Aging is the result of a set of gradual changes in the organism that reduce the physiological ability to regulate functions of the body, and respond appropriately to illnesses or external changes.
Pets kept in good living conditions at home who have received proper veterinary care live longer and better lives — which is why it is important that you be well-informed about the needs of each species and breed, and provide regular check-ups after your pet reaches certain age.
At what age is a pet considered a senior patient?
It is commonly accepted that big dogs become old at the age of 7, and small breeds or cats at 10. Nevertheless, signs of aging do not appear at an exact age nor with a certain size, but in relation to several circumstances.
There are a few variables that influence the aging process:
- Genetics: smaller dog breeds usually live longer than giant dogs, and half-breed animals live longer than purebreds. However, some breeds are more prone than others to certain illnesses, independently of their size.
Cats do not present racial differences regarding longevity.
- Food: undernourished pets have a shorter life expectancy than those who are properly fed.
Also, obese animals live less than those kept in their ideal weight, as they are predisposed to cardiovascular and musculoskeletal complaints, and diabetes — among other things. At the same time, surgery is riskier for overweight pets.
- Environmental factors: one of the environmental factors in the aging process is that animals that live indoors have longer lifespans than those living outdoors.
Consequently, the living conditions that we provide our pets will directly influence their longevity and quality of life.
What illnesses do senior pets suffer more often?
A senior patient is not going to be affected by a single illness. For that reason, when we explore a patient we need to obtain a wide view of all the complaints that they might show.
The most common illnesses of old pets are:
What does a geriatric check-up entail?
Preventive geriatric medicine is an essential tool to control the effects of aging, and grant our senior pets the best quality of life for as long as possible. Regular check-ups help prevent illness and allow for early diagnosis of medical conditions, allowing your pet to receive timely, effective treatment.
The basic elements of a geriatric check-up are:
- Full physical examination
- Complete blood work
- Urine tests
- Thoracic and abdominal radiography
- Vaginal cytology (females)
- Other tests that the veterinarian might deem appropriate considering the breed and case history of the patient
At what age should the first geriatric check-up take place?
The ideal age to perform the first geriatric check-up is between the ages of 7 and 9, though there are different estimates according to the pet’s size, as mentioned above.
We should bear in mind, either way, that the goal of this control panel is prevention and early diagnosis, so these ages are mere approximates.