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Guide To Aging Pets

Although we may not like to think of it, aging is part of life, and all of our pets will eventually succumb to it. Because a petís life span is so much shorter than yours and mine, an animal can seem like it is aging right before our eyes. The table below will help you determine whether your pet is a senior or geriatric by showing the animal's relative age in human years. Compare your dog's Age and its Weight to determine it's Age in Human Years.

What's your pet's age in human years?

As our pets becomes older, various health issues may arise or worsen. Signs of aging can begin as early as 6 years of age depending on the pet's breed. While thereís no way to prevent the aging process, we can at least improve the quality of the time our pets have. Below are some diseases and problems to watch out for.

1. Bone & Joints

About: As pets age, they may begin to experience difficulties producing the critical nutrients necessary to maintain active and healthy joints. Over time, if these deficiencies go unnoticed or untreated, they can lead to Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD). DJD is a progressive deterioration of the joint, affecting the synovial fluid and the fibrous joint capsule. DJD can cause injury to the synovial membrane, degradation of the synovial fluid's ability to transport needed nutrients, and harm to the smooth cartilage that protects the bone during movement. DJD can seriously erode a pet's quality of life.

Symptoms: Difficulty getting up, stiffness, restlessness when trying to settle down to sleep, frequent slips and falls, shrunken thigh muscles. Your pet will usually have good and bad days.

Prevention: For dogs and cats suffering DJD, there is Cosequin DS; number one vet recommended and Pet Health Solutions offers Joint Max Triple Strength, a new generation of nutritional supplements designed to help combat the debilitating effects of DJD. Joint MAX TS is formulated with key antioxidants to provide the ideal supplement for geriatric, arthritic patients. In addition, if you're going to give your dog a treat, make it a healthy, low calorie treat like Joint Treats, along with joint supplements, take your dog on a 20- to 30-minute walk at least four or five times a week. Let your pet decide how hard they want to exercise, as long as they are up and moving. Also, Arthrin is an aspirin for dogs that can help with arthritis pain.

  • Read more about Managing Your Pet's Arthritis.
  • 2. The Kidneys

    About: The kidneys are crucial organs that are affected by aging, especially in dogs. A dog will start drinking more fluids to help his kidneys function. If it is allowed to progress, chronic kidney disease can lead to severe physical problems, uremia and even death. Kidney disease causes the body to work harder, raising blood pressure. All senior pets have some degree of kidney insufficiency. In serious conditions, such as Chronic Renal Failure (CRF), the kidneys lose over 90% of their filtering abilities. Azodyl slow down uremic toxin buildup and to prevent further kidney damage by providing natural Enteric Dialysis.through the use of beneficial bacteria that support kidney function. Epakatin for Dogs and Cats is a new nutritional supplement that safely and effectively supports kidney function. It helps slow down the progression of chronic kidney disease.

    Symptoms: You may notice an increase in drinking and urination, as well as weight loss, lethargy, and vomiting.

    What You Can do: Keep plenty of fresh water where your pet can easily get to it. Also, put down layers of paper somewhere near your pet's bed to catch the nighttime dribbles. Antibiotics are used regularly, as infections and bacteria of the urinary track are common in pets with kidney disease. Iron supplements are used in cases of accompanying anemia. Vetri-Science Renal Essentials may be helpful.

    3. Dental Care

    About: dental calculus (a buildup of crusty, mineral material on the surfaces of the teeth) is often a severe problem, especially in the elderly. Excessive calculus can cause infection and eventual tooth loss and can even be life-threatening when untreated. Almost 90% of pets 5+ years have some degree of dental disease. Gum disease can eventually lead to tooth loss. Severe dental disease can also leak bacteria into the bloodstream, which in turn can lead to serious kidney, liver, and heart disease.

    Symptoms: If your pet has nasty breath, chances are good he already has dental calculus. Also look out for excessive tartar buildup, gum inflammation, dark or discolored teeth, drooling, and difficulty eating.

