Who has heard the saying “Aging is a Disease”? We definitely have! Aging is a natural process that happens to all of us, but that doesn’t mean aging itself is a disease. What’s true is that senior pets are more susceptible to specific health conditions as a result of aging. Thanks to the advancements in veterinary medicine, our fur babies can live longer and happier lives – with some extra TLC! Here are some of the most common age-related diseases, symptoms to look for, and how they can affect your pets.
- Arthritis: We know how much dogs love to take walks, and cats love to jump onto their perch. If your pet begins limping on those walks or is hesitating to run and jump on their perch, they may be showing early signs of arthritis. Arthritis is a common disease amongst senior pets, where one or more of the joints are inflamed, resulting in continuous pain and muscle stiffness. Some large breed dogs such as German Shepards, Labrador, and Golden Retrievers have a genetic predisposition to develop the disease in their elbows and hips. The best way to help prevent your pet from developing arthritis is weight management, which can help decrease the stress put on certain joints. In some cases, we can prescribe medication to help reduce swelling and pain. If you are noticing any changes in your pet’s physical abilities, please contact us immediately so we can discuss the options available to keep your pets feeling their best.
- Vision Loss: Just as our vision can become impaired with age, so can our pets! The most common diseases that cause vision loss in pets are diabetes, glaucoma, and cataracts. Vision loss can be hard to detect in pets because they often adapt by compensating with their other senses. Depending on the cause of vision loss, it can make it more challenging to prevent. Some common symptoms of vision loss include bumping into objects, cloudy, discolored or inflamed eyes, and even clumsiness and disorientation.
- Dental Disease: Did you know that dental disease is the number one medical problem in dogs and cats? Yes, you read that, right! Dental disease (also known as periodontal disease) is an inflammatory disease from leftover bacteria in the mouth, causing symptoms such as bad breath, problems eating, red gums and bleeding, and in severe cases, loss of teeth. If dental disease is left untreated, it can have adverse effects on the large organs in the body – including the heart, liver, and kidneys. To help fight dental disease, annual dental cleanings, and daily home care are highly recommended. Talk with us at your next appointment about preventative care and treatment options.
- Cognitive Dysfunction: You may notice that your pet is beginning to have more of those “senior moments.” It may be that your pet is moving slower than usual, appearing to be more anxious or even seems disoriented and confused in familiar spaces. These behaviors can be the beginning signs of cognitive dysfunction – very similar to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Cognitive dysfunction is a neurological disease related to the aging of the mind, that can slow down all mental and motor functions as well as trained behaviors. The symptoms are typically mild and come on gradually, making it difficult to initially detect. If you suspect your pet is developing any of these symptoms or notice changes in their behavior, contact us right away.
- Heart and Kidney Disease: With age, many of the large organs in the body are known to slow down. Heart and kidney disease are similar in that they both consist of progressive loss of the organ function. Some common symptoms of heart disease are lethargy, coughing, and rapid breathing. Similarly, common symptoms of kidney disease include lethargy, decreased appetite, and increased urination and thirst. Both of these diseases are tricky to detect because the symptoms can either appear gradually or very suddenly. While both can be preventable, treatment may consist of oral medication and changes to their diet.
Ultimately, you cannot stop the aging of your pups and kitties; but what we can do is work together in an effort to detect these disease symptoms sooner rather than later. As your trusted partner in pet health care, we want to help ensure your pet leads the healthiest and happiest life possible!