It isn’t just humans whose lives are getting longer – our pets, too, are enjoying longer lives. That means they are increasingly susceptible to the diseases of old age. Here’s what to watch for in your dog or cat.
Arthritis in an animal is not very different from arthritis in a human. Damaged cartilage leads to inflammation of a joint. Look for changes in gait, reluctance to move, sleeping more, irritability and other factors.
Watch for excessive need for rest, panting, bumps or lumps, bleeding and/or loss of appetite. Also keep an eye out for sores that are slow to heal. Cancer is the leading cause of death in older dogs. Cats are susceptible as well.
Gingivitis (gum inflammation) usually begins the process that leads to periodontitis (gum disease). Bacteria forms tartar, then plaque. That bacteria can infect bone and travel into the dog or cat’s system.
Kidney disease occurs when your pet’s kidney doesn’t filter out toxins very well. Toxins that should be expelled are allowed to build up in the bloodstream.
Diabetes is caused by the pancreas’ poor production of insulin. Dogs over 8 or 9 years old are especially susceptible to diabetes. Dogs and cats may need insulin shots for the rest of their lives once they contract the disease,
If your dog starts behaving awkwardly – bumping into objects, for instance – it might be a sign of dementia. So is forgetfulness of toys, bathroom habits, his or her own name, or staring blankly for long periods.
Because their other senses are so acute, blindness isn’t as debilitating in dogs as in most other animals. Watch for the formation of cataracts over their eyes.
Older cats are particularly susceptible to heart disease, especially cardiomyopathy and degenerative valvular disease. Both lead to the degeneration of the hearts muscle.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid hormone builds up to dangerous levels. Watch for your cat’s weight loss despite increased appetite, excess water intake and excess urination.