Vail Pet Talk column: Regular wellness checks help keep older pets in tip-top shape
Who out there has a senior pet? I do. Her name is Tele, and she’s an 11-year-old, deaf Catahoula leopard dog — she is my husband and my first “kid.” As much as I’d like to think she is the fireball that she was when she was younger, she has absolutely developed age-related diseases that need to be treated. It’s important in your own senior pet that you are always on the lookout for changes and that you have a talk with your veterinarian regarding what you can do for your pet to address their special needs as they get older.
Small cats and dogs are considered geriatric around the age of 7; larger breed dogs age faster and are considered geriatric around the age of 6. Similar to humans, pets are prone to developing certain conditions as they age. Common examples include diabetes, arthritis, cancer, heart disease and organ dysfunction. It is also not uncommon for a pet to develop cognitive dysfunction and dulling of the senses, such as hearing and sight.
At our hospital, we recommend a biannual senior wellness check in geriatric pets in order to stay on top of any condition they may be developing. Senior blood work is a very useful tool used to pick up on any signs of disease. We can identify many conditions this way and establish a treatment plan in order to keep your pet in the best shape possible for as long as possible.
About 6 months ago, I was able to identify that my senior dog, Tele, is hypothyroid — has an underactive thyroid — when I ran a senior blood panel on her. It changed her for the good when we got her on a thyroid supplement, and we wouldn’t have known that something was array without running blood work.
A senior wellness check will also include a full physical exam, which can identify conditions such as arthritis. Mobility becomes an issue as pets age, and we can help establish a plan to keep your pet moving in the least amount of discomfort as possible. In my dog, Tele, we have identified osteoarthritis in her hips and elbows; she is now on a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement in order to combat the changes she is experiencing in her joints due to age.
Older pets often need foods that are catered to their special needs as they age. Senior veterinary diets often have different calorie levels, are more easily digestible and frequently have anti-aging nutrients in them. There are also diets that are specific for arthritic joints that can be very beneficial for your pet. My Tele is on a senior diet combined with a joint diet in order to keep her in as tip-top shape as possible.
There is no reason why an aging pet can’t remain a healthy, active part of your family’s life. Have a talk with your veterinarian about what you can do together to be sure they remain healthy and happy. I hope everyone has been enjoying this fall weather!
Liz Foster, DVM, is an associate veterinarian at Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center. She can be reached at 970-328-7085.