In South Africa an estimated 40% of pets are classified seniors, aged around seven and older. And because in fact pets are living longer these days, vets are encountering more age related ailments, such as cancer, canine cognitive disorder (doggy Alzheimer’s), arthritis, cataracts and kidney disease.
June is national Hill’s Senior Pet Month, an annual nationwide campaign to educate owners on how best to care for pets aged around seven and older. According to veterinarian Dr Guy Fyvie, spokesman for national Hill’s Senior Pet Month, studies have shown that many diseases can be delayed or prevented with age-appropriate care.
“These days, with the advanced veterinary care and nutrition available, it is not uncommon for a dog or cat to reach the equivalent of over a hundred years old in human terms,” says Dr Fyvie. “Feeding a diet specifically formulated for senior pets can help add year’s to your best friend’s life, and help delay, and even prevent, many health problems.”
“A bouncing seven year old pet might not look old, but it is important to act before there are visible signs of ageing,” he adds. “Many symptoms of old age diseases are only evident once there has been significant internal damage. For example, kidney disease, one of the most common causes of death in older cats and dogs, will only produce symptoms once 75% of kidney function is lost. A change in diet is the most effective management factor for this disease; in one study dogs with renal failure that were fed a specialised kidney diet (Hill’s Prescription Diet Canine k/d) lived twice as long as those fed normal food.”
Warning signs of age related health problems include bad breath, stiffness, sleeping more, increased urinating and drinking, and changes in weight and behaviour. If your pet displays any of these symptoms take them to your vet for expert advice.
Dr Fyvie recommends four simple steps that can help senior pets enjoy long, healthy lives:
- Schedule regular veterinary check ups to pick up any early warning signs of diseases. Remember visiting the vet once a year in human terms is equivalent to about seven years in your pet’s life.
- Start feeding a diet specifically formulated for senior pets, such as Hill’s Science Plan Mature Adult Senior. Your senior pet needs age-appropriate levels of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; its nutritional needs are very different to when it was a puppy or kitten. Getting it right is a complicated balancing act, but absolutely crucial as incorrect nutrient levels can have devastating consequences. For example excess protein can seriously damage the kidneys, and just a few too many calories a day can quickly cause obesity.
- Go for walks and play together. Appropriate exercise will help you both stay fit and active. But avoid high impact activities, such as jogging and jumping, which could damage the joints.
- Give lots of love and attention. Mental stimulation can help keep your pet alert and help avoid ‘doggy Alzheimer’s’.
For expert advice on caring for your senior pet speak to your vet or visit http://www.hillspet.com