Signs of Ageing in a Dog
Your dog’s coat and the area around his muzzle begins to turn grey. Because your pet is getting older, it is important to know that skin problems may occur more often since the skin may be thinner, less elastic, and does not repair itself as quickly.
Your senior dog begins to slow down, has less energy and has trouble getting up or limping. Longer and more frequent naps are common side effects of ageing. A change in habits, including play, eating and drinking.
Weight changes are common in older dogs. Some dogs gain weight as they age whilst others lose weight. Dental problems can appear in older pets and can cause bad breath. Hearing, vision and other senses become less active when dogs get older.
Signs of Ageing in a Cat
As old cats are often less active, their muscle tone tends to reduce which may further reduce their ability to run, jump and climb. Lack of exercise contributes to the stiffening of joints.
Frequently older cats suffer from a poor appetite as the senses of taste and smell often deteriorate with age. Teeth problems are common and can discourage eating.
Bowel function may deteriorate with age, causing problems such as reduced ability to absorb food nutrients. This can lead to weight loss. Some elderly cats suffer from constipation.
Elderly cats have decreased thirst and they are at risk of becoming dehydrated. This is particularly dangerous in cats with kidney problems. Older cats tend to sleep less heavily but more frequently. Old cats often have poor coats that may make them less resistant to the cold and wet.
General Care for your Older Pet
There are some specific things you can do to make your older dog’s life more comfortable:
- See your veterinarian more often . It is more important than ever that your dog received total health care.
- Give your dog more exercise. The exercise that you provide may be slower, but walks and play keep your dog in better shape, both mentally and physically.
- Don’t let your older dog pack on the kilos as obesity can lead to serious health problems.
- Continue to groom your dog and care for his teeth.
- Brush and clean his coat to keep it at it’s softest and healthiest.
In general, older dogs do not like change. Don’t move his bed, shift his routine, or force him to adjust to too many new situations. Keep your dog’s environment as comfortable as possible. A soft, warm place to sleep and protection from the elements.
Show extra patience and spend extra time with your senior dog. Things may take longer and may be more challenging.
For the older cat:
- Make any changes in your cat’s environment gradually. Sudden changes can cause undue stress.
- Keep your cat comfortable. Your cat’s bed should be in a dry, draft-free area.
- Don’t leave him outside for long periods of time in cold weather.
- Provide regular grooming. This helps remove dead hair and helps prevent hairballs. Groom also gives you a chance to inspect your cat for parasites, skin disorders and unusual lumps or lesions.
- Encourage moderate exercise. Though older cats tend to rest more, it’s helpful to play, stroke, talk and cuddle with them.
Senior Pet Wellness Plan
When caring for older pets, they will have special health needs and may require more attention and care than younger pets. As you pet ages, changes occur in his physical condition that requires more frequent visits to the veterinarian.
If medical problems are recognised and treated when they are first detected, the treatment may be easier for your pet and less costly for you. In order to diagnose medical problems in their early stage, twice-a-year wellness examinations are recommended for older dogs and cats.
A baseline senior wellness examination should be performed so it can be used as a benchmark for measuring changes in your pet as he or she ages. A geriatric exam is more extensive than a simple check-up and includes:
- A complete physical exam
- Oral examination
- Recording of body weight and body condition
- The veterinarian will also examine your pet’s ears, eyes, and various internal organs.
- Some laboratory work may be done, including a complete blood count, urinalysis, faecal exam, and perhaps endocrine blood tests and other examinations.
Keep your cat’s litter box clean and in the same place. Older cats may sometimes forget a lifetime of litter-box training due to disorientation or loss of balance. Litter-box mishaps also may indicate a health problem.
Keep your cat’s surroundings familiar and try to make as few changes as possible. This helps compensate for reduced hearing, eyesight and smell. As a cat gets older, the recovery period from stressful conditions, such as illness and exposure, take longer.
Observe your cat for changes in behaviour, eating habits or other signs of illness. Prompt diagnosis and treatment by a vet is recommended. When detected early, many conditions can be stabilized, and some degenerative processes can be slowed, enabling an aging cat to lead a more comfortable life.