Our dogs and cats have changing physical and mental needs when they are getting old. Here are some simple tips advised by our veterinarian, Dr. Ivy Cheung at Tung Chung Animal Clinic. With these tips, you can help your senior pet stay healthy, happy, and live a longer life.
What is a senior pet?
As strange as it may seem to us, our dog is considered senior when they reach 7 years of age.
What should we look out for in our senior pets?
As our pets get older, they are more prone to kidney and liver issues as well as arthritis. The most common kidney disease signs are drinking a lot and urinating a lot. You may also notice their appetite starts to decrease and lose weight. With liver issues, they may have decreased appetite and vomit. If you notice any of these signs it is important to bring them into the clinic for a medical examination and blood test. This will give us vital details on their health.
Any weight gain or loss is abnormal if there has been no change to their food and exercise level. Alarm bells should be ringing and you should bring them to the clinic!
Like humans, our pets get arthritis. You may notice they are slower to get up in the morning and then warm out of it or they are reluctant to walk as far. For cats they are not jumping as high. It is important to keep our pets at the optimal weight, overweight animals put more pressure onto their joints and makes it harder for them to walk.
It is often more prevalent in some of the breeds like Frenchies, Poodles or Chihuahuas. They are more likely to get arthritis early one because they have a congenital conformation issue. There is a problem with their joint to start off with leading to abnormal pressure in that area. Arthritis treatment in theses breeds is the same as with older arthritic animals, through supplements, cartrophen injections, keeping them fit and joint diets. BUT the biggest difference is these congenital issues can usually be treated surgically at an early age.
How often should we bring our senior pets to the vet?
If your senior pet is healthy, you should bring them for a body check every 6 months. Remember a dog/cat year is equal to 3 human years for every 6 months of their life!. If they have other underlying conditions, then please discuss with your vet how often they should have a revisit.
What food should our seniors eat?
Senior food should be higher in protein to prevent muscle wastage but the protein source needs to be easily digestible. It is important to find a good reliable brand.
What should we do to prevent diabetes or heart conditions?
Heart problems can be congenital or old age where their heart valves weakening. When they do have heart problems we recommend a diet lower in salt. Signs of heart disease can be lack of energy, coughing, not walking as far and in severe cases their tongues and/or gums will look blue.
Obesity is usually the cause of diabetes. Hence, keeping your pet fit is the best thing to do. Once they are diagnosed as a diabetic they should be kept on a special diabetic food. Signs of diabetes are drinking a lot, eating a lot and initially weight gain then weight loss.
What if the dog got prostatic disease, is it a risk for them to do neutered?
They get the prostate problem 99% of the time because they are not desexed. Neutering them is the best way to treat their prostate disease. If they are old and owners are worried about anaesthesia then we can do chemical castration (giving an injection) but this is a long - term treatment.
Why does an elderly dog develop anemia?
Older animals usually develop anaemia because of decreased kidney function. The kidneys produce a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production. When the kidney starts to fail the production of erythroproietin (EPO) also decreases.