With the celebration of Senior's Week on April 6 - 13, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) urges pet owners to think about the health of their older animals.
Dr Nigel Scott, NSW Division President of the AVA says that the needs of senior pets change as they grow older and pet owners need to be mindful of these changes.
"Many pets are considered to be seniors after seven years of age depending on the type of pet and breed. Senior pets show signs of ageing such as reduced vision, hearing loss, dental problems and skin problems.
Older animals may also exhibit behavioural changes,have more lumps and bumps or show signs of discomfort. Some common signs to look out for include loss of appetite, increased thirst, breathing difficulties, frequent urination, slower reflexes and general stiffness.
"Like humans, older animals are more likely to suffer from diseases and conditions such as arthritis, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease as well as the pet version of human dementia. It is important to take your senior pet to your local veterinarian for preventative checkups every six months so they can monitor the health and individual needs of your senior pet."
The Australian Veterinary Association offers four important tips on looking after senior pets:
1) Take your senior pet out for regular exercise based on their physical capabilities. The type of exercise and intensity may vary for an older pet. Your veterinarian may advise different type of therapies such as swimming for a dog with arthritis or gentle walks for a dog that is overweight.
2) It's a myth that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. It's important to provide an older pet with mental stimulation to help prevent and delay the onset of "dogzheimer's" and "catzheimer's". This may include toys, games and food puzzles such as providing a trail of kibble for a dog to find hidden food. This encourages the animal to think about solving the puzzle and decreases boredom.
3) A balanced and complete diet with the proper calories, vitamins, and minerals is essential for an animal's health and wellbeing. Veterinarians will be able to recommend a diet appropriate for the health and activity level of your senior pet.
4) Look after your older pet's dental health by regular brushing of their teeth and have your pet's teeth cleaned professionally on the advice of your veterinarian. Dietary additives such as raw chews, commercial diets and dental treatments and water additives may also be recommended.