    Prevention: Dogs and cats that are fed dry or kibbled foods are less likely to develop calculus. An occasional doggie bone like Nutri-Dents also acts as a fair tooth cleaner. For a thorough cleaning job, get out the toothbrush. There are toothbrushes and toothpastes specially made for pets, which will help eliminate calculus. The Dual Ended CET Toothbrush works well for most dogs. There is also Pet toothpaste that is the surest way to prevent bad breath and tartar but if you'd rather not brush use Ora Clens.

  • For more on Dental care, check out the Pet Dental Care section.
  • 4. The Senses

    About: An animalís senses diminish just a as humanís do as they age. They may have trouble seeing, hearing, and tasting. An animal that can't see or hear as they normally would may react suddenly to quick movements or noises; work and play around your pet more slowly and quietly.

    What you can do: Avoid making any drastic changes around your pet, such as in daily diet and exercise. Try calming tabs like Tranquil Tabs to help your pet relax.

    5. Skin

    About: Sores are common in pets that have lost some mobility and may be a sign of arthritis, where the pet refuses to move due to pain. Tumors may show up as lumps that are not noticeable until they're large enough.

    Symptoms: Sores, unkempt coat, lumps or abnormalities in the skin.

    Treatment: Keep your pet comfortable, groom them frequently, and maintain their coat. The Groom Kong and Lazor Laube Blade Rake will solve your petís grooming needs. Treat dandruff, dry skin and greasiness with Vita-Soothe and Shed-Pro. Keep your pet comfortable with Beds and Cushions. In the case of a lump, a see your vet to rule out mast cell tumors, the deadliest skin cancer in dogs.

    6. Obesity

    About: Senior cats and dogs are extremely susceptible to obesity. As pets age, they donít move around as much as they used to. In addition, they donít burn as many calories. However, many pets continue to eat the same amount of food, leading to obesity that can lead to a series of medical conditions, from diabetes to heart disease.

    Symptoms: Your pet is probably overweight if you cannot feel their ribs. Rounded backs in cats are also a sign of extra weight.

    Treatment: Your petís diet should most often be low in fat and calories. In pets with severe obesity, a special prescription diet usually high in fiber may be administered, that will aid digestion and make your pet feel full with less food. Small, frequent meals throughout the day are better than one or two large meals. Help your pet shed extra pounds with great toys like Otis & Claude and Ballistic Ball Launcher.

    7. Diabetes

    About: Diabetes, as with humans, is a medical disorder that involves elevated blood sugar levels. Small breed dogs and overweight pets are more susceptible, but animals can also develop diabetes after treatment with steroids or reproductive hormones, pancreatitis, or infectious viral diseases. Type I diabetes is always insulin dependent (IDDM), while Type II may or may not require insulin injections (NIDDM). Most diabetic dogs have IDDM.

    Symptoms: Your pet may exhibit excessive urination, appetite and thirst, weight loss, and lethargy. As Diabetes progresses, depression and vomiting may be seen. Weak rear legs or wobbling is common in cats with diabetes. With dogs, cataracts and blindness may develop suddenly, even if no other symptoms exist. Lab test results will show elevated blood sugar and/or glucose in the urine.

    Treatment: Only a handful of cases can be treated with oral insulin-enhancing drugs; most pets require insulin injections. Some cats experience transient DM, where the insulin requirement can come and go without any real pattern

    8. Heart Disease & Circulation Problems About: While pets canít get heart attacks, they can suffer a series of other equally serious heart conditions. In older dogs, Chronic valvular heart disease (VHD) is the most common heart condition. The heart valves thicken, and make it difficult for the heart to effectively pump blood. This causes accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Of the many types of heart disease to affect older pets, some are manageable if caught early and treated with medicine and dietary changes. Others are very hard to treat. Detecting heart disease early is the key to saving your pet's life. High blood pressure is also common in older pets- especially cats, and it's often associated with kidney disease.

