What is the most common ailment you see in your senior patients? What are some of the signs of this ailment and ways we can prevent it from occurring?
In my senior patients, a huge health concern that I see is dental disease. By the age of 3, most pets have dental disease. If left unchecked, it progresses, and by the time my patients are seniors, their mouths are in poor shape. The signs of dental disease are halitosis (bad breath), gingivitis (red or inflamed gums), and tartar/calculus (build-up on the teeth).
Many pets will still eat even if their mouth is painful, so this can be misleading. One thing you can do at home, start brushing your pet's teeth every night, ideally you would start this when they are young. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and pet toothpaste. If a dental cleaning is recommended for your pet, please make sure dental x-rays are taken. Many times disease is not visible and can be hiding below the gum line!
At home dental care plus regular cleanings with your veterinarian will ensure your pet's mouth is healthy.
Patients with healthy mouths live longer; dental health is vital to overall well-being.
What is a common issue with seniors that is totally avoidable if caught early?
I would say dental health, as discussed above. Dental disease, fortunately, is a disease that not only can be prevented, but also treated!
What are the 3 most important things you can do for a senior pet to keep them happy & healthy?
Senior pets have a very special place in my heart. One of my dogs, Zeppelin, was 18 years old when he passed earlier this year.
1) Love them & honor their age. They may not be able to take the 5 mile hike with you anymore, but they may love walking down the block with you, being pulled in a wagon, or swimming with you. Sometimes, just sitting with you is all they can do, and that is enough. Make adjustments in your home for them, and have patience. They are doing the very best they can. Even if their hearing is diminished or absent, talk to them. There are vibrations that they likely are picking up, and that can be very comforting for your senior pet.
2) Regular (at least twice a year) veterinary visits. Pets age faster than humans, so when your pet is a senior, I highly recommend twice a year veterinary visits. Your pet will get a full exam as well as routine diagnostics. This way, even if your pet is not showing signs of disease we can monitor values in case anything is "creeping up." We can discuss issues such as dental disease, mobility, weight - anything and everything - to keep your pet's quality of life optimal.
3) Accept that if their quality of life is poor, when they are no longer happy or healthy, that you can provide them with the gift of euthanasia. It may sound funny that this is a "gift" that you can offer your pet, and it is a very difficult decision to make. But, when you evaluate their quality of life, you truly do not want them to suffer. Giving the gift of euthanasia to them, is a final act of kindness that you are able to provide to end their suffering.
What are 3 foods and/or supplements that you would suggest to include in a senior pet's daily regime to keep him healthy and alive for a very long time?
Please check with your veterinarian for the recommended safe foods to give your pet because not all human foods are safe. However, as a general guideline:
1) Fruits: Many pet owners are surprised the vast variety of fruits that are safe and beneficial for pets! Nutrition is so important and adding these to your pet's diet is not only healthy but extremely beneficial!
2) Veggies: As above, there is a long list of veggies that are healthful and safe to feed. Always check with your veterinarian, but I think many pet owners are surprised at the amount they can offer.
Glucosamine/Omega 3 FA (fatty acid) supplement: A common ailment in senior pets is joint disease. This can start very early and signs may be subtle. There are great joint supplements available, but at the same time, it can be confusing because there are so many! Please always check with your veterinarian for a product they recommend. The tricky thing about supplements is they are not created equal. Sometimes, the label can be very misleading (and untruthful). So, always get an expert opinion for a supplement that you can feel safe about giving to your pet.
What would be your top advice for overweight seniors besides less food and more exercise?
I would first recommend a veterinary visit to discuss not only the pet's weight, but body condition score as well. Sometimes, pets are overweight and it is not because they are eating too much or not exercising enough. They may have underlying disease that is not allowing their body to maintain a proper weight. Underlying disease must be ruled-out first. It would be harmful to a pet to keep decreasing the food and increasing activity in an attempt to loose weight if there is an underlying disease.
If it is determined that too many calories is the culprit, switching out low-calorie healthful treats can be a great start. Instead of a Milk Bone, give an apple slice. Sometimes, the entire diet has to be evaluated and improved. Increasing exercise will also help to burn more calories and decrease weight, but there are other activities as well, such as physical therapy, doggie daycare, even doggie yoga classes that you can do with your senior pet!
Laura Catena, DVM
is a practicing veterinarian in Pennsylvania. Laura is the inventor of the compassionate ArmOr Hand Gloves
designed for gentle handling of animals while protecting the hands from injury.
Thank you so much Dr. Laura for your enlightening answers to my very first Vet Talk
questions on the Red & Howling community!
Dr. Laura and Fawn Friend
This topic was modified 4 years ago by Red & Howling
Animals are my favorite kind of people.
Visit my Red & Howling Shop