We’re in this for the long haul! September is National Senior’s Month and Campus Veterinary Clinic would like to provide you with guidance and support in facing Father Time.
Let’s begin with a look at some common issues facing older animals:
Illustration by Tad Carpenter ~ Family Circle
Arthritis: Weak joints—usually in the legs, back and neck—can cause a pet to struggle while getting up in the morning, and to walk or lie down awkwardly. Cats start sleeping more, up to 14 hours a day. Senior Solution: Put a heat lamp over his bed and a heating pad below to soothe muscles.
Weight Gain: Muscle mass tends to decrease and metabolism slows down as pets age, which contributes to their gain. Senior Solution: At around 7 years old (larger animals should make the switch sooner), transition your dog or cat to a lower calorie product. Many aging pets, especially cats, also struggle with constipation, so smaller, more frequent meals and a diet rich in fiber will aid their digestive system.
Incontinence: Frequent urination and reverting to his pre-house-trained days may indicate a more serious problem, like kidney failure, a brain tumor or neuromuscular conditions. Senior Solution: Once Campus Veterinary Clinic rules out medical troubles, up the number of litter boxes for cats and buy pee pads for dogs, or simply go for more walks.
Vision and Hearing Loss: A pet that no longer responds to previously known cues and commands could be dealing with blindness or deafness. Senior Solution: Use verbal directions more frequently if your pet’s eyesight has worsened. Dogs may not be as comfortable in low light, so consider switching your daily walk to morning rather than at dusk. For animals with hearing problems, a flashlight can help you get their attention. As pets get older, it’s important to utilize all of their senses.
Sometimes older dogs get confused, maybe soil the rug or lose their way in the house. It’s perfectly natural. Or is it?
In the past ten years, veterinarians have come to realize that severe cognitive (or thinking-related) problems are no more normal in older dogs than they are in aging people. While older dogs may move a bit more slowly and get a little gray around the muzzle, they should not experience a complete change in personality. A dog that suddenly seems confused, distant, or lost may be showing signs of cognitive dysfunction.
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (or CDS) is a degeneration of the brain and the nervous system in dogs, roughly comparable to Alzheimer’s disease in people. Like Alzheimer’s, it is caused by physical changes in the brain and brain chemicals, and it is not a part of normal aging. It results in a deterioration of cognitive abilities, causing behavioral changes that can disrupt the lives of pets and the families that care for them. An ongoing study performed at the University of California-Berkeley has shown that 62 percent of dogs between ages 11 and 16 demonstrate one or more signs of CDS, and the percentage goes up as dogs get older.
The following list provides a list of symptoms every pet owner should be aware of:
ð Withdrawing from interaction with the family
ð Soliciting less petting and attention
ð Staring at walls or into space
ð Sleeping more during the day and less at night
ð House soiling
ð Difficulty learning new tasks
ð Pacing or wandering aimlessly
ð Frequent trembling or shaking
ð Ignoring commands
ð Becoming lost in familiar places like the home or yard
ð Getting “stuck” in familiar places, like corners or behind furniture
ð Having trouble finding the door or standing at the hinge side of the door
ð Not responding to name
ð Decreased activity
ð Not recognizing family members or familiar people
Campus Veterinary Clinic is dedicated to providing our best efforts in preserving the health and well being of our patients. Likewise, we believe in celebrating the lives we’ve come to love. Let us take a moment to cherish a few of the many pets we’ve had the privilege of caring for over the years: