Growing older is a fact of life that we all must deal with. Most of us would like to grow older gracefully. Proper diet, vitamins, regular exercise and routine medical checkups are a basic part of our lives. But what about our pets? Did you know that dogs at six years of age are considered 40 years old in human terms, and at nine years their age is equivalent to a 52-year-old human? Statistically, we also know that large breeds of dogs live an average of nine to ten years, where small breeds live an average of twelve to thirteen years.

Geriatric medicine is as important to your pet as it is to you. By the time your pet reaches six years old, the aging process is already beginning but may not be noticeable to you. To help ensure a long and healthy life, we recommend the following steps in caring for your geriatric pet.

• Have your pet spayed or neutered at an early age.
Fifty to sixty percent of un-spayed dogs develop breast tumors by age ten. In addition, as they go through the change of life, uterine infections can occur which are extremely life threatening. Therefore, older un-spayed females must be checked regularly for breast tumors and unusual vaginal discharges. Un-castrated males can develop prostatic problems and anal and testicular tumors. Owners of breeding animals should strongly consider spaying or neutering those animals that have finished their reproductive careers.
• Have routine medical checkups by your veterinarian.
• Feed a geriatric diet especially formulated for the needs of an aging pet.

Feed the highest quality pet food you can afford. Read labels carefully. Ideal diets for senior pets would have less sodium and fat, and more fiber than regular adult foods. Higher quality and premium foods are more digestible and result in less stool volume. If a specific medical condition is diagnosed, a specific prescription diet may be best for your pet. Vitamin supplements help keep the skin healthy and may enhance the pet’s immune system. Fatty acid supplements may be useful for skin problems, arthritis, & inflammatory bowel disease. Do NOT feed table scraps or snacks unless formulated for the senior pet. New pet treats are now available from the clinic that is very palatable as well as healthy for your pet.

• Keep fresh, clean water available
As the pet gets older, water consumption becomes much more important. Increased thirst and water consumption is a very important in several senior pet medical problems. Be sure to notify the clinic if you see changes in water consumption.
• Prevent obesity
Extra pounds burden the heart, kidneys, muscles, & joints, decreasing life expectancy 30-50%. It is much harder to lose weight than to prevent the weight gain. If your pet is prone to weight gains, feeding diets made to maintain weight and limited access to food is important for control.
• Keep those teeth free from tartar!
Regular dental prophylaxis is a must! We now have available special toothpaste and brushes made just for our pets, that when used regularly, can help prevent tartar formation. One of the leading causes of kidney disease in the dog is infection spreading throughout the body from chronic periodontal disease!
• Keep your pets under control
Letting pets run loose takes years off their life. Statistics show pets spending the majority of their life outdoors do not live as long. Be sure our pet wears an ID Tag. Older pets lose their sense of hearing and vision; increasing the chances they will become lost.
• Keep vaccinations up to date
Depression of the immune system occurs in older pets making them more susceptible to the common infectious diseases. Maintaining vaccinations is very important because of this potential for decreased resistance to disease. Vaccination recommendations must be individualized for each pet based on breed, age, physical condition, diseases prevalent in the area, etc.
• Maintain heartworm prevention
Heartworms are a serious & deadly problem. All pets should be on heartworm prevention all year long.
• Give proper care of the skin, coat and nails
Maintaining healthy skin & toenails makes your pet more comfortable, prevents odor, and makes your pet shine. Notify the clinic if you observe excessive scratching, flaking, fleas, ticks, sores, or bald spots. Skin growths are also more common in senior pets. Early removal decreases pain, your costs, and chances of spreading.
• Maintain flea and tick control
We now have excellent weapons in our war on fleas & ticks. We recommend the new topical flea control drops available at the clinic. Do not be fooled. The over-the-counter look a likes are not the same and in fact can be fatal to your pet. For additional information see A PET OWNER’S GUIDE TO FLEAS.
• NEVER give human medications or medications prescribed for other pets to your senior pets.
The liver and/or kidneys once administered must break down most drugs. There can be very serious complications if a medication is given to a pet that has compromised internal organs.
• Maintain a constant environment
Tolerance to heat and cold decreases with age. Warmth also lessens the signs of arthritis.
• Complete geriatric health evaluation as your pet approaches 9 – 10 years of age.
This evaluation should consist of the following:
• Semi-Annual Comprehensive Physical Examination:
Since pets age 5-7 times faster than humans, it can be estimated that one physical examination for a pet is equivalent to one exam every 5-7 years in humans. The exam should include a very detailed medical history along with a ‘nose to tail’ physical examination. In later years, a comprehensive physical examination should be performed every 6 months depending on any specific medical problems discovered in your pet. This screening should include an ECG screening and glaucoma screening.
• Laboratory Screening For Disease:
Many medical problems can be diagnosed through the use of laboratory diagnostic testing long before clinical signs of disease become evident.

Specific recommendations for your pet may include:
o Internal Parasite Fecal Examination
o Heartworm Testing
o Leukemia/Feline AIDS Testing
o Thyroid Testing
o CBC (Complete Blood Count)
o Blood Chemistry Profile Screening
o Urinalysis
• Annual Comprehensive Dental Examination

Periodontitis is a very serious problem in senior pets. Tartar buildup is a result of bacterial infection in the mouth. Once this bacterial becomes attached to the teeth below the gum line, it becomes a seed of infection that spreads all over the body. Many respiratory, kidney, liver, and heart infections are a result of bacteria spreading from the mouth. It is important to note that the real problem is what you do not see (what is below the gum line) rather than what you do see (above the gum line). What you do not see can certainly be slowly killing your pet. Dental exams, routine use of dental hygiene products, and dental scaling/polishing are important for a healthy mouth. Fortunately, there is now an antibiotic available (Antirobe®) which can be given to your pet for 5 days each month to keep 98.6% of the tartar off the teeth. This is called pulse periodontal therapy.

• Dental Scaling & polishing As Needed. Use the recommended pet dentifrice for your specific pet. Keeping your pet’s teeth clean can add 2 years to its life.
• Appropriate Medications To Minimize Effects Of Aging
Depending on specific findings from above testing, additional screening procedures may be indicated:
• Multi-Lead Electrocardiogram
• Chest / Abdominal Radiographs
• Follow-Up Recheck Tests
• Provide Vitamin & Trace Mineral Supplementation

The entire program can be completed in under an hour. If you prefer not to wait, you can leave your pet here for a few hours and return later when the work is completed. You will receive a written report of our findings and recommendation to help your pet lead a healthy, enjoyable life as father time moves on.
Present the pet for examination if you observe any of the following:
• Sustained, significant increase in water consumption. {More than 1.5 cups/day (equal to 12 ounces) for the average cat or more than 1.5 cups/10# body weight/day for dogs}
• Sustained, significant increase in urination.
• Weight loss.
• Significant decrease in appetite or failure to eat for more than 2 consecutive days.
• Significant increase in appetite.
• Repeated vomiting.
• Diarrhea that lasts over 3 days.
• Difficulty in passing stool or urine or prolonged sitting in the litter box.
• Elimination accidents in the house or general changes in bowel habits.
• Lameness that lasts more than 3 days, or lameness in more than one leg.
• Noticeable decrease in vision, especially if sudden in onset or pupils that do not constrict in bright light.
• Masses, ulcerations (open sores), or multiple scabs on the skin that persists more than 1 week.
• Foul mouth odor or drooling that lasts more than 2 days.
• Increased size of the abdomen.
• Increasing inactivity, especially time spent sleeping.
• Persistent coughing, gagging, or panting.
• Hair loss, especially if accompanied by scratching or if in specific areas.
• Seizures (convulsions)
• Reluctance or inability to chew dry food.
Call us any time you observe a potential problem or need additional information and advice