As their major senses sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell dull, you may find that your pet has a slower response to general external stimuli. This loss of sensory perception often is a slow, progressive process, and it may even escape your notice. The best remedy for gradual sensory reduction is to keep your pet active—playing and training are excellent ways to keep their senses sharp. Pets may also be affected mentally as they age.
Just as aging humans begin to forget things and are more susceptible to mental conditions, your aging animals may also begin to confront age-related cognitive and behavior changes.
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Most of these changes are rather subtle and can be addressed in a proactive manner. The physical changes your pets experience are generally easier to spot than the sensory changes.
8 Useful Tips on How to Care for a Senior Dog
As the body wears out, its ability to respond to infection is reduced, and the healing process takes longer. Therefore, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian if you notice a significant change in behavior or the physical condition of your pet. Many of the signs indicating that animals are approaching senior citizenship are the same for both cats and dogs, but they can indicate a variety of different problems see Signs of a Problem, below.
A very common and frustrating problem for aging pets is inappropriate elimination.
A Senior Dog Checkup: What to Expect
The kidneys are one of the most common organ systems to wear out on a cat or dog, and as hormone imbalance affects the function of the kidneys, your once well-behaved pet may have trouble controlling his bathroom habits. If you are away all day, he may simply not be able to hold it any longer, or urine may dribble out while he sleeps at night.
In addition, excessive urination or incontinence may be indicative of diabetes or kidney failure, both of which are treatable if caught early enough. Many older pets benefit from specially formulated food that is designed with older bodies in mind.
Body Condition Evaluations For Senior Dogs
Obesity in pets is often the result of reduced exercise and overfeeding and is a risk factor for problems such as heart disease. Exercise is yet another aspect of preventive geriatric care for your pets. You should definitely keep them going as they get older—if they are cooped up or kept lying down, their bodies will deteriorate much more quickly.
You may want to ease up a bit on the exercise with an arthritic or debilitated cat or dog. Otherwise, you should keep them as active—mentally and physically—as possible in order to keep them sharp. In the event your veterinarian is considering surgery or any other procedure in which anesthesia is needed, special considerations are taken to help ensure the safety of your senior pet.
AAHA recommends all senior dogs and cats undergo the laboratory testing mentioned above, ideally within two weeks of any anesthetized procedure. A blood pressure evaluation and additional tests might also be recommended, depending on your individual pet. These screening tools can provide critical information to the health care team to help determine the proper anesthesia and drug protocol for your pet, as well as make you aware of any special risk factors that might be encountered.
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We can also perform the following tests to establish baselines and monitor your pet’s aging:
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