Just like any pet, our seniors still need their regular health visits, vaccines and parasite prevention. On top of this, we advise that most are seen at least every six months, to allow us to monitor them closely and to pick up on any medical conditions they may develop. Though it’s true our ‘golden oldies’ won’t be quite as light-footed and nimble as they were in their heyday, this shouldn’t mean that they struggle. Any changes such as an unexpected weight loss, a general slowing down or stiffness, an unkempt coat or a reduced appetite are enough to warrant a check-up and are not ‘normal’ in our pets’ old age.
Several ailments can be difficult for an owner to spot at home and require the experienced eye of a vet or vet nurse to detect. This is often true of dental disease, heart disease and prostate enlargement, for example. Veterinary professionals will also be able to assess any new lumps or bumps that have developed, determining whether they appear benign or may need further analysis.
Sadly, as animals get older they are more prone to chronic metabolic disease such as kidney failure and liver failure. The signs of these conditions can be subtle at first and our pets may simply seem a little off colour. Due to this, a regular blood test is usually a good idea in our seniors; allowing us to monitor their organ function periodically, ensuring all is okay.
Blood tests can be done conscious during a regular consultation and are tolerated incredibly well by most. While some fur will be clipped away from the neck or arm, this will grow back in a matter of weeks.
For those wishing to have a full ‘MOT’ it can be wise to have their seniors’ urine analysed to check for problems such as infections or crystals and to have their blood pressure monitored at the same time.
Just like we humans may experience the ‘middle-aged spread’, older animals have also been known to pack on the pounds; particularly if they are not going for long walks anymore. Obesity must be avoided as not only can it lead to certain diseases, it also really impacts on an animal’s quality of life. At each check, their weight will be recorded and they will be assigned a ‘Body Condition Score’. For those owners whose pets score higher than desired, they will be advised on what can be done to help. For many, changing them on to a ‘senior’ prescription diet can provide the solution.
A good number of our older patients will be on long-term medicine for conditions such as arthritis or hyperthyroidism. Not only will they require more frequent visits to ensure they are coping well, but they will often require regular blood tests to ensure their organs are coping with the medicine and the dose does not need to be altered.
Moreover, senior health checks can provide us with a great opportunity to keep on top of issues such as overgrown claws and clumps of matted fur. Vets are always happy to perform a ‘mani-pedi’ as well as a quick fur trim when necessary. As an animal ages, these routine grooming procedures become even more important. Cats are especially prone to overgrown claws that can grow into the pad causing infection, while rabbits may struggle to groom around their bottom; leaving them open to a life-threatening condition known as ‘fly strike’.
Having your pet checked regularly at the vet provides the opportunity to detect any issues early on and to ensure they are ticking over nicely and enjoying their golden years.