July is National Senior Pet Month, and if you have a dog or cat over seven, they are already a ‘senior’ pet and there are ways to keep them healthier for years to come, so that they stay part of your family for longer.
You may think your seven-year-old pet is in its prime. However, on the inside the picture may be quite different. Their nutritional needs have changed and they are at more of a risk for the likes of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, kidney and liver disease. It’s important to go to the vet for a senior health check, especially since many conditions aren't evident until it's irreversible damage has been done and switch to a diet for senior pets.
A key test these days is IDEXX SDMA, which can detect kidney disease in cats up to four years earlier than before and up to two years earlier in dogs. Kidney disease is known as the silent killer because symptoms rarely show before it’s too late (I've sadly had two cats die of kidney disease, which we only picked up when it was too late).
Acoording to IDEXX, since the new test became available globally last year more than 350, 000 pets have been diagnosed with kidney disease that traditional tests would have missed. Early detection allows for prompt intervention which can extend life and improve the quality of those years.
Last week I took my labrador Gina for her senior screening at our local vet. She had a full exam, and the IDEXX SDMA test. I got the results later, and fortunately everything looks good, and there are no indicators that anything is wrong. Since it's National Senior Pet Month, my vet was offering a good special on senior check-ups (I saved R570!), which other vets might be doing this month, so it's worth checking with them.
How to look after senior pets
A new website www.SeniorPets.co.za is all about caring for the senior members of the family. It’s packed with expert advice, inspiration and useful tools including how to correctly calculate your pet’s age in human years.
- Most importantly, go to the vet for a senior health check and ask for an IDEXX SDMA test.
- Switch to a food specifically formulated for senior pets, it can help them live longer and make a huge difference to their wellbeing. New Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d + Mobility is now available at vets in South Africa. Developed after more than a decade of research on ageing and the impact of nutrients on cell function, it combines Hill’s very best in nutritional science to help senior cats and dogs remain fit, active and healthy for longer.
- Have clean water easily available at all times and monitor water intake. Dehydration can damage the kidneys.
- Several small meals a day may be easier on an older pet’s digestion. But avoid overfeeding – obesity can lead to numerous health problems and can shorten a pet’s life.
- Try to make your home more comfortable e.g. easy access to a warm bed, litter tray, food and water bowls; non-slippery floor surfaces; using ramps or steps as needed.
- Regular grooming including brushing the teeth and trimming the nails as needed.
- Consistent, gentle exercise and play is good for mind and body.
- Lavish them with love and attention.