Dental disease – this is huge
I would say more than 75% of older pets have some level of dental disease. This can range from moderate plaque to heavy calculus and severe gum disease. Dental disease means lots of extra bacteria in the mouth which can lead to other health problems.
Most dental conditions are quite treatable; pets will usually require a general anaesthetic to have dental work done. This is not as scary as it may sound – modern veterinary anaesthesia is generally very safe, and whilst there is always a slight risk, we will only recommend anaesthesia if the benefits of doing the procedure outweigh the risks.
Age-related heart problems are common in dogs and to a lesser extent cats. Some breeds are more prone to problems than others.
Signs of heart disease include:
- coughing (especially in dogs)
- breathing difficulties
- slowing down (getting old)
- reluctance to exercise
- sleeping more
- weight loss
- collapsing or fainting
Most heart diseases will be picked up on an examination of your pet. Heart conditions in pets tend to be treated with medicine (rather than surgery) and it can have spectacular results. All vets will have patients that are alive for years extra thanks to the brilliant medications now available.
Make sure your vet gives a good listen to your pets chest at your next check up!
As pets get older they are more likely to suffer from cancer. Sometimes this means lumps and bumps on the skin and other times it means growths inside the body. Dogs (male and female) that are not neutered are more likely to suffer from certain types of cancer.
Early detection is always a bonus and many cancers can be treated with surgery and sometimes with medicine. It doesn’t mean the end of the world if your pet suddenly starts growing a new lump but it is always worth getting it checked. A well-informed consultation with your vet will help you decide what is best.
Just like people, dogs and cats get diabetes.
It is more common in overweight pets. Signs include increased hunger, thirst and urination. Usually easy to diagnose and can be managed very well by most owners.
Underactive thyroid is common in dogs.
- weight gain
- skin problems
Can be difficult to diagnose in that a few tests may need to be done to be sure, but usually quite easy to treat with a tablet or drop of liquid into the food daily.
Over active thyroids are common in cats.
- weight loss
- excess hunger and thirst
Can be easily diagnosed with a blood test and there are a number of treatment options available. An older cat that is losing weight and with perhaps an increased appetite should be taken to the vet – and not ‘written off’ as just ‘getting old’.
Kidney and liver disease
As pets age so do their organs – older pets can often run in to problems with liver and kidneys.
- weight loss
- increased thirst
- increased urination
Usually diagnosed with the aid of blood and urine tests. Treatments vary and diet is massively important.
I couldn’t do a piece on older pets and not mention weight control.
Obesity can exacerbate other common senior pet conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Your vet or vet nurse can help your senior pet lose weight and this can lead to a dramatic improvement in quality of life – and that is what its all about!