May is Older Americans Month. But our pets don’t get old – at least they don’t know it.
In this series, I’ll dispense some essential advice for senior pets. Their muzzles may be getting grey, but geriatric pets often have just as much pep in their step as their much younger counterparts. After all, age is just a number, and our pets only count when it comes to treats!
Twenty years ago, a 12-year-old pet was considered old
. Nowadays, I rarely meet a pet owner who thinks of a pet that age as being ancient. In fact, more and more veterinarians are reporting dogs
19 to 20 years old and cats
older than 20. Why? More educated pet owners, better wellness care
and access more advanced veterinary treatments all deserve credit for extending the lives of our furry friends.
Once your dog or cat reaches age 7 (when they are generally considered “geriatric”), here are some things you can do to keep pets on their paws. By following a few simple rules, you can help your pet live to his or her fullest – and longest – potential.
Rule 1: Start Testing
Changes in kidney, liver and pancreatic function, arthritis
, heart disease
and high blood pressure
are more common in older pets. As a pet enters the golden years of senior citizenry, these physiological changes can offer clues about a pet’s overall health, and flag warning signs of trouble.
The most important key in treating disease is early recognition. In medicine, we have a rule called “The 10/90 Rule.” This means that if we diagnose most diseases, especially cancers, during the first 10% of development, we have about a 90% chance of successfully treating or even curing it. However, if we don’t diagnose it until it’s obvious, or 90% established, the odds of success plummet to about 10%. To diagnose a disease in the early stages requires consistent examinations and lab tests.
As soon as your pet turns 7, you should ask for basic blood and urine tests, even if your pet appears to be perfectly healthy. The value of routine testing is that it establishes baselines for future reference.
Case in point: I recently saw a 10-year-old cat for a routine exam. The owner reported her cat was in splendid condition. Our test results showed a big jump in two kidney enzymes from previous years. While the values were still within normal limits, the increase caught my attention and we performed additional tests that confirmed early kidney disease. If we did not have the previous test results, we never would have diagnosed kidney disease at this early stage.
The bottom line: the money you spend on routine diagnostic tests may save you big bucks in the future – and add years to the life of your pet.
More advice for senior pets:
Rule 2: Consider food and supplements
Rule 3: Less food equals longer life
Rule 4: Exercise more
Rule 5: Subtle can be significant
Rule 6: Play mind games
Rule 7: Buddy up