Vets are often asked ‘what is the best way to keep my dog or cat healthy as they get older?’. Many factors can be considered, but these 4 tips we find most helpful.
- Feed a good quality food formulated for senior pets. Senior pet foods contain essential ingredients, formulations in the correct balance that optimises nutrition for senior pets. The aim is to maintain good body condition and prevent obesity, reduce damage to ageing cells with high levels of antioxidants, and restrict protein and phosphate to take the strain off ageing organs. At least 90% of food intake should come from a specially formulated senior diet, keeping tit-bits and soft food to a minimum.
- Regular vet checks are vital. During a vet check we look for signs of heart disease, arthritis, and dental disease. These are illnesses that can be managed successfully if diagnosed early, before clinical symptoms are evident. We advise annual check ups for small dogs and cats up to 12 years of age, then 6 monthly after that. Large and giant breed dogs should have 6 monthly checks from about 8 years of age.
- Routine blood tests are advised in patients older than 12 years for small breed dogs and cats, and 8 years for large and giant breeds. Silent diseases such as renal failure, liver problems and diabetes can be diagnosed and managed way before they become problems. Early detection is vital to successful management.
- Dental care is so important for senior dogs and cats, and is often overlooked. Four out of 5 dogs can have dental disease by age 2, and virtually all senior pets struggle with dental disease unless specifically managed. It is heart breaking to see a senior patient come in for an assessment and find that almost all the teeth are rotten and loose. This causes pain and discomfort and can result in abscesses and bone infection. Having regular dental cleanings and continuing with home dental care can relieve and prevent much pain.
By working together we can help even older senior dogs and cats live happy and healthy lives, maximising the time we can spend with them.