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    Caring for Senior Cats and Dogs
    Will Draper, DVM posted:
    I took my 13-year-old son to lunch yesterday, between his baseball tournament games. It amazes me how that boy can eat. I'm jealous. I remember when I could down 3 hot dogs and a big bag of chips -- and not think anything of it. As I get older, especially after passing 40, my body just can't handle food the same way it did 25 years ago. Fortunately, I'm usually smart enough to make healthy choices for myself as the years add up.

    As our pets get older, they have to deal with some of the same issues that we face. Since pets can't make healthier choices for themselves, it is up to us to do it for them.

    Here are some factors that you might need to adjust as your pet gets older.

    Dietary Requirements
    Dogs and cats can start to lose some of their kidney and liver function as they become seniors. This affects the ability to metabolize proteins and other nutrients as well as they did when they were younger.

    Metabolic changes are one reason why it's so important to do annual laboratory testing on older pets. Results from annual tests can help your veterinarian make recommendations -- such as a lower protein diet -- to keep a pet healthier as they age.

    Activity Level

    Keep in mind that older dogs and cats are also physically less active than their younger counterparts. The extra fat and carbohydrate in regular diets acts as fuel for high-energy younger pets. In some cases, older pets will benefit from a diet lower in fat and carbs.

    Home Environment

    Making minor changes in your pet's home environment can benefit older cats and dogs. Just like us, pets can develop arthritis as they age, so types of exercise and activity will change as well. Gypsy, my Jack Russell terrier, could once jump into the car without a problem. Gypsy is now 10 years old, and sometimes needs assistance getting into the car.

    If you aren't able to lift your pet, there are ramps and stairs available to help older animals get in cars (and on beds, if allowed). Older pets can have problems with declining ability to see and hear, so you may need to change the surroundings to help your pet navigate around the house or hear when you call their name.

    Check out the following WebMD links for more great information about aging pets:

    Caring for Aging Dogs and Caring for Aging Cats

    Have you made any changes for a senior pet? Share here!
    Dr. Will
    srstephanie responded:
    Hi Dr Draper,

    For cats there are also some very good resources on the website of the AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners). In 2008 they produced their "Senior Care Guidelines". It is written for vets but has a lot of info that pet owners can learn from. Here is a link to their summary page with links to the individual documents:

    Here is a link to the 22 page Senior Care Guidelines for vets:

    And, for pet owners, the AAFP did a very nice booklet that is full of good info for pet owners on preventive care, what symptoms to look for of various common geriatric diseases, tips for caring for a geriatric cat and making end of life decisions, etc. I highly recommend it:

    As I've mentioned before, my last beloved kitty died in Dec 2008 from pancreatic cancer at age 18.5. Her last 3-5 years she had many of the common geriatric chronic diseases: hyperthyroidism, hypertension, mild heart murmur (likely hypertrophy secondary to the hyperthyroidism), Chronic Kidney Disease, pancreatitis, likely IBD and cholangitis (aka triaditis), arthritis and moderate gingivitis (neither her vet nor Internist were willing to put her under anesthesia for a dental).

    But even though she sounded like a physical wreck, she did very well until the last two months when she was diagnosed with the cancer that had metastasized ... due primarily to the wonderful care she got from her vet and Internist.

    They marveled at how well she retained her weight and muscle mass ... at a healthy 12.5 to 13 lbs (her ideal was probably closer to 12 lbs but they didn't want her put on a diet). I think one of the most beneficial things I could do for her was to give her multiple small meals every day. Granted, most can't go to the extremes that I did (for 3 years I fed her every 2.5 hours around the clock) ... but I do think, and the feline experts all seem to agree ... that multiple small meals of canned food is beneficial for all cats but particularly older cats who may have more difficulty absorbing the nutrients.

    I'm also an advocate for frequent weighing ... for all cats, though it is particularly beneficial for older cats. I've seen so many people post on sites like this that they "suddenly" noticed that their cat had lost weight ... only to discover that the cat had lost 1 or more pounds, i.e. a substantial percentage of weight ... or gained a similar amount. I think, particularly with the long haired cats, weight loss or gain is often hard to notice until there is a lot of it. But frequent weighing at home can catch weight loss/gain trends before it might be noticeable, and that can be the first indication of a health problem. I'm nuts, and my vet helped me get a veterinary/pediatric scale for home, but I'm sure owners can find less expensive scales. Even with my new kitten who will be 2 years old in a month from now, I weigh her daily (she loves it because I give her a treat when she sits on the scale ... some freeze-dried chicken, i.e. Pure Bites). When she was a little over a year old she started getting "chubby". With my vet's guidance and the help of daily weighing, she gradually lost the excess weight and is at her ideal now, and stays there. I can easily adjust her daily food amount if her weight starts to go up or down.

    Sorry to ramble (what's new!). With the better vet care, diets and owner awareness now-a-days, cats (and dogs) are living longer lives. It is good for us pet owners to become more aware of what to look for and how to care for our older pets. Thanks for your post and helping to educate us.

    Stephanie in Montreal
    Will Draper, DVM replied to srstephanie's response:
    Thank you, Stephanie. Good stuff!
    Dr. Will
    toni4187 responded:
    Good morning! I have an eight year old German Shepherd mix dog, who has been limping on and off for the last 3 months. My vet gave me chondroitin chewables for her, and she has been taking them (sometimes she hides it and pretends she ate it). I am up in mountains with here in Boone, NC, and it rained all day yesterdat. She has developed a very pronounced limp. Since I am in the country & can't get to my vet back in Raleigh, I wonder if I can give her baby aspirin for her pain. And if so, how much? She weighs about 65 pounds. (she definitely needs to lose weight, I know)
    Home2strays replied to toni4187's response:
    it may be easier to make a new post about this toni4187. but in the meantime do NOT give aspirin, they dont metabolize it like we do. Chondroitin and glucosamine take awhile to get into the system and cause a noticeable difference. Perhaps your vet would be kind enough to cal a pharmacy near you to pick up some light pain medicine for her to get her over this little hump.
    jewelbreeze replied to toni4187's response:
    I understand your pain! My chocolate lab is now 14, and we started glucosamine and chondriton supplements with him when we was about 8. These helped for many years, but when he was around 12, they just didn't seem to do the trick anymore. My vet prescribed a medication called Deramaxx that has done him wonders over the past few years! I only gave it on bad days at first, and as time progressed, I would give it every 2 to 3 days and would also supplement with some Tramadol as needed for really bad days. I live in Iowa, where the weather hits every kind of extreme imaginable, so having a few different meds to fall back on has helped immensely! Velvet is now in the beginning stage of TCC (transitional cell carcinoma aka bladder cancer), so we've had to discontinue the Deramaxx in favor of piroxicam (which is not only an arthritis medication but has been proven to shrink TC tumors). I find the Tramadol to fairly effective in combating his arthritis pain! Good luck!
    An_240310 responded:
    I have an 18 1/2 year old Shih Tzu almost 19! She is still very mobile, but can't hear or see very well although she can still get around on her own. Over the last 5 years we have accompanied her aging needs and made provisions along the way such as putting baby gates up and not letting her on top of high things such as beds and sofas without supervision. We also carry her more than we used to. Her area in the house is much more restricted so that she feels more safe and secure. In the cold weather as well as in the house when the air conditioner is on we keep a sweather on her. She also wears it at night to keep her warm. The fur and skin are thinner which makes them colder.
    kevinbrown890 responded:
    Exercise is yet another way of preventive geriatric care for your pets. it will be good if you keep them going as they get older.
    arlington animal clinic

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