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What to Expect from Senior Pet Health Care

senior-pet-careWhen you adopt a new pet, such as a kitten or a puppy, there are a lot of initial medical concerns to consider. Immunization series, early check-ups and the establishment of a healthy diet and medical exam schedule, are all key to raising a healthy family pet. Just like people, pets today have benefited greatly due to advances made in healthcare and medicine. They live longer and have happier, healthier lives than pets did just a generation or two ago.

This increase in the average age of domestic animals comes with a variety of different ailments, many of which pet owners might not be prepared to deal with. As pets age, they can experience changes in weight and mobility, which can lead to issues with osteoarthritis, diabetes, thyroid imbalance, tumors and cancers. Some pets may even experience conditions and disease relating to the heart, liver and kidney.

The best thing you can do, as a pet owner, is to get your pet regular check-ups and care with your local veterinarian in Dartmouth. Prevention is an essential part of caring for senior pets. Speak with your vet about options available for senior pet health care, as well as any changes you can make in your pet’s diet and lifestyle that will improve their quality of life and aid in any treatment they might be receiving.

Lifespan and Aging
While pets are living a lot longer today, there are still some guidelines that pet owners need to know and understand. In the case of dogs, smaller breeds will generally live longer than larger breeds. Some small breeds aren’t even considered in the “senior” age bracket until they reach ten to thirteen years of age, while larger breeds – especially giant breeds – may be considered to be in the “senior” range by the time they are five years old.

In the case of cats, most will live longer than dogs, however there are still certain illnesses and diseases that can reduce life expectancy. Outdoor cats have shorter lives than indoor cats, which many believe is a result of exposure to more illnesses, viruses and injury. Whether you have a dog, a cat or a guinea pig, your Southcoast veterinarian can help you to figure out what stage of life your pet is currently in and give you advice on how to keep your pet healthy during that particular stage.

Senior Pet Exams
One of the most important elements of senior pet health care is to get on a schedule of regular examinations. Senior pet exams can help veterinarians to catch the early onset of disease and detect senior pet health care issues, such as diabetes, osteoarthritis and organ failure, before they progress too far.

The American Animal Hospital Association, of which Anchor Animal Hospital is an accredited member of, recommends that healthy pets visit their Southcoast veterinarian every six months for a complete exam and lab testing. This may sound like a lot of visits over the lifetime of your pet, however when you consider that one year is equivalent to five to seven human years, every six month is actually quite conservative.

During senior pet exams, make sure to discuss any questions, concerns or changes in your pet’s behavior or level of activity with your veterinarian. Typical lab testing will include creating a baseline of your pet’s levels for easy comparison in the future. Even subtle changes may be a sign of an underlying condition, so it is important to at least get a complete blood count, urinalysis, blood-chemistry panel and a parasite evaluation. Your veterinarian in Dartmouth may order additional tests based upon the initial exam or other factors in your pet’s history.

What to Expect
For some pet owners, this may be the first time they have had to consider senior pet health care. As pets slow down, they begin to lose senses, such as hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. They can also experience a slower reaction time. These changes can come quickly, or can increase slowly over time. In some cases, the changes happen so gradually, that many pet owners are unable to pick up on them. This is another reason why regular senior pet exams are so important.

Keeping your pet active – playing, going for walks, continuing training exercises, etc. – can help to keep their senses sharp and active. This can also help to overcome a mental slowdown that can affect pets in the same way it affects humans. You may see subtle behavioral changes or cognitive abilities as your pet grows older. These changes must be shared with your Southcoast veterinarian as soon as possible so they can be treated before they get out of hand.

Physical changes will be obvious as well. Some pets begin to get gray hair as they age, while others begin to experience significant changes in physical condition, such as problems healing from injuries or inappropriate elimination. One of the most common systems for both cats and dogs to experience problems are the kidneys. Even if your pet has never had accidents before, they can begin to have problems controlling their habits during the day and may urinate in their sleep at night. Elimination problems are a symptom of kidney failure and diabetes, which can both be treated if caught early.

Where to Find Senior Pet Health Care in Dartmouth
If you live in the Southcoast region of Massachusetts and are looking for senior pet health care, contact Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth. Serving patients throughout Southeastern Massachusetts since 1975, Anchor Animal Hospital is a trusted source of pet care for dogs, cats, rodents, pocket pets, reptiles and exotic pets.