While it’s true that cats and dogs are prone to many of the same conditions humans are, unlike humans, your dog or cat can’t say, “I better get this sore knee checked out,” or “This chest pain warrants a doctor visit.” Your pet depends on your bringing him to the vet to figure that out – even when you don’t see something obviously wrong.
You might notice a change in habits or a new behavior that’s a sign of a problem. A dog that won’t jump on the bed or a cat who isn’t grooming properly may have an underlying physical problem.
Here are some other behavior changes that may indicate something is wrong:
- Increased reaction to sounds
- Increased vocalization
- Confusion or disorientation
- Increased irritability or aggression
- Decreased response to commands
- Decreased self-grooming
- Change in sleep patterns
Behaviors that indicate advanced problems include decreased appetite or thirst, increased or decreased urination, poor coat quality, vomiting, sore mouth, blood in urine, weakness, coughing or respiratory issues, and decreased exercise tolerance. If your senior dog or cat experiences any of these problems, bring him to Animal Medical Center of Austin right away, as these are signs of kidney disease, urinary tract disease, and heart disease, among other things.
Bottom line, dogs and cats are very much like humans: the older they get, the more health issues they may have. It’s always important to bring your dog or cat to the vet for annual or bi-annual exams, but as they age, it becomes even more vital.
Other senior care tips
In addition to regular veterinary exams, keep your older dog or cat healthy by:
- Following a good diet recommended by your vet. Geriatric pets often need more easily digestible food, with different calorie levels and ingredients than their previous foods. Some pets need to adjust their protein intake or get more fiber. Talk with an Animal Medical Center veterinarian to see what food is best for your pet.
- Weight control and exercise. Weight gain in older dogs and weight loss in older cats is common. With a good diet and regular exercise, you can keep your pet at an ideal weight and avoid the risks associated with weight fluctuation. A cat that rapidly loses weight may develop liver disease. Dogs and cats that gain too much weight exacerbate their arthritis and heart disease.
- Mobility. Keep older pets mobile through exercise to keep them healthier.
- Parasite control. As your pets get older, fighting off fleas, ticks, heartworms, and other parasites becomes ever more important. Don’t compromise their systems further with avoidable problems.
- Vaccinations. Your pet’s vaccination needs change with age. Your veterinarian will go over recommended and required vaccinations when you come in for wellness exams. It’s always important to evaluate a pet’s health and lifestyle when choosing which vaccines to give or not give.