Pets reach the "Golden Years as do humans. They even experience many of the same illnesses. Regardless of these
similarities, a pet will age much faster than its owner.
The first year of a pet's life is roughly equivalent to the first fifteen years for a human.
At two years, a petís age is about twenty-four human years. Each subsequent pet year is approximately
four human years. Weight is also a factor in calculating equivalencies. Higher weight shortens the projected life span.
Regular checkups are essential to the health of an aging pet. Preventive veterinary care can add years to
and quality of life for an older pet.
As a dog or cat ages, their metabolic rate can decrease 30% which has a direct impact on how quickly they move or react.
However, metabolism is not the only reason an older petís activities are reduced.
The wear and tear on joint surfaces and buildup of calcium deposits can result in restriction of movement and a
sense of discomfort. Arthritis is the more common in dogs than cats and is the leading cause for activity decrease.
Vascular disorders humans experience seldom occur in dogs and cats. The old pet may suffer from heart rhythm
disturbances which can be corrected with medication. Other conditions such as an enlarged heart, valve defects
or congestive heart failure can be life shortening.
Generally cataracts are the most obvious sign of an aging dog (less in cats). The center of the eye begins to change
from being bright and dark to what appears as a cloudy film. Actually, the lens begins to dehydrate and reflects light
back rather than it. Cataracts can be removed if necessary.
Glaucoma (an increase in pressure within the eye) can have serious consequences if not detected and treated.
Veterinarians can measure the eye pressure as part of the physical exam.
A general decline in nutritional health may cause a petís coat to look ragged in appearance. Senior pet foods may have
restricted fat content causing dry and flaky skin. Often digestive enzymes are not secreted in adequate amounts.
Nutrients are not broken down properly and result in loose stools and a decrease in nutrient intake.
Cats are notorious for not grooming as they age which results in matted fur. Frequent brushing and food supplements help to
make skin less susceptible to infection. Common sense about bathing, grooming and nutrition will keep the older pet's skin
and coat in optimum condition.
Oral hygiene is one of the most overlooked aspects of the older petís health status. Infected gums and loose, plaque-encrusted
teeth are painful for the pet, but more seriously an infected mouth can seed bacteria into the blood stream to be carried
throughout the pet's body. Most older pets respond positively to teeth cleaning and decayed tooth extractions.
Remember what your pet has given through the years...the ultimate gift of unconditional love. By providing loving care
in their golden years, you can let them know how much they are cherished.