Seven Warning Signs in Senior Pets
Posted on September 17, 2012 under Pet Health & Safety
It’s always important to bring your pets to the veterinarian annually to be examined, and even more important for senior pets. But when should you consider making that appointment a little earlier? Being able to recognize the clinical signs of common diseases seen in elderly pets will help them get the treatment they need and improve their chances of recovery.
Always consider pet health insurance before your pets are seniors and start having problems, so they can get the treatment they need. Pets Best insurance has no upper age limits for senior pets so they can be insured at any time! Here are the top 7 clinical signs to look for at home in your aging pets, and what diseases they may be associated with:
1. Increased thirst, with or without increased urination.
This should always be accompanied by a trip to the veterinarian’s office. There are many diseases that can cause this. Some are simple and easy to treat, such as a urinary tract infection, others are more complicated and serious, such as kidney disease or diabetes. Your veterinarian will want to run a urinalysis and potentially a blood panel to determine the underlying cause.
2. Increased hunger.
It is easy to think this is just a sign of a good hearty appetite, but changes in drive for food can be fueled by underlying illnesses. For example, increased hunger in elderly cats, especially when accompanied by weight loss can be due to an overactive thyroid. Hyperthyroidism can be cured in many cases with a somewhat costly treatment called I131, covered by Pets Best health insurance. In dogs, certain endocrine diseases, such as Cushing’s disease, or overproduction of steroids, can be the underlying culprit.
3. Decreased hunger.
This is a very vague clinical sign and can indicate a variety of different illnesses, some of which can be very serious. Always call to make an appointment if your pet is refusing food and isn’t normally a picky eater.
4. Trouble rising, stiffness or limping.
This is extremely common in both elderly dogs and cats. Often arthritis is the underlying cause. Most pets will not whine, or cry in pain, but will suffer in silence. There are many arthritis treatment modalities available to make your pet comfortable during his or her golden years.
5. Weight loss or gain without changes in appetite.
In middle aged to elderly dogs that suddenly seem to pack on the pounds without eating more can occasionally have an underactive thyroid, which can be diagnosed with a blood test and treated with medication. Weight loss should always be evaluated, as underlying causes can be varied and potentially serious.
6. Disorientation, inappropriate house soiling, changes in personality and behavior or vocalization.
Cognitive dysfunction, or senility in pets is thought to mimic Alzheimer’s disease in people and clinical signs are similar. Pets many get easily confused, or pace and wander. Some pets will excessively pant, which owners might confuse with anxiety or pain. When caught early in the course of the disease, cognitive dysfunction’s progression can be slowed with behavioral therapy, environmental enrichment and certain supplements.
7. Lumps and bumps
Older dogs can get lots of lumps and bumps, some can benign and monitored, but dogs can be various types of skin cancers that can be serious. Cats in general seem to get fewer masses and growths; any lump or growth on cats should be examined to ensure it isn’t something serious. Fatty tumors, or lipomas are very common in older dogs and can be easily diagnosed with a simple test called a fine needle aspirate or with a biopsy. Any new growth or mass that has irregular margins, isn’t smooth, but bumpy or nodular, is fixed to deeper tissue and not freely moveable, painful, or quickly growing should be evaluated.
Veterinarians love the saying ‘old age is not a disease,’ and it’s true! Of course, older age is often accompanied by common geriatric diseases, so anticipating your pet’s needs in advance by having them covered by pet health insurance will undoubtedly be beneficial. By recognizing what changes in your pets routine are serious enough to warrant a visit to the vet’s, you’ll allow the senior years to be a happy and healthy time as well.