Most vets advise semi-annual visits once your pet becomes a senior. An annual visit is an absolute minimum (remember, a year in your pet’s life is akin to about five of your own years). In between visits to the vet, you can stay alert to behavioral changes and other signs of aging.
Here are some things to watch for and action to take:
- Sudden loss of weight or serious loss of appetite – to the point that your dog or cat is eating almost nothing. See your vet right away.
- Increase in appetite without an increase in weight may mean diabetes or thyroid problems. Get to the vet as soon as possible.
- Diarrhea or vomiting, if lasting more than a day can be a sign of many problems. Don’t wait to see the vet.
- Increased thirst, without a change in activity level, and increased urination can be symptoms of serious problems, Your pet should be tested as soon as possible.
- Tiring more quickly than when younger is normal as a pet ages, but may also be a sign of disease affecting the heart or lungs. Be alert to your pet becoming excessively out of breath after minimal exercise.
- Coughing and excessive panting may indicate heart disease or asthma. If these symptoms persist after you’ve modified your pet’s exercise program, visit the vet.
- Difficulty in getting up from a lying position, or other problems with moving may indicate arthritis. Your vet will be able to advise you on ways you can relieve your pet’s discomfort.
- Problems with vision and hearing are natural as a dog or cat ages. Accommodate these changes as best you can – by not changing the location of furniture, for example, or clapping instead of calling your pet’s name when he no longer seems able to hear you.
- Graying hair and drying skin are sure signs of aging. More attention to grooming will help the condition of the skin and coat.
- Behavioral changes that you may see in your older dog include:
- Separation anxiety… you may note that when you leave your older dog alone, she becomes destructive or barks or whines or loses control of elimination
- Sensitivity to noise… thunderstorms that never bothered him before may now make your older dog tremble.
- Vocallzlng… may be due to loss of hearing or to separation anxiety.
- Uncharacteristic aggression… may be due to painful joints, a drug reaction, or intolerance for new people and new circumstances; your older dog likes things to remain the same.
- Confusion, lack of attentiveness, disorientation….
- Roaming in circles, barking at nothing, being withdrawn….
- Elimination accidents….
If your dog is acting abnormally in any of the above ways, consult your veterinarian right away.
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