It’s no secret. I love senior pets. From the subtle whitening of a black Labrador’s smiling face, to the eternal lounging of a teenage barn cat, I truly appreciate the character, and more importantly, the needs of “golden oldies.” Even more captivating for me is the devotion of pet owners to their elderly, four-legged family members. If you have ever owned a geriatric pet, one that has been given the gift of living well into its teens, you know what I mean.
When working with pet owners, I always emphasize that senior pets need you more than ever. Many age-related ailments begin as “silent” diseases with no symptoms at all, chronic kidney disease being a perfect example. Elevated kidney values on blood testing and abnormalities in urine often occur before a pet shows decreased appetite and increased urinations associated with this disease. Once kidney values increase, we know that the pet has already lost at least 75 percent of its kidney function. As veterinarians, we now begin playing “catch up” instead of being given the opportunity to prevent this common, age-related cause of death.
Pets age more rapidly than humans, and a fair assumption is that one year in a pet’s senior period is like two to four in ours. If your veterinarian is only seeing your older pet once a year, you might be missing an important opportunity to diagnose and treat chronic, life-threatening diseases early, when they are most treatable. My favorite adages still apply … have your pet examined and tested “twice a year for life” because “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”