Senior Care

There are several diseases that we commonly see in older pets:
  • Thyroid disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer

With some diseases, there is an easy treatment such as a daily oral medication or even prescription diets. In others, “treatment” may just mean management and the sooner we start managing those cases, the better the outcome.

Thyroid Disease in Pets

Both dogs and cats can have thyroid disease, but they go in different directions. Dogs tend to become hypothyroid (low levels) and cats become hyperthyroid (high levels). Both diseases can be diagnosed by testing thyroid levels. This is a test that is recommended for any pet over 8 or if the pet is showing symptoms. In dogs, weight gain, skin problems, low activity level can all be symptoms of hypothyroidism. In cats, weight loss in face of great appetite, intermittent diarrhea, and increase activity level can all indicate hyperthyroidism. Both can be treated with daily medication.

Kidney Disease in Pets

Another common disease in older pets, especially cats, is kidney disease. Blood and sometimes urine tests are used to diagnose kidney (or renal) disease. This is one of the disease processes that will be managed, not treated. Keeping your pet well hydrated and feeding a kidney diet are the mainstays of treatment.

Heart Valve Problems in Pets

Small dogs often develop heart valve problems – mitral insufficiency. There are other heart problems that can be seen in both dogs and cats, but mitral regurg is the most common. When a heart murmur is heard on physical exam, radiographs and/or an ultrasound of the heart will probably be recommended. Based on those findings, medications may be needed to help the heart function better. Once again, this is a disease that we manage and the sooner the management starts, the better.

Cancer in Pets

Finally, we have cancer. Dogs and cats can get tumors everywhere that people can. Unfortunately, we do not have a blood screening test for cancer. Our pets may present with a large mass on the skin or something less obvious like limping. It is very important to discuss any changes in your pet’s behavior with the doctor. Maybe it is just arthritis, but maybe it is something more. Abdominal ultrasounds, while not inexpensive, can be a great screening tool to look for cancer in the abdomen.

As our pets live longer and longer, we want their later years to be as full of life as their younger years. Exams twice a year, lab work at least once a year, good diet and exercise, and good dental care all contribute to the longevity of our pets.