Taking care of your aging pet: an owner’s guide to geriatric pet health and wellness
By Lidja Gillmeister, DVM
As hard as it can be to imagine when we first meet our treasured family pets as kittens and puppies, animals age much like humans do; and just like us, they eventually require more frequent and specialized geriatric pet health care to meet their changing needs. The definition of “old age” for pets depends on the type and breed of the animal. But no matter what, all aging pets will benefit from certain changes in their diet, dental care, veterinary visits and evaluations in order to remain fit, happy and comfortable into their advanced years.
The impact of aging on your pets will vary depending on a number of factors including genetic heritage, weight, overall health and underlying diseases or conditions. While size can certainly affect longevity, most pets are generally considered geriatric or mature past the age of 7 years. Of course, old age doesn’t necessarily correlate to poor health; but it is important as your pet advances in years to increase the frequency of veterinary checkups to twice a year (and perhaps more when dealing with chronic conditions).
In addition to routine checkups, there are a number of other considerations that pet owners should keep in mind for the health and safety of their aging animals:
- Incorporate regular dental care and veterinary dental evaluations into your pet’s routine to test for dental disease and prevent tooth loss and infection
- Make dietary adjustments to lower fat and increase high quality protein in order to compensate for reduced exercise and prevent weight gain, which can lead to risk for diabetes, joint problems, skin problems, heart and breathing issues and reduced life expectancy.
- During veterinary visits, make sure that blood work is performed to evaluate organ function.
- Keep an eye out and regularly assess for signs of arthritis, such as difficulty standing, jumping in the car or on furniture, or general stiffness. If symptoms exist, consider nutriceuticals (such as glucosamine/chondroitin) and essential fatty acid supplements to help reduce inflammation. Pain medication can also significantly improve quality for pets with arthritis.
- Remember to evaluate vision and hearing ability in your pet, and be aware of the potential for cognitive changes as your pet ages.
Expert geriatric pet care with the skilled team at La Jolla Veterinary Hospital
We humans know all to well what a challenge it can be getting older; but at La Jolla Veterinary Hospital, we make it a priority to ease the transition for your pets and ensure a long, healthy and happy life for your furry and feathered friends. Our experienced veterinarians focus heavily on preventative care, and take steps early in your pet’s life to avoid as much as possible the complications that come with advanced age. And later, when your pet has reached his golden years, we work hard to maintain and enhance quality of life while providing the thorough care required for optimal health. To learn more about our La Jolla veterinary clinic or schedule a geriatric care checkup for your pet, visit us online today: www.lajollavet.com.
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