My Senior Pet is OK — right??

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We get this question a lot in the clinic, often when we see a pet for annual check-ups and vaccinations.  Owners see signs of aging in their pets and wonder whether these signs are significant or not.  As in: at what point should we be intervening to help out a geriatric furry friend?

One of the most helpful things an owner can do is pay close attention to their pet’s day-to-day behaviors.  Here is a checklist of signs that may signal a problem with your pet:

  1. Bad breath or swollen gums
  2. Difficulty chewing
  3. Increased or decreased appetite
  4. Gain/Loss of weight
  5. Drinking more water than usual
  6. Urinating more frequently than usual
  7. Loss of house-training
  8. Vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or straining
  9. Trouble with vision or hearing
  10. Difference in attitude/behaviors (‘not himself’)
  11. Interacts less with the family
  12. Seems confused or disoriented
  13. Barking or howling for no reason
  14. Has become aggressive
  15. Changed sleeping patterns
  16. Tremors or episodes of shaking
  17. Change in activity level
  18. Lags behind on walks
  19. Difficulty climbing stairs and jumping
  20. Lameness
  21. Signs of pain
  22. Scratches, licks and chews excessively
  23. Changes in coat and skin
  24. New lumps or bumps
  25. Skin has an odor
  26. Coughing
  27. Panting more often
  28. Tires more rapidly or seems short of breath
  29. Objects to being handled/aggressive/resents being picked up
  30. No longer wants to play
  31. Breathing more rapid and shallow

If you are seeing any of these signs, the next step is to have your veterinarian give him a thorough exam.  Sometimes bloodwork is necessary to dig deeper and help to definitively diagnose problems, or may be a good idea if your pet needs to start on daily arthritis medications.

(List courtesy of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.)

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