As pets reach their golden years, they become more prone to various health problems. Some of these health issues can be prevented with proper care, while others cannot. However, all of these can be managed with the help of your veterinarian through professional veterinary geriatric care.
Here are some common health issues in older pets that you should be aware of:
This is a common disease affecting many older and middle-aged dogs and cats. It is caused by the deterioration of the cartilage in the joints, leading to pain and stiffness. Unfortunately, younger pets can also suffer from this disease.
There are two types of arthritis, such as:
This is the most common arthritis type and is caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage in the joints but can also occur as a result of injury. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured but can be prevented from worsening.
This occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the joints, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. It can affect any of your pet’s joints but is most commonly seen in the knees. Your vet can’t cure rheumatoid arthritis, but it can be managed with medication and other treatment options.
Signs of arthritis include:
- Reluctance to move or exercise
- Pain when moving
- Swelling in the joints
- Changes in behavior, including grumpiness or irritability
If you notice any of these signs, it is crucial to take your pet to the vet for an examination. There are many ways to treat arthritis, like:
- Weight Management: Keeping your pet healthy will help reduce the amount of stress on their joints.
- Exercise: Regular exercise will help keep their joints flexible and reduce pain.
- Nutrition: A balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce inflammation and pain in pets with arthritis.
- Pain Relief: pain medication can help relieve the pain and improve your pet’s quality of life.
- Surgery: Sometimes, surgery may be necessary to repair damaged joints or replace them with artificial ones.
2. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a condition that affects the brain function of older dogs and is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. It is a progressive condition that leads to changes in behavior, such as:
- Memory loss
- Changes in sleep patterns
CDS cannot be cured, but there are ways to manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. These include:
- Environmental enrichment: This involves providing your pet with stimulating toys and activities to help keep their mind active.
- Dietary supplements: Many supplements on the market claim to improve cognitive function in pets. However, it is important to speak with your veterinarian before giving your pet any supplements.
- Medication: There are several medications that the FDA has approved to treat CDS.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens and is a common condition in older dogs and is less common in cats. It can cause vision loss and, if left untreated, can lead to blindness.
Keep in mind that cataracts can also affect younger pets. In fact, a cat can have them when they are born but rarely result in significant vision loss. Common cataract treatment in pets is surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial one.
Signs of cataracts include:
- Cloudy or opaque eyes
- Eye discharge squinting
- Sensitivity to light
Cancer is a common disease in older pets, and, unfortunately, it is often not detected until it is in the advanced stages. In severe cases, emergency veterinary care may be necessary.
Many different cancer types affect pets, such as:
- Lymphoma. This is a cancer type that affects the lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell. Lymphoma can be treated with chemotherapy but often recurs.
- Mast cell tumors. These are the most common type of tumors in dogs and can occur anywhere on the body. Mast cell tumors can be benign or malignant and often require surgery to remove.
- Osteosarcoma. This is the most common type of bone cancer and usually affects larger breeds of dogs. Osteosarcoma is an aggressive cancer form that often spreads to other body parts.
Treatment usually involves surgery to eliminate the tumor, followed by chemotherapy. Many other types of cancer can affect pets, and the best way to detect it is to take your pet to a vet for regular examination. Remember that early detection is key to successful treatment.
5. Kidney Disease
Kidney disease is a common condition in older pets and can be caused by many different things, such as infection, cancer, or high blood pressure. It is a progressive condition that leads to the kidneys not being able to properly filter toxins from the blood.
Signs of kidney disease include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
There is no cure for kidney disease. However, you and your vet can do some ways to manage it to help your pet live a long and comfortable life. Treatment options include:
- Dietary changes: A diet low in phosphorus and sodium can help to reduce the amount of work the kidneys have to do. Special diets are also available specifically designed for pets with kidney disease.
- Medication: Many different medications can help manage kidney disease symptoms and slow the condition’s progression.
- Kidney transplant: In some cases, a kidney transplant may be an option. This is a major surgery that requires lifelong care, but it can significantly improve the quality of life for your pet.
As your pet enters their senior years, it is vital to know the common health problems affecting them. Knowing these conditions’ signs and symptoms allows you to catch them beforehand to get the treatment your pet needs.
Your senior pet can enjoy a happy and healthy life with proper care and treatment. Choose a reputable vet clinic or hospital to ensure they get the best possible care. Visit their website or, if you can, the facility itself to get a feel for their practice.