My dog is getting older

Question: My dog is getting older and is having more difficulty getting around. Could he have arthritis, and what can we do about it?
Answer: Senior pets are my favorite. They have dedicated their lives to loving their owners. When I look into their eyes, I see so much wisdom and kindness. They have earned their keep and deserve our full attention and care.

Yes, as dog’s age, their joints get wear and tear like we do, and they develop arthritis. The only way to confirm the diagnosis is with your veterinarian, so I would encourage you to make an appointment as soon as possible. After a diagnosis is confirmed, they will most likely discuss with you things like weight loss, exercise, supplements, and medications. Being overweight can be a real problem that is inflaming the joints. The skeleton is only designed to support so much weight, and anything over that causes the joints to inflame. A veterinary managed weight loss program is a good idea in these cases. Exercise is vital to keep from becoming overweight, but once overweight and arthritic, we need to manage the exercise and not overdo it. Supplementation is often the first step in managing early, mild arthritis. There are many types, so please consult your veterinarian as to what are your options. If the arthritis is severe and very painful, supplements alone will not be effective, and you will need to add some prescription medication. Here again, there are many choices, and your veterinarian will help you with the best medication for your dog’s situation. The fact that you are asking this question means you love your dog, and I hope you follow some of this advice so that you and your vet can give you many more years of pain-free life with your dog.

If you have ever been around an older person with arthritis or joint issues, you know it can be painful. Pets cannot tell you, but they have pain too. Make sure you consult with your veterinarian to give your pet the best senior years possible.

Question: My cat has been healthy all of her life, but as she is aging, what should be my concerns?
Answer: Elderly cats can present numerous problems as they become geriatric, but the big 4 to watch for are Arthritis,Cancer, Thyroid, and Kidney disease.

Similar to our dog in the first question, cats also get arthritis, although it is often not as severe as in dogs, or at least cats more readily hide pain and you do not know they have a problem until it is advanced. Also, the medications we use in cats is usually different than in dogs (please do not use your dog’s medication for your cat, it could be toxic).

The “C” word is scary for us and also for our pets. Cancer in cats can be very aggressive, and you need to catch it and treat it early. Some of the things we can do are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

The thyroid gland can be a problem in older cats if it becomes overactive, we call this Hyperthyroidism. The hallmark sign of this is a cat that is losing weight with a ravenous appetite. This is usually treated at first with nutrition and later maybe medication, radiation or surgery.

The kidneys are a common organ to have problems in older cats. A common complaint is that the cat ADR (Ain’t Doing Right). Caught early enough, we can help these cats with prescription diets and medications. All of these conditions need to be managed with your veterinarian. We recommend regular checkups and diagnostic screening tests because early detection and therapy is the key to successful outcomes.

Question: Is my pet becoming senile?
Answer: Some days, I think we all experience cognitive dysfunction (senility), but do our pets? Possibly, once all underlying causes have been ruled out, there is a possibility your pet may be experiencing cognitive dysfunction. Studies conducted in the early 1990s were the first to identify brain changes in older dogs that were similar to brain changes seen in humans with Alzheimer’s disease (ie, ß-amyloid deposits). Laboratory tests were developed in the 1990s to identify learning and memory deficits in older dogs. Lately, these studies have started on younger dogs to thoroughly understand the effect of aging on the canine brain. Similar studies in young and older cats are also ongoing.

While researchers are still not able to classify any genetic cause of why individual animals develop cognitive dysfunction, there are drugs and specific diets available that can help decline in dogs. If you think your pet is becoming senile, discuss it with your veterinarian.

We are looking for great pet stories to air on our Vets Talk Pets Podcast. Do you have a great pet story to share? Happy, sad, educational, funny, inspirational silly, all stories considered. Let us know, we want to hear from you and so do pet lovers in our area? Call us at 937-546-0222.

Gary Beall DVM
Chip Beall DVM
Springboro Veterinary Hospital
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