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Aging Pet Needs Extra Care

By Sarah Probst
Updated: 2009-11-25 5:37 PM 2293 Views    Category: - General Pet Care
 
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"Your pet ages seven times faster than you do; consequently, the potential for age-related disease also progresses seven times as fast," says Dr. William Tranquilli, veterinarian and anesthesiologist retired from the University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital in Urbana. "At the age of seven (when your pet is about 50 in people years), we suggest biannual visits with your veterinarian. That may seem like a lot, but if you think of it in terms of how fast your pet is aging, it would be like a person going for an annual physical every 3 to 4 years," explains Dr. Tranquilli. Also realize that large dogs age faster than smaller dogs.
 
During biannual visits, ask your veterinarian to do a lab analyses-complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exams, and chemistry profiles. Having these tests done twice a year helps veterinarians detect any age-related disease that your pet may be developing before the disease progresses too far.

As your pet ages, the chances of its developing a life-threatening disease such as kidney failure and cardiac disease increase. Prevention and early detection of these diseases are imperative to extend the life of your beloved companion. Taking a preventive approach to your dog's senior status could increase the amount of time you get to spend with your companion.

Part of prevention includes controlling your pet's weight. This decreases the rate that your pet ages and definitely decreases susceptibility to serious diseases. Older dogs naturally decrease their activity and thus have reduced energy needs. It's not necessary to feed your 11-year-old Dalmatian, Johnny, as much as the 2 year-old Sparky. Ask your veterinarian what diet and amount of food is best for your dog's age and activity level.

Besides increased veterinary visits and weight watching, be sure to monitor your pet's behavior. "Behavioral changes are some of the earliest signs of disease," says Dr. Tranquilli. Changes that may indicate a problem include confusion, decreased interaction with family members, inconsistent sleeping pattern, or loss of house training. You know your pet's behavior best, so trust your judgment.

Other behavioral changes are associated with specific diseases. As in humans, arthritis may become a problem in senior pets. Watch for stiffness, lameness, reluctance to climb steps or jump up, and perhaps difficulty rising after lying down. Dermatologic problems may also increase with age because of metabolic changes. Increased water intake, increased urination, increased weight loss, and decreased appetite may indicate developing kidney disease.

Dental problems increase with age as well. Juno may not need a full set of dentures like Great Aunt Selma, but watch for increased salivation, bleeding, and inflammation, which may result in serious infection and loss of appetite.
 
Veterinarians understand that your pet is part of the family and they are willing to assist you with your health care decisions as your companion ages. Your local veterinarian can help you give your senior pet the best quality of life for as long as possible.
 

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