There is no nice way to think about getting older, but it happens to all of us. Some of us try to avoid it, but at the end of the day, it is still there.... we are older, and hopefully, wiser. Now, I know our pets don't think about getting old, and they are certainly not vain to want face lifts, or the latest boob job, or a super dooper skin moisturising cream to stop the wrinkles, or the hair dye to cover the greys.
But what they do want is someone to love them as much when they are older, as when they were younger.
The number "7" seems to be the "magic" number of years at which to start, but I would even start the checklist in our larger breeds, if they were younger, and with our smaller breeds, maybe a bit later.
Either way, this checklist should be done on all pets at some stage or another in their lives.
Now below are two checklists - one for dogs and one for cats. I have gone through alot of different checklists over the years, and I have found this one to be the simplest one.
Go now and print off one for your pet. Put their name on it, and date it.
Even take a snap shot of your pet, and attach it to the checklist.
Go on... do it now.
Then set a time in your calender to repeat it in six months time - each six months fill it out again. And look for trends!
When you have done that, come back and read on.
So what is your pet in human years?
Now one of the problems I have with checklists, is what does it mean if I actually tick a few of the boxes? Well, hopefully most of it will be self explanatory - if you are ticking any number of boxes, then you need to come in to see us quick smart!
Why? Because there are things that veterinarians can do to help you and your pet get back to a good quality of life. It is a quality of life issue.
Older pets suffer from Alzheimers, they do have strokes, and they can get brain tumours. Picking up the signs of these things early, can make a big difference. Did you know there is medication that can help pets with Alzheimers, and even nutritionally, there are things that we can do also (there is a brain diet... true!)
Sometimes pets seem to forget where they are, or if they have eaten, and they suffer the same anxiety with these memory lapses as we would. I have no doubt that you know of someone with Alzheimers, so you know how devastating a condition it is.
And sleep - sometimes they bark all night, and sleep all day.... and with that, comes a decision to euthenase or sedate, as no one can cope with that for too long.
We all know that over 80% of pets older than 3 years of age have periodontal disease. It's a fact. Indisputable. Keeping our mouths healthy, keeps the rest of us healthy too.
Our weight may go up or down, and this is an important clue - for example, if your pet suddenly seems to increase in weight, especially around the tummy, it may actually be fluid, or weakened abdominal muscles.
Changing bowel habits can give early clues too - did you know that constipation is an early sign of renal disease? Constipated cats are easy to identify, but renal disease less so. How about peeing alot more, or even peeing in the house, when they normally are clean animals.
Now, I know we all move a bit slower when we get older, no longer have the sprightly step, and may lag a bit on walks. But if it is due to joint pain - well that is pain... and pain needs to be treated. So don't ignore the slowness to get up, or not going up the stairs anymore.
I do have some pages dedicated to joints and dogs & cats with some ideas on what you can do at home to help them.
Skin & Coat
We all love a shiny coat - its a sign of health isn't it? Isn't that what the pet food commercials tell us? So why do we say a dull dry scaly coat is ok with age? It's not OK. It can be a sign of hormonal imbalances, or severe infections.
Let us not forget the lumps and bumps. Lumps and bumps are not normal, but there are some you can live with, and some you can't. So if you notice a lump, even if it is not growing, or hasn't grown much in the past 2 years.... don't ignore it. Most vets won't either.
Heart & Lungs
Well we can't live without a good heart and lungs, can we. So don't ignore the signs of problems. Coughing is never normal, and if at night time, can be an early sign of heart failure.
Now, go print off the form below, fill it out, hopefully you don't tick any of the boxes, but if you do, come in to see me, Dr Liz, at Russell Vale Animal Clinic.
Hope this has helped you a little. Feel free to email me or ask a question.
Now I would love it if you did all of this all the time, and nothing went wrong with your pet. Well, it doesn't work like that. All of my pets get regular check ups, and still things do go wrong. But, the benefit of doing these tests and checklists, is at least we know when things went pear shaped, rather than feeling guilty that you had missed it all of these years.
Yours for happy, healthy pets.