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I have some great news: The pets you keep today are likely to live far longer than the pets you grew up with. But there’s a flip side to modern medicine’s gospel: You’ll have to know that much more about your pets’ geriatric care if you’re to keep up with the wonders of veterinary science.
Fortunately, learning more about geriatric pets is simply an extension of your current knowledge base — one I find my clients are eager to bone up on as their pets age. By way of furthering your own store of older-pet information, here’s a list of the seven most common questions my clients ask about their aging pets.
1. Is he too thin? Lots of older pets lose muscle mass and may start to look somewhat scrawny, which has a way of making their owners worry. This is especially true of extremely geriatric dogs and cats.
Nonetheless, with the exception of those suffering from specific diseases associated with severe weight loss (hyperthyroidism and cancer, for example), most older pets tend to reflect the general population. That is to say, they tend more toward the pudgy side — with a concurrent loss of muscle mass that comes with an aging body. And that is a problematic combination.
Fortunately, this common question gives veterinarians an ability to step in and render an opinion as to the quality of the pet’s musculature and overall body condition. What’s more, veterinarians can recommend the right combination of diet and exercise that can help trim off extra pounds and keep muscles more toned. This is always a good thing!
2. Should I change her diet or add supplements? Many pets don’t absolutely require a diet change — as long as they’re being fed a commercial diet that’s labeled “complete and balanced” for their species and life stage.
But if you haven’t changed your older pet to a senior diet yet, talk to your veterinarian. Different breeds enter their senior years at different times, and cats tend to become senior later than dogs, but your veterinarian can provide you with guidance on when is the right time for your pet to move to a senior diet.
Beyond that, if your pet has certain health issues, ask your vet about diets that can help. The array of specialized diets and nutritional specialists at our disposal makes customization of the aging patient’s diet to their specific issues absolutely doable in most cases.
Supplements are also being tested for pets with a variety of geriatric issues like osteoarthritis and cognitive dysfunction (dementia). Some show promise, but the jury’s still out on most.
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