Leading Health Concerns for Aging Pets and What You Can Do About Them

As our animal companions age, their health needs also change. Unfortunately, many pet owners are unaware of their aging pets’ health risks and don’t take the necessary protective steps. That’s why vets encourage a cat and dog routine examination at least once a year as early as possible to detect health problems before they become serious.

This blog post will cover the top health concerns for aging pets and what you can do to help your pet age gracefully.

1. Arthritis

This is a common condition that affects dogs and cats as they get older. Arthritis can occur when the cartilage in joints deteriorates, leading to pain and stiffness. Ask your vet about treatment options if your pet shows signs of arthritis, such as limping or hesitating to jump.

Other signs of arthritis include:

  • Tiredness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty rising
  • Stiffness after exercise or lying down
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Licking a particular joint

Vets can’t cure arthritis, but there are ways to help manage your pet’s pain and improve their quality of life. Treatment options for arthritis include:

  • Weight management: A healthy weight will take some pressure off of their joints.
  • Exercise: Regular, low-impact exercise can help increase muscle mass and joint flexibility.
  • Joint supplements: Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Pain medication: If other treatment options aren’t helping, your vet may prescribe pain medication.

2. Cognitive Decline

Similar to humans, dogs and cats can experience cognitive decline as they age. This is a slow and gradual deterioration of mental function that can lead to confusion, disorientation, and changes in sleeping habits.

Speak with your vet if you notice your pet has trouble learning new tricks or commands, seems confused or disoriented, or is sleepier during the day than they used to be. They may recommend a brain-healthy diet or supplements to help improve cognitive function.

For instance, they can suggest an effective senior or geriatric care for pets supplement that contains vitamins and minerals that can help support cognitive health. That’s why it’s essential to visit the website or, if you can, the facility itself to learn more about their services.

3. Kidney Disease

As pets age, they are at risk of developing kidney disease. This is a serious condition that can lead to organ failure and death. Kidney disease is usually asymptomatic in the early stages, so you should have your pet checked by a veterinarian if you think they may be at risk.

Risk factors for kidney disease include:

  • Advanced age
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Certain infections
  • Cancer
  • Previous exposure to toxins

Signs of kidney disease include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Bad breath
  • Muscle weakness

Your pet may undergo laboratory tests, including blood and urine, to confirm the diagnosis. Also, your vet may prescribe medication to help manage the disease. Treatment options can include:

  • Dietary changes: A special diet can help reduce the workload on the kidneys.
  • Fluid therapy: IV fluids may be necessary to keep your pet hydrated and flush the toxins from their system.
  • Kidney transplant: In some cases, a kidney transplant may be an option.

4. Cancer

This condition is the top cause of death in dogs and cats, and the risk increases with age. If you observe any unusual lumps or bumps on your pet, have them checked by a vet immediately. Other signs of cancer include:

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Blood in urine or stool

There are a few different types of cancer, each requiring different treatment. The most common treatments for cancer in pets are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Whatever cancer your pet has, working with your vet to create a treatment plan that’s best for them is essential.

5. Dental Disease

Dental disease is common in dogs and cats and can cause severe problems if left untreated. Dental disease arises when there’s a buildup of plaque and tartar on teeth, leading to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and tooth decay.

Signs of dental disease include:

  • Bad breath
  • Yellow or brown teeth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Pain when eating or drinking

Your vet may recommend professional teeth cleaning and suggest other treatment options, such as extractions or oral surgery.

6. Heart Disease

Heart disease is also one of the top causes of death in dogs and cats, and the risk increases with age. It happens when the heart muscle weakens and can’t pump blood effectively. This can lead to congestive heart failure, which can be fatal.

In severe cases, heart disease in pets may require urgent attention. For instance, if your pet is having trouble breathing, coughing up blood, or has collapsing episodes, they need to see a vet immediately. You can take them to a nighttime or daytime emergency care clinic or hospital, which caters to cardiac patients.

Signs of heart disease include:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen abdomen

Lab tests, such as chest x-rays, electrocardiograms (EKGs), and ultrasounds can help diagnose heart disease. Treatment options include:

  • Dietary changes: A special diet can help reduce the workload on the heart.
  • Medication: Your vet may prescribe medication to help manage the disease.
  • Surgery: This procedure may be necessary to repair or replace the heart.
  • Heart transplant: Sometimes, a heart transplant may be an option.

Final Thoughts

As your pet ages, you should be aware of the health risks they face. A lot of the diseases and conditions common in older pets can be managed with early diagnosis and treatment. Working with your vet can help your pet live a long and healthy life.