Senior Wellness Plan
Mountain View Veterinary Services has started a new program focused towards senior pets called Comprehensive Age Related Evaluation or C.A.R.E. for short.
Just like with humans, both the younger and older pets require more trips to the doctor. But unlike humans, cats and dogs age more rapidly. Although the age-old saying of every 1 dog year is equal to 7 humans years isn’t necessarily true; think about how often you go to the doctor versus how often your pet visits the veterinarian – if you do take that old saying into consideration and add in the fact that they age quicker without showing signs of illness until the illness is more severe. That equation would look like: 1 yearly pet check-up equals a human doctor check-up every 7 years. A lot can go wrong in that amount of time. Younger pets will need multiple visits for vaccines. Senior pets need bi-annual visits so signs of illness or other problems can be detected earlier, treated, and monitored. The size of your pet also affects when they will possibly begin to show signs of senior issues. For example, a 5 pound Chihuahua might not start showing signs of arthritis until she is 8 years old but the 130 pound Great Dane can start showing the same arthritic symptoms at age 4. Check out the chart to see what your pet’s “human” age is.
Here at MVVS we offer what is called C.A.R.E. (Comprehensive Age Related Evaluation). To be eligible for C.A.R.E. your pet must be 6 years old or older. When you schedule a comprehensive age related evaluation, your pet will have a full senior wellness exam that includes complete blood-work, urinalysis, intestinal parasite screening, and an eye exam with glaucoma screening. For dog owners, C.A.R.E. will also including screening for heartworm disease and 3 tick-borne diseases. All of this will be at a 20% savings! For any pet that needs it, we have acupuncture and cold-laser therapy available at our hospital.
Although it is important your pet maintains an ideal body weight throughout it’s life, it is truly important to have your senior pet at a proper weight. As little as 5 pounds extra body weight can put your pet at risk for other health issues. Some common health problems from excessive body weight are: Diabetes, Heart disease, Osteoarthritis (arthritis), increased frequency of joint injuries, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer. Every additional pound of weight will also decrease their lifespan.
All pets need a properly balanced diet. Making sure your pet is getting the correct amount of calories and nutrients is vital for a long and happy life. Supplements can aid with healthy joints, skin, and hair coat – just to name a few. There are also supplements geared towards building a healthy immune system which is critical for aging dogs. It is a good idea to make sure your senior pet is receiving plenty of vitamins C and E, selenium, beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acids. Senior pets often need foods that are more easily digestible and have different calorie levels. Some pets require specialized diets of limited ingredients or a prescription diet based on certain diseases that they develop. If your pet has any changes in their eating or drinking habits, it is a good idea to bring your pet in for a vet visit.
Do you know what the most common disease that can be entirely prevented is? PERIODONTAL DISEASE! Starting proper oral hygiene at a young age can help your pet accept life-long oral care. By caring for your pet’s teeth at home, you will improve their periodontal health, decrease the progression of the disease and decrease the frequency of or eliminate the need for professional dental X-rays and cleaning. Senior dogs may be discouraged from play due to the type of toys they once played with. Getting new, softer toys that are easier on the jaw may help them to want to play again. Poor dental care will lead to bad breath and can hinder eating due to pain. A foul mouth constantly swallowing bad bacteria stresses your pet’s immune and organ systems. Studies have shown this can lead to microscopic changes in the heart, liver and kidneys.
Geriatric pets may need slight changes in their lifestyles, such as moving sleeping areas and litter boxes to avoid stairs. Also, cats may need a litter box with lower sides or a ramp to allow an easier entry. Dogs may need a ramp to help them into the car. Older pets are usually less adaptable to change so reducing environmental stress whenever possible is important. Introducing a new pet or family member may be a traumatic experience for a senior pet. Discuss with our veterinary staff the best practices on how to introduce a new pet or family member to the home to minimize stress. Our clinic offers pheromones and other products to help with stressful situations.
Both dogs and cats can show signs of senility. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome can have many different behavior changes that should be discussed with one of our veterinarians. These behavior changes can be: increased reaction to sounds, increased vocalization, confusion, disorientation, decreased interaction with humans, increased irritability, decrease response to commands, increased aggressive/ protective behavior, increased anxiety, house soiling, decreased self-hygiene/grooming, repetitive activity, increased wandering, and change in sleep cycles. Sticking to a predictable daily routine can help reduce a pet’s anxiety and mental uncertainty.
Regardless of whether your pet has short or long hair, grooming your pet is a beneficial activity for both you and your pet. It creates a bond between the two of you and decreases the likelihood of mats. Brushing stimulates blood circulation and helps them maintain a healthier skin and coat.
As with older people, keeping older pets mobile through appropriate exercise helps keep them healthier and more mobile. Obviously, taking your dog for walks is a great form of exercise for you both. But did you know that devising 3-4 different walk routes also keeps your dog’s mind stimulated by using all of their different senses? Keeping your dog’s mind stimulated is great for both young and old. Dogs are not the only pets that need mental stimulation, cats do too. Although most would not appreciate going for a walk, there are other activities that would provide the same stimulation. Setting up bird feeders / bird baths for your cat can aid in brain-stimulating enrichment.
Other games you can play for either your dog or cat will keep them mentally stimulated throughout their lives:
Name their toys – start with one toy until they recognize it and bring it to you. Then continue the same method until all their toys are named.
Hide and Seek – Start with the sit command and hide the prize (favorite toy or food) in an obvious area where your pet can see where you put it. Then give him the release signal to go “find” it. Once your pet is familiar with the rules, increase the difficulty.
Puzzles – Made from plastic or wood stimulates the hunting response in your pet.
Older pet’s immune systems are not as healthy as those of younger animals; as a result, they can’t fight off diseases or heal as fast as younger pets. It is imperative to keep your pets on year-round flea/tick prevention and have annual fecal test run to minimize the amount of parasites your pet can pick up.
If your dog is having some urine dribbling or incontinence as a result of his/her age (and not caused by an underlying condition that should be addressed), provide him with more frequent potty trips outside.
As your pet’s owner, you serve a critical role in detecting early signs of disease because you interact and care for your pet on a daily basis and are familiar with your pet’s behavior and routines. If your pet is showing any changes in behavior or other warning signs of disease, please contact us to set up an appointment to discuss the list of changes you have observed in your pet.