Speaking from experience, I am far too aware that our bodies change with age. There are things that I could do in my 20’s and 30’s that I cannot do with as much ease in my 40’s. And physical activities that I used to not think twice about can now leave me stiff and sore for days. While the same is true to some respect with our pets, I feel there is somewhat of a myth about aging.
All too often I hear clients saying that they wished they had known something was wrong with their family pet earlier because they would have had them examined more quickly. We forget that pets are not people. They are far superior to us ‘whining humans’ in terms of masking illness, pain, and disease. Yes, our furry family members do experience some normal loss of visual acuity as well as some degree of decreased hearing, taste, and smell as they age just as we do. And they do experience some decreased endurance and newfound aches and pains associated with aging joints and osteoarthritis. But I think far too often we miss the subtle clues that more may be going on in our geriatric pets’ lives because they don’t complain the way we would.
Sometimes when they’re spending more time on their own and not engaging us in activity or play, it can mean that they are feeling more than just an ache or pain. Sometimes when they get fussy with their food, it is not that they are getting bored of that flavour or texture but that they are feeling nauseous or are experiencing oral pain. I say all this not to alarm you, but to make you aware and to arm you with information so that you can be the champion for your senior pets.
Having annual, and sometimes bi-annual, senior or geriatric wellness exams can go along way too early disease detection and subsequent treatment or management. Seeing your pet twice yearly allows us to pick up on subtle changes in their weight, gait, muscle mass or distribution, heart sounds, sight, hearing, oral health, and so much more. Running diagnostics such as blood work and urinalysis can even further extend our insight into what is going on inside of our family friends. And often the earlier we can detect disease or illness, the more success we have in addressing it.
This can translate into vast improvements in our pets quality of life. Even the most sensitive and intuitive owner cannot be expected to detect something like subtle changes in kidney function or heart sounds at home. Look I’m not saying I can stop time. It is okay to age, and it is okay to not be able to do some of the things we were capable of when we were younger. But we want as much quality and quantity of time as we can have both for ourselves and our furry friends as we age.
We have so much at our disposal in this day and age in the world of senior pet veterinary medicine. Sometimes this means medication, sometimes it means physiotherapy or acupuncture, sometimes it means supplements or dietary changes. But if we can allow our pets to age with grace while maintaining the optimum of health and vitality, there can be a new “truth” to getting better with each passing year.
We would love to see you and your senior at any time to discuss what tests, treatments, and lifestyle changes we might offer to give you many years of happiness and health together.
Written by Robin Harnett