Aging and Wellness For Pets

Aging and Wellness For Pets

PHC LLCAug 26, '19

Aging and Wellness in Cats and Dogs

Cats and dogs age differently compared to humans. They have shorter life spans so they age faster. They also exhibit signs of aging quite differently.

 

Unlike with people, we won’t be able to see visible wrinkles and fine lines on pets’ faces. Everything remains buried under all those fur.

 

So how do you know when your pet is aging if you can’t see wrinkles on their skin?

 

The following post will help you understand the process of aging in pets and how to determine when your pet has developed age-related conditions.

What Happens During Aging?

The process of aging in pets involves changes in their physical, physiological, and mental facets. Cats and dogs may cope differently with these changes, but they may experience similar signs and symptoms.

 

Common Signs of Aging in Cats

  • Hearing loss
  • Decreased sense of smell (olfactory loss)
  • Dental problems
  • Loss of appetite due to dental and olfactory problems
  • Joint problems
  • Decreased agility and physical grace due to joint problems
  • Difficulty with self-grooming
  • Behavioral changes
  • Development of chronic health problems such as diabetes and kidney failure

Common Signs of Aging in Dogs

  • Hearing loss
  • Vision loss
  • Dental problems
  • Loss of appetite due to dental problems
  • Weight gain
  • Incontinence
  • Joint problems
  • Decreased physical activity due to joint problems
  • Behavioral changes
  • Development of chronic health conditions such as heart and kidney problems

Even if your pets are well-taken care of, they can’t escape the signs and symptoms that naturally occur with aging. But, what you can do is provide them with proper senior pet care so they can cope better.

Physical Changes

  • Coat Changes

There are physical changes that occur with aging in cats and dogs. The most noticeable would be the changes in their coat hair or fur.

Senior pets don’t literally grow “grey” hair, but the color of their coats change. They become dull and thinner, so the color may fade to a lighter tone. This change usually begins around the muzzle and spreads throughout the face and body.

  • Skin Changes

Senior pets also experience changes in their skin. Though you won’t see obvious wrinkles, you’ll notice that their skin’s texture changes. The skin becomes thinner and easier to dry out.

They may likewise develop calluses around the bends of their joints. And, their footpads become thick but brittle as well.

  • Nail Changes

The nails of senior pets become dull and brittle. They may break more easily when they scratch on rough surfaces. They may even feel hollow when you clip them.

Furthermore, some discoloration may occur. The nails may either darken or lighten in color, but they would look duller compared to when they were younger.

  • Changes in mobility and activity

Pets become less active when they enter their senior years. They may move slower and tire more easily. This is usually accompanied by the development of arthritic conditions.

Degenerative joint diseases (DJDs) are caused by physiological changes that affect the production of substances needed to maintain normal functions of the body.

  • Changes in teeth and gums

The teeth of senior pets may become brittle and may start to fall off when the gums become loose. Though this can be prevented with proper dental care, senior pets will eventually lose a tooth (or more).

Physiological Changes

Physical changes are linked to the physiological changes that occur inside the pets’ bodies during aging. The most common physiological changes that pet experience are:

 

  • Digestive changes

The most characteristic change in a senior pet’s digestive system is decreased motility. The digestive and intestinal tracts become less motile so they become constipated more frequently.

As pets become even older, they may also become incontinent. Their ability to hold urine and bowel movement become less effective. That’s why many old pets accidentally pee or poo on themselves.

  • Cardiovascular changes

Like old humans, old cats and dogs can also develop heart problems. The decrease in healthy heart function may lead to poor circulation, as well as reduced elasticity of the heart valves and blood vessels.

The risk for developing more serious heart problems also becomes higher, especially for those that had heart problems when they were younger.

  • Immune changes

Senior pets inevitably experience changes in their immunity. They become more prone to catching common diseases and may become sick for longer periods.

  • Sensory Changes

Sensory changes occur during aging. Senior pets begin to lose their hearing and vision. They become more sensitive to temperature changes. Even their sense of smell may be less effective than before.

Different Conditions Related to Aging

When pets start to age, they may develop age-related health conditions. Sometimes, these conditions cause debilitating symptoms and may last throughout the rest of their lives.

 

The most common age-related or degenerative diseases that affect old cats and dogs include the following:

  • Degenerative joint disease (DJD)

DJD is the most common arthritic condition, and it’s something that almost all senior pets experience. Another name for this is osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, DJD doesn’t go away and your pets may need to live on pain meds once they develop DJD.

  • Heart disease

Various kinds of heart diseases may also be developed by aging pets. Heart conditions such as heart failure will make exercise less tolerable and may limit mobility even more.

  • Liver and kidney problems

Aside from the heart, the other important organs that may start to fail during aging are the liver and kidneys. When senior pets develop liver and kidney diseases, their metabolic and circulatory functions get affected and their bodies start to weaken.

  • Diabetes

Diabetes will affect the way a pet metabolizes and processes energy. And, it will likewise cause nutritional imbalances due to food restrictions associated with diabetes.

  • Cancer

Senior pets are more prone to developing cancer. This is because their bodies are no longer able to optimally fight off the various cancer-causing agents.

Some of these conditions may be inevitable when cats and dogs get older. Given the risks, their need for veterinary care will increase.

To keep them healthy and prevent the development of debilitating conditions, they need to visit the vet more often. If there’s someone who can give the best healthcare advice for aging pets, that would be your vet.

References:

  1. https://canna-pet.com/ailment_group/aging-wellness/
  2. https://www.handicappedpets.com/blog/age-related-changes-in-senior-dogs-and-cats/
  3. https://www.stabroeknews.com/2015/features/02/08/details-physical-changes-elderly-dogs-cats/
  4. https://www.stabroeknews.com/2015/features/02/22/physical-changes-elderly-pet/
  5. https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Caring-for-an-Older-Pet-FAQs.aspx