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Posted on 06-08-2018
As humans age, our health needs change. Our pets are no different. Though our small animal companions live a much shorter life span than that of a human, they still go through similar stages of life. From puppy/kittenhood to adolescence, adulthood, and finally, senior years, those needs just change on a more rapid basis.
Aging pets have their fair share of issues in common with us, such as, arthritis, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. Some of these diseases can be insidious, starting at middle age and slowly progressing over time, but are not noticed until advanced stages. Humans are always urged to see their doctor for yearly physical exams with most recommending at least yearly blood monitoring. These exams and tests help us prevent, diagnose, and start treatment before diseases become a major problem. We can do the same for our pets!
Pets of all ages should receive a yearly physical exam. Because of their shorter life spans, many “senior” pets, should be seen even more frequently as their health can change rapidly. The term “senior” varies with breed and therefore life expectancy. Cats and small to medium/large breed dogs can be considered “senior” age around 9-10 years and older versus giant breed dogs at about 7 years and older. Your veterinarian can listen for heart murmurs that can potentially lead to heart failure. Yearly bloodwork for our “senior” pets should also be considered as it is for humans. We can find signs of kidney or liver disease while still at a manageable stage to help prolong a comfortable, happy life. Cats are notoriously good at disguising arthritis, but a good history of your cat’s behavior and a physical exam can help expose their pain. For dogs and cats, occasional limping, reluctance to walk or play as long, difficulty getting up from lying down, reluctance to jump on furniture, can all be signs of arthritis. Once diagnosed, your vet may recommend joint supplements and/or NSAID’s (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories) to aid in keeping your pet pain-free and get them back to their usual activity levels.
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