2011-09-02 / Columnists

Paws For A Moment

Until We Find The Fountain Of Youth
Commentary by Karina B. Salvo, MS, DVM

We will all continue to grow old … depressing? Nah! I gotta plan!

As we get “older,” things change; memory fails us at times, bones creek and pop, stairs become harder, “jumping out of bed” is not so easy, much less even thinking about a Zumba or Spin class! The same is true for our elderly pet population.

When is a dog or cat old?

That depends on the pet; we are different as individuals, and so are they. We are seeing older pets more frequently with the advent of in-depth research, advanced care, medical breakthroughs and technologically advanced therapeutics. Many of our older pets require more tender care as they age. There are a variety of ailments that can affect our older pet population such as endocrine, metabolic, vascular, cardiac and joint diseases. Changes that owners tend to take notice of are changes in urinating and drinking habits, vocalizing, changes in socialization with family, exercise intolerance, unusual behavior, and difficulty rising. These are only a few things owners have noticed. A thorough physical exam and lab work is the initial starting point (as it would be for us when we visit our physician!). Full examination, lab work and overall health screenings should be done every six months in many if not most of our elderly pets. We have to remember that their life spans are shorter than ours, and that equates to aging at a faster rate than we do. Age is not a disease!

That being said, certain disease processes occur more often with age. Many of our older animals have phenomenal lab work but have arthritic changes that can alter their quality of life. Arthritis affects most of this population of pets and can be treated with weight management, controlled exercise, joint care supplementation, medical management and now, the latest technology, therapeutic laser! With the winter that past, 95 percent of my patient population is overweight (including my own 16-year-old pit bull!). The extra weight makes it harder to stand, go for a walk, and get up and down the stairs.

This can further complicate arthritis in our older dogs. Although our fancy felines don’t go for walks, they, too, can suffer the effects of arthritis; trouble getting into and out of the litter box, jumping to higher places is a little more difficult, decreased play activity, etc. Increased owner awareness of how well their pet is eating/drinking, ambulating, behavior changes, exercise activity level and overall interaction with the family is an important notation for owners to be more aware of and be able to discuss with their veterinarian.

So what’s the plan? Watching our pets closely for any changes and understanding that a proactive health care plan may not reverse time, but it will certainly improve the time we have with our precious pooches and frisky felines! There are a variety of options available for each pet to fit their family’s lifestyle to include integration of exercise plans, dietary management, natural supplements, non-invasive therapeutic laser therapy and medical therapy.

Fall is only three weeks away and Winter is closely following! Get the dogs out for a walk and enjoy the wonderful weather together! Not only will you get great exercise together, but excellent quality time!

I am privileged to have had the animals I have had in my life and those that still share their lives with me; quantity of life is important, but quality of that life certainly takes a front seat!

Understanding your pet’s health is the foundation to providing the best life for each of our pets! I look forward to meeting my fellow neighbors and building a strong relationship with each of you, working together in creating the healthiest and most fulfilling life for our furry friends ... now and into the future!

I treat each patient as if he or she were my own and I welcome you to call me at any time with any of your questions or concerns, 718-945-2358.

Email me at BelleHarborVet@gmail.com or visit me at www.Belle HarborHouseCalls.com and Facebook!

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