As animals get older, their behaviour and bodies gradually change (just like humans) and we need to adapt their environment and alter their activities accordingly. The more frequently our vets and nurses see your pet, the easier and more likely it is that we will notice any changes in the animal. This can help to prevent the onset of any disease. Prevention is always better than cure and we can minimise the amount of pain our animals are in and improve prognosis by detecting disease sooner. These regular check-ups also allow us to assess your pets’ medication and dosage. This is essential because as conditions deteriorate or improve, medications may need to be altered to keep the optimum health benefits. Also, of course, the sooner a condition is picked up and diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated, and the better the outcome is likely to be.
Older animals often suffer with arthritis as their joints become stiffer with age. They become less agile and may run around less. It is important that we keep our pets moving as much as we can without causing them pain. Animals’ mobility should be assessed and tracked to ensure it is improving or at least maintained at a certain level – a reduction in exercise probably means pain or discomfort! If we can keep our animal’s joints and organs functioning properly, we can decrease the rate at which any old age-related pains deteriorate. We want to keep our pets moving with an equal range of movement in all limbs and having a constant stride length.
Some animals become overweight when they become older. This is because the number of calories used up by the animal is less than the calories given in the food. Older animals move less, meaning they will be burning less calories. Of course, we’re likely to feel sorry for our pet and give them treats if they appear tired… which will contribute to the number of calories being taken in! Once your pet becomes overweight it is much harder for them to move around and they will become fatigued much more quickly, meaning it is very important to monitor their weight. A downward spiral can rapidly develop otherwise. Older animals can benefit from special diets which are lighter in calories and formulated to help their bones and organs to work efficiently. The best diet for your pet will depend on their species, breed, health, and body condition score.
It is essential to maintain the health of your pet’s teeth. As any animal gets older, they become more susceptible to a range of diseases. We need to ensure that the mouth remains as healthy as possible as this ensures they can continue to eat normally and gain essential nutrients. The older the pet, the longer plaque and periodontal disease has had to develop. Regular check-ups can allow us to notice changes within the oral cavity and help us to prevent the onset of any diseases. Some dogs and cats also become cuddlier as they get older and we all want our friends to have nice smelling breath if they are expecting a cuddle! A healthy mouth means better smelling breath making us happy as well as them!
If your pet’s energy balance is not correct (calories in greater than calories out), they will increase in weight. Check with one of our vets what the healthy weight for your dog or cat should be. Equally, if they become underweight, you may want to seek veterinary attention, as this can be a sign of an underlying health problem. You should monitor the amount of food and water being taken in by your pet to detect changes quickly – changes in these factors are good indicators that something is going wrong.
It is good to get your pet out of the house, and keep them stimulated. We want to be able to help you and by bringing your pets to see us as regularly as necessary, we can analyse their health more accurately. This means we can help you manage your pet’s changing health needs. It also allows you to get advice from lots of different professionals meaning you will get the best expertise advice for your beloved pets!