Ageing Pets – How can we help?

Looking after an elderly pet can sometimes be a challenge. Just like humans, their needs are higher, they become less active, sometimes forgetful and the likelihood of health issues increases. So, what can we do to best support your elderly pet, and slow down the ageing process?

Pets are considered senior usually over the age of 8 years, with cats a bit later, and large-breed dogs a bit earlier. This is because of the range of life-expectancies between breeds and species, as well as the increased risk of impairment of vital biological functioning.

What are the signs of ageing?

When assessing an elderly pet, we examine their body as a whole; we look at function, appearance, and discuss your pet’s life at home. There are, however, some clear indicators of ageing:

  • Teeth
  • Coat
  • Joints and mobility
  • Organ & Hormone Function

Dental disease

Over time, plaque and tartar build on teeth. If not cleaned regularly in the way of brushing, dental chews, or medical scale and polishing, it can form to an extent where we see gum disease and tooth decay.

It is common to see an element of dental disease in an elderly dog, but if left unchecked, the bacteria and the effects of the disease can become so detrimental, that it can lead to organ disease and impairment. It is a truth that life expectancy in pets can be affected by poor dental health.

Image from https://www.pdsa.org.uk/what-we-do/blog/vet-qa-how-do-i-remove-plaque-from-my-dogs-teeth

The Solution?

There are many ways we can help keep your pet’s teeth healthy, through our dental treats, teeth-cleaning specific diets, such as Hills t/d, tooth brushing and mouth washes. The most effective method, though, is a dental clean scale and polish. This ensures your pet’s teeth are starting fresh, free from plaque and tartar, so you can then focus on prophylactic care, and keep any future disease from forming.

Skin & Coat

Just like with us, the effects of ageing can turn up on our pet’s skin and hair! While they may not necessarily show wrinkles and fine lines, their fur turns grey, dry, grows lumps and bumps, and their skin gets thinner and more prone to damage. We see sun damage in pets, especially in breeds with white coats, or short-haired breeds such as whippets and Chinese-crested dogs. This can then lead to skin cancers and problematic lesions. Hormones issues can play a part, too, through the disruption of important bio pathways supporting skin health.

Image from https://bowwowinsurance.com.au/pet-care/diseases-conditions/hair-coat-and-skin-conditions-in-dogs/

The Solution?

Skin is our pets’ largest organ, and we need to protect it as we would any other organ, through environmental, medical and nutritional means. Provide sun protection for your pets if they are always sun-bathing (lucky them!) or have white coats, by using a pet-safe sunblock, predominantly on the nose and tummy, or dressing them in a sun shirt.

Provide plenty of hydration. If your cat doesn’t like to drink much, try offering them a water fountain. Keep allergies under control if they are prone to scratching, and provide them with an age-appropriate diet to support their nutritional needs.

As your pet ages, keep track of their eating and behaviour habits, as well as ensuring they get their yearly health check at the vets. Diseases that can begin to show as your pet ages, such as cushings, diabetes, or allergies, have the ability to severely affect your pet’s skin barrier, but if caught early can be managed well to avoid serious complications. A regular, simple on-the-spot blood or urine test can often flag disease onset.

Joints and Mobility

Arthritis is when the cartilage of a joint wears down, resulting in inflammation, swelling, and pain. It can wear down due to disease, trauma, poor structure or development (for example hip or elbow dysplasia), or excessive weight gain. Usually, we see the ageing effects of artithris in pets in their hips, knees, shoulders and elbows.

Arthritis can come on at any age due to the above reasons, but we often see it in pets over 8 years of age, and even earlier in larger breeds.

So, how do you know if your pet is suffering from arthritis? They may…

  • …not walk or run for as long as usual.
  • …not want to go for a walk at all anymore.
  • … walk with a stiffness to their gait.
  • …take a long time to get up from their bed, particularly in the morning or through the colder months.
  • …become grumpier, or more protective of themselves as they feel uncomfortable or in pain.
  • …become off their food.

…as well as other behaviour changes as the disease progresses.

Image from https://canna-pet.com/articles/what-is-arthritis-in-dogs/

The Solution?

Supportive care. We have many options for pain relief and supportive care. Joint supplement Glyde, has proven levels of key ingredients – GLM, glucosamine and chondroitin – for joint support, making it Australia’s top-rated supplement for joint care in dogs. Other nutritional support can help in the form of full-balanced diets, such as Hills j/d, providing the therapeutic ingredients within their everyday meals.

Injections of Zydax is an incredible therapy for managing arthritis. Zydax helps cartilage health by increasing blood flow to the joint, helping the cartilage to regrow. Zydax treatment is one injection weekly for four-weeks and can last many months before needing another course.

As well as supplements and medicinal treatments, supportive care at home can work wonders to keep joints well-lubricated and reduce pain. Regular but gentle walks are best, a very supportive bed with thick cushioning.

Organ & Hormone Function

As mentioned above, the onset of disease can occur with age. We can often detect warning signs of various illnesses or through simple diagnostic tests at our clinic – such as blood and urine tests. This is not the only way, though. You are with your pet every day and know them the very best. If you can, take note of their behaviour and habits. Such as:

  • Are they eating or drinking more or less than usual?
  • Are they going to the toilet more or less than usual?
  • Are they grumpier? Slower? Itchier? Needier?

These external signs, as well as many more, can tell us a lot about their internal health.

The Solution?

Annual health checks with your veterinarian, keep a pet diary if you’re suspicious of changes (such as documenting eating and drinking habits), and make the most of Senior Pet Month at Fletcher Vet.

What is Senior Pet Month?

To make this important stage of your pet’s healthcare even easier, we run Senior Pet Month each year. This month, we are dedicated to providing you with the best resources possible to support your ageing pet.

Throughout August, we are providing dogs and cats eight years and older with a special consultation at our Wallsend Clinic.

For $99, your pet will receive:

  • A health check with our nurses, discussing skin, teeth, mobility and diet
  • A pet profile booklet with their results
  • A blood and urine profile
  • A goodie-bag with senior pet sample products.

As an added bonus, you will receive $10 off if your pet has had a Senior Month Health Check before.

If any concerns or abnormalities in their results are found and you wish to book in for further work-up with a veterinarian, an additional discount will apply on their consultation cost.

Book online here for your pet’s Senior Health Check at our Wallsend Clinic throughout August. We look forward to seeing you and your pet soon.

Welcome to our newly renovated Fletcher clinic

Our custom-built, newly renovated premises have been designed to best serve you and your pet. With indoor and outdoor waiting spaces, a state-of-the-art hospital, and improved parking facilities, we hope you and your pet will feel comfortable and right at home. Come in and take a look, and meet our wonderful, dedicated team.  

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