by Dr. Brian Green, DVM –
Although no one can be sure, it is widely believed that dogs and cats reaching retirement age do not often succumb to the temptations of their owners: a condo in a warm climate, golf or shuffleboard, travel to exotic lands, a visit to their grandchildren, early dinners, and complaints to their children that they don’t call often enough. However, they do share many of the health problems seen in elderly people, and require more attentiveness to changes in habits, appetite, grooming and comportment than they did in their younger days.
Gramps has lived a good many years, pretty much taking care of himself. Oh, maybe he can’t chew dry food anymore, and he takes a little longer to get up, and yes, he has been sleeping for nine days now, but the last we saw of him, he really seemed fine. Ever play “what’s wrong with this picture?” You see, it is possible that Gramps may have a number of problems that caught early would be minor or even insignificant-but if we wait too long may actually be beyond help. Dogs and cats have an amazing capacity to wait until you have finished dressing for your best friend’s wedding before they start walking like they’re drunk, can’t breathe, or start vomiting on the new Persian rug, and look to you for help.
The fact is that geriatric pets, like elderly people, have problems with their eyes, ears, teeth, heart, stomach, kidneys, bladder, spine and joints, and many of those problems are detectable by regular physical examinations. When problems exist, it may be advisable to run blood tests, or an EKG, or take X-rays, depending on the symptoms. Diet changes more compatible with an elderly patient may be recommended, changes in the exercise patterns, dietary supplements, and warning signs may be discussed, and questions you may have concerning care of the elderly patient will be discussed.
The most important thing to remember is that despite their different appearance, our pets are much like us. They need regular health check-ups, lots of love and caring, and a realization that the golden years carry with them all the age-old problems of old age.
Dr. Brian Green, DVM, is Director of the Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital