Dubai, UAE, July 23, 2018: Thanks to better nutrition and improvements in veterinary medicine, our pets are living longer than ever before. Whether your pet is considered a senior depends on its size. For cats and smaller dogs, old age is anything above seven years. Larger dogs, however, are senior at five years old. While old age is not a disease, older pets are more likely to develop health concerns, including a greater risk of heart disease and weight control.
With 36 staff dealing with more than 60 animal-related cases daily, British Veterinary Hospital is experiencing a marked increase in the number of older animals coming in for care.
Dr Sara Elliott, at British Veterinary Hospital, provides a list of potential health problems and what pet owners can do to keep their four-legged friends in tip-top condition:
Many of us have fallen victim to the dreaded ‘middle-age spread’, but you can prevent your ageing pet from piling on the pounds. As older pets tend to be less active, we recommend decreasing your pet’s intake of calories. We offer advice on nutrition and can provide diet plans for weight loss. Maintaining a healthy weight will ensure unnecessary stress is not being put on your pet’s joints and reduces the chance of it developing obesity-related illnesses. Another preventative tool for the battle of the bulge is exercise. Our team can guide you on the types of exercises suitable for your pet and the recommended frequency of activity. Just like us, each animal is unique.
Decaying and damaged teeth are not only painful, but also make it very difficult for older pets to eat and get the nutrition they need to stay healthy. We see a lot of dental problems in cats in this region as many of the cat flu viruses contracted by kittens on the streets actually cause tooth damage throughout their lives. We offer professional dental cleaning and can offer advice on at-home treatments.
You may have noticed your older pet having difficulty walking or standing up. A good diet is effective against a number of conditions associated with senior pets, including arthritis. We offer advice on foods for your pet that may prevent the onset or progression of arthritis. Where necessary, we may also prescribe supplements, however, we believe a good diet should contain all of the nutrients your pet needs. A wide selection of balanced and nutrition-dense pet foods is available throughout the UAE. We may also recommend therapeutic massage and give advice on how you can help your pet with extra brushing and additional grooming for improved circulation.
Pets over the age of nine can often suffer from symptoms of cognitive disfunction, including disorientation and confusion. Pets that are house trained may even start to go to the toilet in the house. It is important to note these pets are not being naughty, they are just getting forgetful in their old age. Again, a good diet high in anti-oxidants can be very beneficial in combatting these symptoms.
Older pets are at a higher risk of developing illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and thyroid problems. The early warning signs of these diseases can be subtle and difficult to spot. Regular check-ups and screening are offered at most animal hospitals, enabling us to detect these ailments early and manage them through treatment.
We need to be very aware of pain in our pets. Unfortunately, animals are extremely good at hiding their discomfort from us. Just because our pet is not crying does not mean it is not in pain. Look out for subtle behaviour changes, such as not wanting to play, lack of appetite or being less sociable. Naturally visit your vet if you have any concerns.
End of Life Care
How do you know when it’s time to say goodbye to your furry companion? We send our pet owners a questionnaire and email, assisting them in making what is always a very difficult decision. We recommend that each of the pet’s caregivers be a part of this decision, as different people will notice different changes in their pet, such as lack of appetite or less interest in playing.
Regular vet check-ups are vital for all pets, but they become even more important for senior pets. It is often easy to miss the first signs of the diseases common in ageing pets as they can be subtle. Therefore, having your pet checked by a vet every six months is recommended.
In addition to regular check-ups, we encourage owners to keep an eye out for these early warning signs of illness in their pets: change in appetite, change in weight, difficulty moving, confusion, bad breath or bleeding gums, excessive drinking or urination, any new lumps and bumps and changes in sleep patterns. Owners seeing these changes should make an appointment to have their pet checked over by a vet.
In addition to the standard wellness plans offered, British Veterinary Hospital has optional plans for senior pets, which are recommended for pets over 5-7 years of age according to clinical needs. The myVET wellness plan includes: vaccinations, municipality registration, consultations, screening for early detection and prevention of diseases, 24/7 access to your pet’s history, discounts on additional elective care and free nutrition and behaviour clinics.