We are all familiar with the value of early detection screening tests for ourselves, such as cholesterol levels and colonoscopy. Our pets can benefit from similar diagnostic screenings as they age (so far, not colonoscopies though!). You may believe that your ten year old cat or dog is in perfect health, “the same as always”, but remember there are many conditions that are only detectable in the early, most treatable stages through advanced diagnostic testing. Also our pets, especially cats, hide the symptoms of disease. Pets lack the ability to communicate subtle changes that could indicate an early problem. And many conditions cannot be detected by physical examination alone. Therefore at Felton Veterinary Services we strongly recommend twice a year examinations for senior pets, enhanced by appropriate senior screening tests. This vigilance can dramatically improve your pet’s quality and length of life.
Unfortunately our cats and dogs do not live as long as we do, so every year that passes is a much greater percent of their life expectancy than it is for us. As this chart illustrates, most cats are “middle age” around 7, 8 and 9 years of age, “seniors” by 11 or 12 years, and geriatric at 17 or 18. Of course, just as in humans, aging is an individual process, influenced by genetics, diet, environment, and pre-existing conditions. At Felton Veterinary Services we tailor the Senior Program to meet the unique needs of your individual cat, working with you as part of the team.
Evaluation of aging is even more complicated in dogs, who may range in size from an adult weight of 3 or 4 pounds to well over 140 pounds. Body size has a dramatic effect on aging in this species, and giant breeds have much shorter life expectancies than toy breeds, as this chart shows. At Felton Veterinary Services we take this as well as other factors into consideration when tailoring a Senior Plan for your dog’s unique needs, with you as a part of the team.
Annual examinations may be adequate for young adult cats and dogs, but as you can see from the charts, six months for your cat or small dog is equivalent to a life span of two years in people, and for a giant breed dog six months is equal to FOUR years for a person. Some of the issues you will be asked about are illustrated to the left.
Many pet owners question the point of early detection. Any disease or disorder, identified early, will be much more responsive to treatment and other management, and the pet will not have to suffer the symptoms of advanced disease before we act. Safe and effective medications are available to treat many of the conditions we find associated with aging, such as arthritis, cancer, kidney insufficiency, heart disease, thyroid problems, and diabetes. Although we may not achieve a cure for degenerative progressive diseases, we can significantly improve quality and length of life. New treatments are coming out all the time. Many of these conditions can also be managed with special diets. And some alternative therapies such as acupuncture show great promise. At Felton Veterinary Services we strive to keep abreast of the state of the art options for our Senior patients, and to work with you to develop the best plan for your pet.
Do you notice any of these issues?
Increase or decrease in appetite or weight
Increase or decrease in activity level
Bad breath, drooling, dropping food
Coughing - more at rest or more when excited
Sneezing, and /or nasal discharge
Shortness of breath, exercise intolerance
Diarrhea or constipation
Vomiting or gagging
Increase or decrease in water drinking
Increase or decrease in urination - frequency or volume
Stiffness, trouble jumping and/or on stairs
Lumps or bumps or other growths
Incontinence - urinary and/or fecal
Confusion or disorientation
Decrease in vision, bumping into things
Decrease in hearing, failure to respond