentary lives. Just like in people, however, that's not always healthy. Senior dogs will benefit from regular, gentle exercise in the form of leash walks and easy fetch games. Supervised swimming can be ideal exercise for an older, arthritic dog. Older cats can be harder to exercise, but playtime is also a great way to keep them more active. Throwing small felt mice, balls, and other toys can help keep your cat active.
It's important that you don't expect too much from your senior pet when it comes to exercise. Although it may want to run and play like it did when it was a pup, you should take it easy with your pet. Weather extremes, arthritis, age-related muscle atrophy, and other age-related effects can wear your pet down more easily in its golden years.
Comfort Is Key
As your pet ages, make sure it always has access to plenty of fresh, clean water, good-quality food, and a warm, soft, dry place to sleep. Don't allow your pet to be exposed to extremes of any kind, including excessive heat or cold, dampness, or too much exercise.
It's also a good idea to minimize distractions for your older pet. As pets age, they can be easily startled by or become fearful of children, loud noises, and general commotion. And just as with older people, overdoing it can have serious consequences. Most importantly, give your pet plenty of attention, affection, and TLC.
Please discuss any questions or concerns that you may have with one of our caring team members.