Because our precious pets live with us on a daily basis, and we really don’t notice ourselves aging every day, it’s easy to forget that our beloved cat or dog is actually getting older faster than we are. But, if we miss that salient point, we might just inadvertently shorten the time they spend with us.
November is “Senior Wellness Month” at Twin Valley Veterinary Health Services in Esterhazy, and we met with Dr. Justin Noble to learn more about the importance of a pet owner being aware of the onset of the autumn of their pet’s life.
“This is a program we’ve ran for four years” Dr. Noble explained. “The goal is to emphasize that our pets age at a faster rate than what we think of. Maybe the term senior isn’t really appropriate, but for pets, once they hit “40” if you will, they’re not young anymore. This equates to around six years in the average dog, but quite a bit sooner in giant breeds like Great Danes. Cats… it’s about seven years of age.”
So what should a pet owner start to look for, and what should they be doing pro-actively?
Dr. Noble answered, “A pet owner can have an appointment with one of our technologists, and they will go over the things that dogs or cats do once there’s signs of aging. Little things… like a cat that used to jump off the counter now jumps onto a chair and then down onto the floor, or dogs might have trouble getting up onto the bed or couch, or don’t do the stairs as quickly either up or down. Those are all signs of aging, whether it be because they are weaker, or whether there’s pain or discomfort associated with that.”
What other things will be discussed at an appointment?
“Every appointment will also ask about bathroom habits, if there’s vomiting or diarrhea. Most often we’ll try to find if the dog is urinating excessively. Signs of drinking or peeing too much can be concerning. Part of what we want to do is teach people to what to watch for, and the goal is to do it a six rather than 12, for when our pets hit 8 and there are some changes, if we don’t know what normal was, and what we should be watching for, we’ll never recognize it.“
“And you and I can discuss with our family and doctor that I’m feeling this, or I know I used to be able to do this but now I can’t, but our pets can’t do that. That’s a big part of why we need to know what normal is, and have the client thinking about that. But most importantly we need to start that dialogue, so people know this is the time we need to start thinking (not necessarily worrying) but thinking, and get a starting point or baseline, and that’s one of the things we often discuss in our senior wellness consults.”
Dr. Noble also spoke about bloodwork for pets. While typically it’s something that might be done when an animal is spayed or neutered, it is something a vet will likely talk about after an animal is into the middle age. He said of older pets, “Is it necessary to get it done every year? No. But if we lived in utopia or a perfect world, we would get it done every year.“
Regular vet appointments and testing of our older pets should not be seen as an inconvenience, rather it is an expression of love. Dr. Noble agrees with that idea, and said, “There’s so many diseases that hold a poor prognosis if you read in a textbook. So, if a dog has kidney failure, most dogs only live six months or maybe a year under kidney failure. But that’s because when they come in they’re sick. Whereas, if we find it early and make changes to diet and medication and lifestyle, we can sometimes get those dogs to live three or four years longer.”
So, bottom line… Anyone that’s now realizing their pet is “over the hill” (six years or older), should be considering getting in touch with their vet to discuss the changes that seniority will bring, and to create a baseline for their pet’s health. Through education and pro-activity on the part of pet owners, the beloved pet can potentially be given the gift of many more years of loving companionship and togetherness.
Our thanks to Dr. Noble for taking the time to discuss this with EsterhazyOnline.