Senior Pets: Not “Just Getting Old”
By: Dr. Ryan Llera, B.Sc., DVM | Nov 9, 2017
In front of me lies a very familiar cat. She has hundreds of names and many different owners. No this isn’t the story of a cat who lives anywhere special, this one cat represents all of the other patients that come in just like her. She is older by several years than the kitten I just finished examining. Her owners tell me that she has lost weight, she’s not eating (and she always loved to eat!), and she has a glossy look in her eyes. My next question is one of the most important and sometimes when I hear the answer I cringe. How long has this been going on? “One week with the appetite but she has been eating less and losing weight for a couple of months,” they reply.
I’ve heard this story before. Last week with the dog who has been having trouble walking for a month and difficulty using the stairs. Before that, the cat who was peeing all over the house for 3 months and now can’t walk. This is why I’m trying to help educate everyone so that your pets can get the care they deserve as part of your family. A lot of people still also use the phrase that their pet is “just getting old.” Well yes, your pets are getting older and they are living longer these days. With that territory comes the potential for more health care issues, some of which are manageable to improve your pet’s quality of life.
Over the course of my writing, I’ll address lots of these issues but we’re generalizing for the moment. Again, I must state that my articles cannot replace the value of an examination and visit with your regular veterinarian. I consider senior pets to be dogs over 8 years old and cats over 10 years of age. These are the pets that I feel should be visiting your veterinarian no less than 1-2 times a year. If they already have been diagnosed with a chronic condition (diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, etc.), these visits should be at least 2-3 times per year. There are a few patients who we don’t see unless it’s serious or only every few years. These pets still need regular care despite being indoor cats, bully breed dogs whose owners are afraid their veterinarian will turn them in because of the laws, and pets who aren’t due for vaccines at that particular time.
First, indoor cats can still develop problems such as dental disease, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis. Sure being indoors and solitary can protect them from viral diseases and bite wounds but as they age, they can still have health issues. Secondly, I don’t know any vet who would turn in an owner for going against Ontario or other municipality breed ban laws – we’re not the police nor do most of us agree with the law; we just want your dog to be healthy. And lastly, many people are mistaken that pets “just need their shots” every few years. The real purpose and value of the trip to the vet is the examination to be able to detect early signs of problems that may become more harmful (and unfortunately more expensive) the longer that they go undiagnosed.
So the long and short of it is, there is no pet that can go without veterinary care. I can understand and appreciate the cost associated with a visit to the vet but in the same vein as saving on veterinary costs, proper preventative care for your senior pet can help save on finances in the long run. Remember, the overall goal is for a happy and healthy life for your pet and you to share.
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