Common Ailments in Older Pets
Pets grow more susceptible to diseases and injuries as they age. Their immune systems aren’t as strong as they once were, so it’s harder to fight off viruses and bacteria. Normal wear and tear takes its toll on muscles and bones, causing degeneration and painful conditions. Here are a few of the more common ailments seen in older pets, with details of treatments.
Over the years, your pet’s joints start “drying out” — there’s less fluid to lubricate the bones. Calcium deposits and cartilage build up, causing inflammation and arthritis, especially in older pets, large breeds of dogs and overweight animals.
Vets use anti-inflammatory medications and painkillers to treat arthritis. You can also supplement your pet’s diet with glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and chondroitin to help lubricate joints and feed nutrients into the surrounding tissues.
Colds and Influenza
A weaker immune system makes your pet more susceptible to the viruses that cause colds and influenza. Older animals are also prone to complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis if they contract influenza. Keep your pet fully vaccinated to help limit the risk of potentially fatal conditions.
Cataracts and Glaucoma
Eyesight deteriorates over time. A cataract occurs when the fibers within the eye become opaque, causing visual impairment. When the pressure behind the eye builds up, glaucoma occurs. Both conditions are more common in older pets and can leave the animal blind.
Glaucoma is a painful condition that requires painkillers. A vet can sometime remove cataracts. Both conditions get more difficult to treat the longer they remain undiagnosed.
Along with failing eyesight, older pets’ hearing deteriorates. Occasionally a damaged ear drum or wax build-up can also cause deafness. You can use olive oil or a specially formulated pet ear drop to help keep your pet’s ears clean, but deafness is an inevitable part of aging.
Older pets also become more susceptible to dental diseases as their gums weaken. Keeping their teeth clean with regular brushing, a well-balanced diet and access to chew toys helps, as do regular check-ups to catch any potential problems early.
Tumors, Lumps and Cysts
Whether benign or cancerous, tumors, lumps and cysts typically occur in older pets. Some animals are more prone to tumors, but it’s important to have your vet look at any changes in your pet’s skin regardless of species. Unfortunately, not all tumors occur on the surface — they can happen invisibly within your pet’s body as well.
Your vet can surgically remove some tumors and treat your pet with medication. Having your pet spayed or neutered helps reduce the risk of cancer, especially within their sexual organs.
The most important part of pet health for animals of any age is care and attention. As your pet grows older, make sure they’re still regularly vaccinated, treated for parasites and inspected for symptoms of potential problems. This helps them stay healthy and gives them the best chance for a long, happy life.