August 20, 2023

Our pets in their twilight years

Our pets are now living healthier and longer lives than ever before, with research suggesting the average lifespan of household pets has increased dramatically over the short span of a decade. However just like us humans, our pets present similar age-related changes as they grow older.

Have you noticed your pet becoming slower, changing weight, noticed a general stiffness or changes in their appetite or thirst? You may have put these changes down to them “just being old.” However, because our pets can’t talk to us or tell us how they are feeling, it is important to become really ‘tuned into’ them and their behaviours and understand that certain changes mean certain things.

At what age is my pet a ‘senior’?

It used to be considered that one human year was equivalent to seven pet years, however that’s not always accurate, especially for dogs where there is a wide range of breeds and body sizes.  Large breed dogs might be considered “senior” at five years of age.

Are senior check-ups important?

Yes. However, as your pet’s owner you are in the best position to look out for warning signs of age-related diseases. Whilst some age-related changes are to be expected, others can indicate a more serious underlying condition or problem, so it’s important to get your older pet into a vet clinic for regular check-ups.  We consider an annual check-up for an older cat or dog essential, this is because many conditions, if detected and treated early can lead to much more successful management and see our senior pets living longer, more comfortable lives.  A yearly clinical exam can detect problems such as heart disease, dental disease, thyroid problems, arthritis, cataracts, and cancer to name just a few. Studies have found that up to 80% of senior pets seen in practice had at least one unrecognised medical condition.

A senior check-up will also include blood tests which will enable vets to screen for early detection of a range of diseases, giving a baseline that can be used for future monitoring. Blood tests are quick and pain free and allow for valuable information about what’s going on inside before outward signs may be noticeable in your pet. Senior check-ups and blood tests give your pet the best chance to have disease diagnosed early and for a treatment plan to be implemented early.

Like humans, older pets also require a complete and balanced diet, which can play a big part in supporting your pet towards optimal health.  Prescription diets can be recommended for older pets as part of a management plan for conditions such as kidney, dental, skin and joint disease.

And lastly, they may say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” however stimulating older pets by playing games with them will help them feel good and increase their activity levels and slow down cognitive decline, which helps maintain that special bond between owner and pet and of course, increase quality of life.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your older pet, please do not hesitate to call us at Tauranga, Katikati, Te Puna and Papamoa Village Vets on 0800 838 7267. Our teams will work together with you to decide what is best for your individual situation, so that you and your pet can enjoy their senior, golden years comfortably.