As they age, our four-legged loved-ones need additional attention and care to make sure that they are happy and comfortable during their senior years. Most pets tend to slow down some as they age, however age is not a disease… but diseases occur more commonly with age.
What to be on the look-out for
Symptoms of disease in pets can be subtle and often can go unnoticed. The following are symptoms that every pet parent should be on the look-out for in their senior pets:
- Weight loss, especially in the face of a good appetite
- Increased thirst and urinary frequency
- Decreased appetite
- Poor grooming habits
- Dull, dry, unkempt haircoat
- Being slow to rise
- Reluctance to climb stairs
- Reduced energy / activity level
- Confusion / behavior changes
Common medical issues
Common medical issues that occur in our pets as they age include arthritis, thyroid disease, kidney disease, heart disease, decreased hearing, and cognitive dysfunction. As previously mentioned, symptoms can be subtle and overlooked during busy daily life at home. This is why having wellness examinations at least every 6 months by your veterinarian is exceptionally important for our older pets.
What can you do?
In addition to biannual wellness examinations, regular screening lab work is vital to help diagnose illness early on the disease process. Early intervention is key to stop or slow down disease, as well as to improve your pet’s quality of life and longevity. We recommend annual blood work screening including chemistry profiles, complete blood counts (CBC), thyroid levels, and urinalysis. Other diagnostic testing that can be important are x-rays, eye pressure checks, and ultrasound.
Comfort and quality of life are our major goals for our furry loved ones, but because they cannot often communicate with us in a way we understand, we may find ourselves asking – is this pain? Pain in our companion animals is often a result of trauma and disease processes, just as it is in humans. Though, it can be far more difficult to recognize. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the many manifestations and behaviors that can indicate pain in our pets.
Common Indicators of Pain
- Withdrawal from surroundings or change in normal routine – hiding, seeking solitude, decreased responsiveness, unwillingness to move
- Guards or protects a certain body part
- Lameness, limping (can range from weight bearingto non-weight bearing)
- Atypical aggressive behaviors – trying to bitewhen touched, growling/hissing, etc
- Vocalizing – whining, whimpering, crying,groaning
- Unsettled, restless; cannot seem to getcomfortable
- Quiet, loss of brightness in eyes
- Abnormal body positioning – lays curled up or sits tucked up (with all limbs underneath the body, back/shoulders hunched, tail curled around body)
- Droopy ears, worried facial expression (archedeyebrows, darting eyes)
- Eyes partially or mostly closed while awake
- Not grooming (unkempt coat); or over grooming ina particular area
- Decreased appetite, lack of interest in food
So What Can I do to Help?
Fortunately, we have a number of options to help animals that are in pain (both acute and chronic) to live more comfortable, happy lives. Multimodal approaches to managing pain are often most successful. Your veterinarian may recommend the following treatments for your pet, depending on the findings of a thorough physical exam, screening lab work and, possibly, x-rays:
Anti-inflammatory and Pain Medications
These medications are the most commonly used to help treat pain and inflammation in pets.
Laser therapy provides anti-inflammatory, pain relief, faster healing, improved blood flow, decreased scar formation, and improved nerve function.
Just as in people, acupuncture can bean effective modality to control pain.
Icing in the first few days of incision/injury/trauma will reduce inflammation. Heating after the first few days will increase blood flow and healing.
Joint Supplementation (for arthritis pain)
Glucosamine is a building block for cartilage by keeping cells healthy and working properly. Chondroitin blocks the naturally occurring enzymes that break down cartilage.
Fish Oil (for arthritis pain)
Omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation in the joints.
Weight Optimization (for arthritis pain)
Weight control is often the MOST important factor to reduce pain & inflammation from arthritis. Fat is PRO-INFLAMMATORY, and also places more weight on sore joints.
Joint or “Mobility” Diets (for arthritis pain)
Prescription joint diets have many benefits: Omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine/chondroitin, carnitine (to help burn fat, maintain lean muscle), anti-oxidants.
Increased thirst and urination are symptoms of a number of common diseases, especially in cats over 10 years of age. The medical terms for these symptoms are polyuria (excessive urine production) and polydipsia (excessive thirst).
When a cat presents at Hampton Veterinary Hospital for increased thirst and urination, as always, one of our doctors will perform a thorough physical examination. Regardless of the cause, many times our feline patients with increased thirst and urination will also present with any combination of the following non-specific symptoms or findings on examination:
- Weight loss and muscle atrophy
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Change in energy level
- Heart murmur
The most common diseases we see inolder cats that cause increased thirst and urination are:
These three diseases, as well as a number of less common causes, can easily be tested for by submitting blood and urine samples for a chemistry profile, complete blood count (CBC), thyroid level(s),and urinalysis. If lab work rules-out these common medical conditions in older cats, then we typically proceed to taking x-rays and/or performing an ultrasound.
Aging, whether it be with ourselves or our four-legged loved ones, can be scary. It is not uncommon for many people to avoid the doctor because they do not want to learn about medical issues that might shorten lives. However, each of these diseases listed above can usually be treated to improve quality and length of life in our feline friends. This is especially true if we screen for such issues and start treatment sooner rather than later. So, please contact us should you be concerned about an increase in thirst and urination or any other medical issue your pet may be experiencing.