As pets age they experience a decreased ability to digest and metabolize proteins and fats. Older pets need more and better quality protein. Wet foods are ideal for older cats and dogs – this includes food in cans or pouches, as well as frozen or dehydrated raw diets. They are easier to digest, and much more palatable. Adding digestive enzymes and probiotics will help your pet get the most nutrition from food, and there are specific digestive support remedies available for more severe issues.
Just as with humans, companion animals show signs of arthritis as they age. You may notice your dog getting up more slowly after a nap. Your kitty may not jump up on high surfaces as often as she used to. What is usually considered “slowing down,” or “a little stiff,” or even sleep disturbances (because they just can’t get comfortable) may be a sign of significant joint disease. Extra weight makes arthritis that much worse, so an older dog or cat may need a good weight loss program. A good quality protein diet helps protect lean muscle mass while shedding fat. Acupuncture and chiropractic care can offer significant relief for arthritic pain and inflammation. Integrative treatments along with proper weight management, joint protectors and moderate exercise are additional keys to comfort.
The kidneys have a lot of responsibility, the bodies of animals produce cell waste all day, everyday, and the wastes circulate to the kidneys to be dissolved in water, filtered out and excreted through urination. Over time, kidney cells die and are replaced by scar tissue. Only when 75% of kidney function is irreversibly lost will signs of kidney disease occur. Chronic Renal Failure is very common in older cats, but dogs can also develop the disease.
One thing you’ll hear from friends and even from vets is that protein is bad for the kidneys. But dietary protein does not directly cause the development of kidney disease in dogs or cats. In fact, in older pets without pre-existing kidney disease, canned food or other high protein, high moisture diets are recommended.
Antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil or cod liver oil) are proven to be highly beneficial for pets with kidney disease. There is new evidence that probiotics can also be helpful. There are also specific kidney support supplements that may assist in slowing down the process of chronic disease.
This is the most common problems that vets see in dogs and cats. Statistics closely correlate with the fact that 80 percent of dogs show significant oral disease by age three, and three quarters of all middle-aged dogs have irreversible gum disease. Many dogs and most cats are relatively stoic about pain, and problems such as abscessed teeth and oral tumors can easily be missed. Gum disease in dogs has been linked in a new study to the occurrence of canine heart disease. We also know that bacteria associated with dental diseases can affect the liver and other organs. One solution is to take your older pet in for a thorough checkup twice a year instead of just once. Try brushing your pet’s teeth at home, or offer a high quality dental bone or toy for dogs or dental treats for cats to help minimize plaque.
Cognitive Dysfunction (Senility)
Both dogs and cats can develop cognitive (learning and memory) problems as they get older, which are increasingly recognized as a form of dementia. More and more, pet owners and veterinarians are realizing the need to help animals not only stay physically healthy, but also maintain good brain function during their senior years. A few things to watch for when suspecting signs of an aging brain: increased amount of sleep, decreased awareness of surroundings, loss of training especially house soiling or intermittent anxiety expressed through panting, pacing, moaning or shivering.
The bond people feel with their pets is emotional as well as behavioral. Pet owners want to preserve the mental sharpness of their companion animals for as long as possible. Antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids (cod liver oil is best for this condition) are valuable in keeping your dog’s brain functioning at its best. Additionally, there are supplements and herbals that support brain function and memory.
Half of dogs over age 10 will develop cancer, the most frightening diagnosis of all. At its most basic, cancer is the result of immune system failure – itself the result of poor diet, over-vaccination, genetics, and environmental factors. Keeping the immune system in peak condition is, of course, fundamental to good health overall, but given the role it may play in so many degenerative diseases, including cancer, is just good sense. Besides exercise, fresh air, and great nutrition, there are supplements especially designed for immune support. Antioxidants and Omega-3s are vital to the immune system. There are also ancient healing remedies such as herbs and medicinal mushrooms that have been used for generations or even centuries to deal with serious health issues.
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