Whilst their love and loyalty doesn’t age, our pets certainly do, and often quicker than some pet parents realise. Cats and dogs are considered ‘seniors’ by seven years of age, and even as young as five for large breed dogs, like Labradors. And whilst ageing isn’t a disease, older pets are at higher risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, kidney and liver disease. During July, National Senior Pet Month, find out how to help prevent and manage common conditions for golden oldies.
You may believe your seven-year-old cat or dog is in its prime. However, on the inside, the picture can be quite different. Many conditions simply aren’t evident before irreversible damage has occurred. This is why a senior health screening is vitally important. An annual heath check at the vet is equivalent to you seeing the doctor about once in seven years!
Ask your vet about the IDEXX SDMA, an affordable new test that can detect kidney disease in cats up to four years earlier than before and up to two years earlier in dogs. Kidney disease is known as the silent killer because symptoms rarely show before it’s too late. Since the new test became available globally last year more than 350, 000 pets have been diagnosed with kidney disease that traditional tests would have missed. Early detection allows for prompt intervention which can extend life and improve the quality of those years.
With age, the optimal range for different nutrients becomes narrower, making it easier to tip into dietary deficiencies or excesses. “Providing the correct age-appropriate food for your senior pet is probably the simplest and most effective way you can make a difference to their health and well-being,” says Dr Guy Fyvie, Veterinary Advisor at Hill’s Pet Nutrition South Africa. “New Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d + Mobility combines the very best nutritional science to help older pets remain fit, active and healthy for longer.” Developed after more than a decade of research on ageing and the impact of nutrients on cell function, the new food will be available exclusively from South African veterinarians from late June 2017.
Several small meals a day may be easier on an older pet’s digestion. But avoid overfeeding – obesity can lead to numerous health problems and can shorten a pet’s life. Have fresh water available at all times – older pets’ are less able to regulate water balance and more prone to dehydration. Ensure food and water bowls are within easy reach of the elderly pet that may find it painful to bend, stretch or jump.
Go for walks and play together. Appropriate exercise will help you both stay fit and also keep the brain active, helping to avoid ‘doggy Alzheimer’s’.
So should your best friend be reaching that senior stage, it’s time for a visit to the vet and to make the seven-year-switch to the right food. Visit www.SeniorPets.co.za, a new website with more expert advice; ways to identify the ‘tell-tail’ signs of ageing; inspiring stories and tools to calculate your pet’s ‘real age’.
Seven Steps for Super Seniors:
- Most importantly, go to the vet for a senior health check and ask for an IDEXX SDMA test.
- Switch to a food specifically formulated for senior pets. NewHill’s Prescription Diet k/d + Mobility, available at vets in South Africa from late June 2017, has been developed after more than a decade of research and combines Hill’s best nutritional science to manage older pets.
- Have clean water easily available at all times and monitor water intake.
- Try to make your home more comfortable e.g. easy access to a warm bed, litter tray, food and water bowls; non-slippery floor surfaces; using ramps or steps as needed.
- Regular grooming including brushing the teeth and trimming the nails as needed.
- Consistent, gentle exercise and play is good for mind and body.
- Lavish love and attention.
Tell Tail Signs of Ageing
Age-related changes start small and may seem insignificant. It may be as simple as a few grey hairs or being less excited about playtime or walks. Other ‘tell tail’ signs of ageing include:
1) Sleeping longer or changes in sleep patterns.
2) Stiffness, limping or difficulty rising from rest.
3) Drinking more than usual.
4) Increased urination or ‘accidents’.
5) Weight loss or gain.
6) Changes in behaviour
7) A duller coat, lumps or bumps
8) Coughing, panting more, or shortness of breath.
9) Appearing confused or disorientated.
10) Bad breath, red and swollen gums, difficulty chewing or changes in eating habits.
NB: Many changes will not be evident on the outside! A senior health check is vital.