Just like humans, our pets experience age-related health issues as they advance in years. Arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease are just a few of the conditions that can develop in older pets. But with proper care, you can help your senior pets maintain their quality of life as they age so that they can enjoy their golden years, too.


An annual checkup with a veterinarian is one of the most important things you can do for pets of any age. It becomes even more important as your pet gets older. Over time, your vet will develop a comprehensive record of your pet’s health, which helps them detect changes in health or spot potential concerns as early as possible.


Some areas of concern for older pets that you should discuss with your veterinarian include:


Food and diet: Overweight pets have an increased risk of health concerns like high blood pressure, diabetes, and liver disease. It’s particularly important to manage older pets’ weight appropriately, as their advanced age can compound their risk of these issues.


Talk to your vet about how much you should be feeding your pet. Your vet can also recommend foods that are easier for older pets to digest or that include nutrients that may benefit them depending on their specific health concerns.


Issues with their internal organs: Older cats and dogs may be especially at risk for diseases that affect their organs, like kidney disease, or other internal parts of the body, like thyroid disease. When cats reach middle age, for example, blood work can determine their risk of developing these problems. The symptoms of these diseases can be vague and hard for most people to notice, but your vet is specially trained to recognize signs as they start to appear.


Arthritis: Pets often experience joint disease or arthritis as they age. Some signs include having trouble sitting or standing, hesitating to jump or climb stairs, and being less interested in playing. Treatments like medication to relieve pain, or even acupuncture, along with proper diet and exercise to help maintain a healthy weight, can help to alleviate your pet’s arthritis symptoms.


Behavior changes: Changes in behavior like reduced activity, responding less to commands, less interest in food, and difficulty moving around or having trouble with stairs could be signs that your pet may be developing cognitive dysfunction syndrome, or becoming senile, as humans would call it. Your veterinarian can recommend treatments or dietary changes that can help manage your pet’s symptoms.


Spay and neuter: Many people spay or neuter their pets at a young age, but an older pet can still receive health benefits from being spayed or neutered, such as eliminating the risk of ovarian or testicular cancer. As with any operation for an older pet, consult with your vet about the best anesthesia protocols and post-op procedures to ensure the safest outcome for your pet

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About The Author: Rizal Lopez, DVM, is Chief Veterinary Officer for SPCA Tampa Bay. He and his staff have completed over 8,000 procedures since opening the St. Pete Veterinary Center in late 2016. Dr. Lopez, since joining the organization in 2011, has performed over 20,000 spay/neuter procedures for the community. He held several positions with the organization before taking the lead veterinary role at the center.