Dear pet owner,

This January, we want to highlight what it means to get old – specifically, what it means to your pet.

We want to help you understand what age-related problems you should look out for and the impact they have on your pet’s wellbeing and quality of life. Then we can show you what you can do to support your pet. After all, a pet is a life-long commitment!

We often come across the misconception that certain health issues are perceived as “normal” because the pet is getting old. Imagine being in pain yourself because your mouth hurts from rotten teeth and inflamed gum, your legs hurt because of arthritis, or you lose weight and get all skinny. Would you ignore it and accept it as “normal” or would you do something about it? You see, pets are not so different to us; they deserve to be cared for whether they are cute little fluff balls or geriatrics.

So, please take your pets “old age” serious and see your vet for a thorough examination and advice.

We usually say that a regular veterinary examination should be performed on a yearly basis, for example with the annual vaccination. But, more frequent exams may be required, based on your pet’s health, sometimes every 3-6 months. This may sound like a lot but if you consider that a dog’s year is about seven times a human year, it is actually not very often. In fact, six monthly visits would convert to about 3.5 years in human years!!!! I am sure that many senior citizens see their doctor more frequently, don’t you?

Here are a few reasons why your senior pet should see a vet:

  • Bad breath and bleeding gums: Gum and dental disease is common in dogs and cats. Do not be misled by your pet – most pets don’t stop eating and appear completely normal but are suffering in silence. This is why pet owners regularly dismiss dental disease as a serious condition. It is very painful disease, which must be addressed by dental treatment. You can read more about it in our other blogs about dental disease. Other causes of bad breath are oral tumours and metabolic diseases such as kidney failure.
  • Arthritis pain: Many dogs and cats develop pain in their legs or back. They may struggle to jump, have difficulties getting up after laying down, have a stiff gait, shift their weight from one foot to the other because it’s too painful standing for prolonged periods of time on one foot, laying down more or are reluctant to walk as far as they used to. Again, dogs and cats are tough and don’t show pain in such a way that we easily recognise it. We often hear that the old stiff dog doesn’t seem to be in pain, but how can we be sure? Bring your pet to us for an examination and try some pain relief – see what a difference it makes to your pet’s wellbeing and quality of life. There are many different pain reliefs for pets and joint supplements available to help ease the pain and discomfort of arthritis.
  • Weight changes: Changes in your pet’s weight are often subtle but may be a sign of health issues. For example, an old arthritic Labrador gaining weight may just not exercise as much because of his painful arthritic legs. Or, a cat with weight loss may have severe dental disease or kidney failure. On the other hand, obesity by overfeeding can trigger health problems such as diabetes or can worsen arthritic pain. Therefore, it is important to keep track of your pet’s weight and to visit the vet when your pet experiences any unexplained weight changes.
  • Increased thirst or urine output: Your pet should drink about the same amount every day, regardless of whether the sun is shining or the heating is on. If your pet starts drinking or urinating more, then this could be related to serious diseases such as kidney failure, liver issues, diabetes and many other diseases. It’s best to have your pet examined by a vet, who will likely recommend a blood test to check for some of the possible causes.
  • Urinary leakage: Old dogs and cats should not leak urine. If you notice this then please bring your pet to us with a fresh clean urine sample. If you don’t have a suitable container, just pop in & pick one up from reception. Possible causes range from urinary tract infections, increased thirst, neurological problems to true incontinence. Fortunately, in most cases treatment or life-long management is successful.
  • Dementia (cognitive dysfunction): Like in people, pets, especially dogs, can develop dementia. Some change their behaviour, become forgetful or disorientated. In some cases, medication can help.
  • Slow onset cataract/blindness: There are many reasons why a pet becomes blind. Sometimes, blindness is a sign of a bigger problem. Therefore, it’s advisable to have your pet examined as soon as possible. In some cases, medication or surgery is an option to help your pet. In cases where no treatment is available, you can help your pet navigate their environment by leaving your furniture in the same spot, boarding off stairs and steps and keeping your pet indoors.
  • Hair loss: hair loss is not a feature of getting old in pets. Causes are often parasites or metabolic diseases such as Cushing’s disease, Hypothyroidism, etc.
  • Staggering, head tilt, circling, sudden blindness, hearing loss, etc.: These signs can be seen with a variety of causes ranging from age-related diseases to infection, poisoning, cancer, etc. and you should contact your vet to have your pet examined immediately.

This list isn’t all-inclusive: If your dog is “not himself or herself,” then it’s time for a check-up at the veterinary practice. If you notice your pet’s behaviour changing, maybe becoming a little more aggressive, this grumpiness could be due to being in pain.

Give us a call on 071 963 1043 or Book an appointment online