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Caring for Older Pets Physical Changes

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  • Caring for Older Pets Physical Changes

    Monitoring health changes, providing a proper diet and appropriate exercise, and adjusting the environment to ensure easy access can help your pet maintain quality of life throughout the aging process.

    Just as people age, so do pets. For both, age brings physical or mental changes, and either of these can cause behavioral changes. This article deals with physical ailments, while a future article will discuss cognitive changes. Being aware of some of the most common changes experienced by aging pets can help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions. Most sources establish seven years as the benchmark age for a “senior” dog or cat regardless of size. Some establish a range of seven to 11 years and beyond for a senior.

    Pets, like people, are individuals, and some will show signs of aging earlier than others. Some indications of aging, such as graying hair and less energy, are noticeable. Internal changes are less observable. The American Veterinary Medical Association identifies the most common age-related issues as cancer, heart disease, kidney or urinary tract disease, liver disease, diabetes, joint or bone disease and senility. Hyperthyroidism is also common in older cats.

    While annual veterinary visits are important for younger pets, seniors need a check-up every six months to monitor health changes. Any signs of illness need to be detected early and treated. Visits should include bloodwork, dental examinations, and specific checks for diseases common in older pets. Dental examinations are important because recent studies have linked periodontal disease to disease in other organs, such as kidneys. You should examine your pet on a regular basis and tell your vet about any changes you have observed. Some specific things to look for are lumps or swelling, weight gain or loss, food or water intake, and changes in urination or defecation.

    Usually, age-related health issues for your pet will require some adjustments on your part in order to provide appropriate care. At some point in life we all will need extra help. This is part of the responsibility we accept when we decide to adopt a pet................
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