Diseases of the Aging

1. Heart & Lungs:
Older pets are more likely to develop heart murmurs and lung problems. They may cough, wheeze, pant more and seem short of breath with activity.

Recommendation:

  • Twice yearly examinations by your veterinarian are recommended. If your pet is developing heart or lung disease, finding it and treating it early will improve the quality of life. There are new heart drugs available to help our aging pets live longer and better lives.
  • Watch the salt content in everything you feed your pet (diet, treats).
  • Watch their diet - keeping your pet slim and trim helps when lung disease is present.
  • Don't leave older pets in the car in the summer (even if the air conditioner is on) as they do not pant as effectively as a young animal.

2. Kidney Problems:
The first sign of kidney problems may be a pet that drinks more and urinates more. The pet may lose its appetite, vomit or become sluggish. Older animals have more problems with urinary tract infection and some older female dogs develop urinary incontinence (bed-wetting).

Recommendation:

  • It is critical that your older pet drinks well.
  • Older pets should never be deprived of water
  • If you notice any change in your pet's drinking and urinating behavior, talk to your veterinarian, who may recommend checking your pet's blood and urine for kidney disease (or diabetes etc). A special diet may be recommended. If you pet bed wets, medication can help. If an infection is seen, antibiotics will be needed.

3. Tooth & Gum disease:
Severe tooth and gum disease can cause your pet to go off their food and may cause an infection that can spread to the rest of the body. Teeth can abscess, resulting in facial swelling and discomfort.

Recommendation:

  • If your dogs will let you, check their gums and teeth for redness, discomfort, discharges, or odor.
  • An older pet may need a general anesthetic to thoroughly clean the teeth and gums. Some teeth may have to be removed.
  • To help prevent the problem, your veterinarian can show you how to clean your pet's teeth (there are toothbrushes and toothpaste made especially for animals)

4. Reproductive System:
If your dog was not spayed or neutered earlier in life, problems may occur as he/she gets older. Intact females are prone to infections in the uterus and cancer of the breast tissue. Intact males are at higher risk for prostate disease. Although the intact female may still cycle and be fertile, pregnancy in dogs older than 6 years often results in problems for both the mother and the pups.

Recommendation:

  • Have your pet spayed or neutered before its first birthday. This will greatly reduce the risk of certain cancers and diseases later in life.
  • If your pet is used for breeding, speak to your veterinarian about a spay or neuter once the breeding is finished.
  • If you notice any lump or bump on a female dog's breast tissue have it examined as soon as possible.
  • Any discharge from a female's vagina should be investigated.
  • Male dogs with prostate problems often bleed when they urinate or strain to urinate. Talk to your veterinarian if you notice any change in your dogs urinating behavior.

5. Endocrine Diseases:
Older animals are at risk for the development of thyroid diseases, diabetes, and adrenal gland disorders.

Recommendation:

  • Have your older pet examined twice a year. Early detection of these disorders is possible. Your veterinarian may recommend blood and urine be checked.

6. Musculoskeletal Disease:
As animals age, they lose muscle mass and begin to experience degeneration of cartilage. As in people, arthritis is a common problem. Pets with arthritis suffer pain and decreased mobility

Recommendation:

  • Keep your pet on the slim side. Obesity contributes to joint problems.
  • Pain control is needed if your pet has arthritis. Pain control will improve mobility. Your animal will feel much better and you can continue to enjoy your walks etc. Thankfully there are now a number of treatment options available for the senior pet with arthritis.
  • Make sure food and water bowls are easily accessible.
  • Assist your older dog with stairs if needed (avoid stairs where possible). A ramp may help the older pet in getting into and out of the house.
  • If your pet slips and slides on surfaces such as linoleum or hardwood, put a carpet runner down to make it easier for the older pet to get up.
  • Diets incorporating antioxidant vitamins and glucosamine are recommended in older dogs with arthritis.