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Caring for Older Pets

As dogs and cats age, they can develop many of the same health problems as aging humans—diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and kidney disease, to name a few. Be observant and ask your veterinarian about any worrisome issues or changes in behavior you notice.

Weight Gain or Loss
Just like people, pets often become less active as they age, setting the stage for weight gain and the accompanying heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Your vet may advise taking Rover for more walks, changing his diet, or feeding him smaller portions. On the other hand, weight loss can also be an indicator of diabetes or other disease, or it could be that your thinner-looking dog has lost muscle mass and is perfectly healthy. Your vet may want to do a blood test to find out what’s behind any noticeable changes in weight.

An annual or semi-annual blood test can determine if your pet has diabetes or liver, thyroid, or kidney disease. Early identification of these diseases can help prevent complications.


Achy joints can be a problem for older pets, so if you notice stiffness or limping, your vet may advise anti-inflammatory or pain medications. It’s also common practice to give older dogs with joint problems supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, but your vet can advise you about what will work best for your pet. Give supplements only under a vet’s supervision. Making your pet’s life more comfortable may include installing a ramp to your car for ease of access or to your bed if he sleeps with you. Try a litter box with lower sides for cats, and treat your aging pet to a gentle massage.

Smelly Breath

If your most loyal pal has unpleasant breath, he or she could be suffering from tooth decay or gum disease, which can cause pain, difficulty chewing, and tooth loss. Treat dental problems promptly to avoid bacterial infections, which are dangerous because they can travel throughout your pet’s body. Your veterinarian may recommend dental work or a cleaning to remove plaque and tartar.

Although pets may require more care as they age, they will love you all the more for the extra attention as they live out their happy lives.

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