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We're accustomed to the phrase "you are what you eat." The health and well-being of senior pets also is reflected in their diets. Nearly all of the veterinarians recently surveyed in a study sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health and The Iams Company concurred that nutrition is a key factor in the health of aging pets. And they further acknowledged that the nutritional needs of pets change as they age.
While obesity is a common healthy problem for all pets, older pets are more likely to be overweight due to decreased activity and reduced daily energy needs. Obesity increases the risk of serious diseases and health problems, such as diabetes, and cardiovascular, respiratory and musculoskeletal disorders.
Although some medical conditions (especially metabolic diseases) can cause obesity, over-feeding generally is the culprit. As a senior pet's metabolism slows, caloric needs decline. If you do not adjust the food intake of your older pet, weight gain is likely to result.
If your senior pet is already overweight, a weight loss programs should be considered. First, however, have him thoroughly evaluated by a veterinarian to identify any other problems that could be causing him to gain weight.
Generally, treatment of senior animal weight loss is very similar to recommendations for humans seeking to lose weight. Program steps include:
Selecting a food for your senior pet is easier than ever thanks to recent advancements in senior nutrition. Pet foods now meet the specific nutritional needs of senior pets and can be ordered through Clocktower or a phone Rx through vetcentric for home delivery.
A simple walk in the park for your dog or a playtime session with your cat may be just what your senior pet needs to help control weight and stay in shape. Exercise increases energy use and promotes more efficient calorie burning, as well as toning muscles.
Before staring any exercise program with your senior pet, check with your veterinarian to make sure your plans are suited to your pet's physical condition. Then begin slowly, by walking your pet on a leash for 10 minutes per day or 5 minutes of play time. Depending on your pet's condition, you can increase each week until you are up to 30 minutes a day or walking and 15 minutes of playtime.
And don't forget: your pet's exercise program can reap healthy benefits for you, too!
A tough of gray on the chin or around the muzzle. Once-clear eyes becoming a little cloudy. A slight stiffness in what used to be a frisky gait. Any of these can be telltale signs that your furry friend is entering the "golden" years.
Generally speaking, a pet 7 years old or beyond qualifies as a senior. This varies, however, with the size and breed of the pet. For instance, smaller pets tend to have longer life spans than giant-breed pets. Other factors affecting how pets age include body weight, nutrition, environment and overall health.
Pets mature rapidly during the first two years of life, then again during the final third of their span (5-7 years for every year of human life).
This process affects the level of professional veterinary care pets need. Just as human infants require frequent well-baby checks, most puppies and kittens visit their veterinarians at least four times during their first year for "well-ness" exams and required immunizations. This parallel repeats later in life; just like their aging human companions, senior pets need an increased level of care as they become more vulnerable to multiple healthy problems, and respond differently to stress, medication and environmental factors.
While some signs of aging, such as a graying muzzle and slowed activity, are easy to identify in your pet, others are more subtle. Most age-related changes in how your pet looks, acts and feels tend to be gradual. Therefore, it takes a watchful eye to recognize what may be early signs of disease or health problems.
Following is a list of the most common changes associated with age-related diseases and compromising medical conditions. If you note any of these changes in your pet, please let us know. By working together, we can help ensure your pet enjoys the best quality of life possible through out his senior years.
Remember; changes in your pet's appearance or behavior can be a sign that something is medically wrong, so don't assume your pet is just suffering from "old age" and can't be helped. Keep a close eye on your senior pet, and talk with us about any type of change, whether it occurs suddenly or gradually.
According to a recent survey of veterinarians sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health and The Iams Company, 998 percent of veterinarians believe older pets have different medical needs and would benefit from specialized services and testing.
That's why it's a good idea to establish a baseline that can be used as a benchmark for measuring changes before your pet reaches "senior" status. For example, ongoing blood and urine tests are especially beneficial at times, such as before surgery and before certain medications that require confirmation of normal liver, kidney or heart function are prescribed.
Scheduling your senior pet for twice-a-year physical examinations is another important step since pets age 507 years for every year of human life. Just as more frequent examinations and more extensive laboratory tests are a reality for middle-aged people, increased attention is important for disease detection in pets reaching the seven-year mark. Ninety-one percent of the veterinarians responding to the Pfizer/Iams survey stated they would be more likely to detect diseases earlier if their clients brought their pets to the clinic for examinations more than once a year.
During these regular examinations, it's important to report any health or behavior changes that you've noticed since the last visit. Throughout your pet's life, you are the best judge of changes taking place, and you are the veterinarian's most valued source of accurate history profile.
Today's veterinarians have both the knowledge and the tools to help your older pet. In fact, 94 percent of veterinarians surveyed belive they have more tools now than ever before to help senior animals! By working with your veterinarian, you can help ensure that you and your pet will enjoy the best possible quality of life for the longest possible time.
Just as certain health screenings become necessary for people as they age, your veterinarian may wish to run specific tests to ensure your pet is healthy so as to catch problems early. These procedures are common: