Our pets live longer than ever before. Old age, unfortunately, is often accompanied with some degeneration in health. The dramatic conditions can be obvious and most owners would spot cancerous tumours or heart failure with their drastic decline in general health.
Chronic conditions with their slow decline can be more difficult to notice. Many owners attribute them to 'just old age'. But that in itself is not a disease!
Degenerative joint disease can affect all pet species. Pets tend not to squeal with pain if it is chronic. Observing changes in their behaviour can give us pointers: Is the dog slow to get up, or finds it difficult to get in the right position to pass urine or faeces? Does he need help to jump into the car? Does your cat groom its middle, but cannot quite reach the backend anymore? Has she stopped scratching at trees to sharpen the claws? Has your rabbit difficulties bending over to pick caecotrophs (soft faeces) from its bottom? All these may be signs of pain in the joints or the spine for which your veterinary surgeon can prescribe effective medications, taking your pet's individual needs into consideration. NSAIDs are not only painkillers but also have anti- inflammatory action with direct effect on the disease process. Some are for short courses, others are licensed for long term use. Just a word of warning: please do not use human medication in animals, this is not safe!
When your dog tires easily on a walk or pants a lot he could have a heart problem. Small dogs are more likely to suffer from leaking valves, bigger dogs from heart muscle diseases. A thorough heart examination, with ECG and ultrasound scan if necessary, should help to diagnose the problem.
Older bitches sometimes leave wet patches behind. Urinary incontinence is common, a problem often more for the owner than for the pet. After excluding other causes of the leakage your veterinary surgeon can advise you which medication will best ease the smelly condition.
Does your pet chew carefully, or does he favour one side of the mouth? Gum and tooth disease can be painful. Plaque builds up on the teeth and leads to inflammation and erosion of gums. Regular home dental hygiene can prevent plaque becoming a problem by brushing with pet toothpaste and giving appropriate things to chew. Dental treatment under general anaesthetic typically includes assessment of the teeth and gums, extractions where necessary, descaling and polishing.
Regular check-ups in older pets can detect health problems at an early stage. At Gladstone Veterinary Clinic we might, if there are concerns, recommend a blood test, providing information about the liver and kidneys, and other blood parameters like thyroid hormone. Not all problems can be cured, but many can be alleviated with medical management.