Here at Porte Veterinary, November is the time many of us reflect upon the year gone by, giving thanks for the many people, pets, and pet parents who have been a part of our lives, and those who’ve touched our hearts.
We also take time in November to give thanks for our senior pets.
“What greater gift than the love of a cat?”
~ Charles Dickens
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.”
~Agnes Sligh Turnbull
Even though our companion animals are living longer, the above quotes still ring true.
And more important than longevity, is your pet’s quality of life.
This is why senior pets need a little extra care in accordance with their unique needs or circumstances, their breed, their size, and their species (cats and dogs do not age at the same rate and each species has its own way of expressing disease).
At what age do we consider your pet cat or dog to be a ‘senior’ pet?
Well, there are some new guidelines for determining when each of your pets enters their senior years. The old standby formula, 1 year is the human equivalent of 7 years, is outdated.
As an example, for dogs who are all 7 years old, yet are classified as:
- Small (weighing less than 20 pounds) are the human equivalent of 46-years old (not 49!).
- Medium sized (weighing between 21-50 pounds) are the human equivalent of 49-years old.
- Large (weighing in between 51-120 pounds) are the human equivalent of 59-years old.
- Giant breed dogs (120+ pounds) are 79 human equivalent years old (not 49!).
In the example above with all dogs being 7 years old, the giant dogs are actually considered geriatric, the medium and large dogs are considered seniors, and the small dogs are still considered adults. We believe these guidelines are more accurate than the broad 1:7 human age equivalent formula.
Here is the full chart broken down by cats and dogs, with the dogs broken down further depending on standard healthy weight. Please note: Obesity complicates everything! This chart assumes an appropriate weight and body condition score. (Click to download)
Now that you know when your pet reaches their senior years, you may be wondering why senior pets need special care.
A: Because your pets are experts at hiding their symptoms of disease and pain.
In addition, they can’t verbally tell us about any of the changes they may be feeling. Such as:
- Difficulty breathing or feeling out of breath after minimal exercise.
- Feeling the need to urinate more frequently.
- Feeling stiffness in their hips or knees, or not being able to jump up onto their favorite chairs, couch, laps, etc.
Changes which could point to underlying heart, kidney, or arthritic issues often go unnoticed because animals are experts at hiding their symptoms and pain.
In addition to the physical evaluation, we’ll gain more insight through diagnostic tests.
We’ve heard countless positive reports from pet parents who tell us about improvement in physical activity level, behavior, and/or appetite after we’ve uncovered, and properly treated, an underlying issue.
And many have also mentioned that they wish they had known sooner.
Because it wasn’t until their pets showed these signs of improved quality of life, did they realize how much their pet was actually suffering before treatment.
A: Because these tests provide critical insight & establish your pet’s baseline values.
As your pets age, their organ functions may start to decline. We can catch this early through diagnostic testing showing your pet’s values compared to the norm (often times a range), and also compared to your pet’s previous test results – your pet’s baseline.
Thus, the first step is to establish the baselines.
And the sooner the better.
Especially, if your pet is already classified as a senior pet.
A: Chest X-Rays, and Blood & Urine Tests.
This is by far the best way to know if your pet’s heart is enlarging or showing other issues visible on radiographs (x-rays). When caught early, you give your pet the best chance of reversing, stopping, or minimizing heart related diseases and living a longer and more enjoyable life.
For your convenience, we take these x-rays right here at Porte.
- The CBC (Complete Blood Cell Count)
The CBC checks for the health of your pet’s blood cells. Abnormalities in the CBC test results can alert us to issues such as an underlying infection, anemia, and more.
- Blood Chemistry Panels
Chemistry panels check the health of your pet’s internal organs such as their liver, kidneys, pancreas, etc. There are many different chemistry panels, all of which check for different organ functions, etc. The veterinarians here at Porte know which panels are most appropriate for each one of your pets – including your senior pets.
- Total T4
Older cats can be hyperthyroid, a condition that is treatable with medication. Older dogs can be hypothyroid, a condition diagnosed with bloodwork and certain symptoms that is treatable with medication and will improve your pet’s quality of life.
Complete Urinalysis: This test helps us make better informed decisions about the health of your pet’s kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract. This test measures how well your pet’s kidneys are functioning and provides your veterinarian with a more complete picture of your pet’s overall health versus evaluating blood tests, alone. The urinalysis can also serve as the baseline from which we can compare future test results to help us spot changes which could signal underlying disease progression in your pet.
For your convenience, we can obtain blood and urine samples right here at Porte, with results as soon as the next day!
In conclusion, age is not a disease. Together, we can keep your senior pets feeling their best because we want you both to enjoy many more years of companionship and love.
And don’t forget to take advantage of the special discount in honor of Senior Pet Month! The special expires on 11/30/17.
Photo Credit: Sunsets Unleashed by Audrey Ricks Photography