    Symptoms: Weakness, loss of appetite, coughing or labored breathing, fainting, enlarged abdomen, or tachycardia. Symptoms in cats usually donít show until the disease has advanced. X-rays may be done to show heart disease signs like the enlargement of the chambers, thickening of the walls, or stretched muscles. Treatment: Diuretics are used to remove pooled fluid from the body when the heart canít efficiently pump. Other medicines are prescribed to increase heart strength and/or contractility, and reestablish normal heart rhythm. A low sodium diet can also be extremely helpful.

    9. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

    About: This disease affects older dogs, causing chemical changes in the brain. It is like Alzheimerís disease in humans. Dogs affected by CCDS show no physical signs of disease and continue to eat normally.

    Symptoms: You may notice strange behavior for no apparent reason. These symptoms are NOT part of the natural aging process, and you should notify your vet if you notice these symptoms: The change in sleeping patterns or activity level, confusion and disorientation, excessive whining, isolation, anxiety attacks, substantially less interaction with the family, and forgetfulness. Dogs also sometimes appear to be stuck in corners or wander around aimlessly. Housetrained pets may have frequent accidents.

    10. Cushing's Disease

    About: Cushingís disease is caused by excessive levels of the hormone cortisol. A tumor in an adrenal gland may be the cause of the overproduction of cortisone. However, it is normally due to a malfunction or lesion of the glands

    Symptoms: Excessive drinking and appetite, increased urination, weakness in the back legs, lethargy, thinning hair, skin hyper pigmentation, panting, frequent urinary tract infections, distended abdomen, and obesity.

    11. Hyperthyroidism

    About:: Hyperthyroidism commonly affects older cats. It is caused by an increase in production of the thyroid hormone, which controls the body's metabolic rate. Cats will burn energy faster than they can consume it, so they end up losing weight. Eventually, it affects other organs in the animalís body and results in high blood pressure, intestinal problems, and renal failure. Hyperthyroidism can be manageable if caught early enough.

    Symptoms: Lethargic behavior or hyperactivity, irritability, weight loss, slow heart rate, low body temperature, muscle weakness, elevated cholesterol, hair loss, cold intolerance, frequent ear and skin infections.

  • If you own a cat, you can Read more about Feline Hyperthyroidism.

    12. Cancer
  • About:: Cancer is a frequent problem in older pets. Mast cell tumors are the most common and fatal type of cancer in dogs. Female pets that have not been spayed are prone to mammary tumors, which are often malignant and very hard to treat.

    Symptoms: Weight loss, lethargy, weight loss, repeated infections, nausea, blood in the urine or stools, frequent infections, abdominal swelling, lumps, and pain.

    Treatment: Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

    The Breakdown: Tips To Care For Your Aging Pet

  • Preventing disease and maintaining health are the first steps toward a healthy, long life. Take your pet to the vet at least once a year for a complete exam, and follow your veterinarian's advice regarding preventive measures.
  • Spay or neuter your cat right away. Having kittens is stressful for your cat and will contribute to premature aging.
  • Feed your pet high-quality food designed to meet the specific nutritional requirements during all stages of his life.
  • If you have a cat, keep it indoors to reduce the risk of accidents, injuries from fights, and disease.
  • Prevent obesity by controlling their diet and engaging them in play activities. For dogs, exercise them moderately everyday, but donít overdo it. Watch for excessive panting or a drooping tail.
  • Add vitamin and mineral supplements, antioxidants and extra fiber to your petís diet.
  • Keep your petís teeth clean. Good dental health will add years to their life.
  • Groom your pet daily and check for abnormalities. Seek medical attention if you find anything suspicious.
  • Protect your pet from environmental dangers such as household cleaners and second-hand smoke.
  • For cats, provide a heat source such as a heating pad set on low. Cats more than 12 years old require extra heat. There will be a difference in their activity level.
  • Be consistent with your dogs schedule. For both cats and dogs, minimize household disruption. Also allow a quiet place for your cat to engage in catnaps.