Pets are living longer and healthier lives now, due to improved nutrition and increased knowledge about their unique requirements and problems.

When we consider that a year in a dog or cat’s life can be equivalent to eight human years, we can see how our pet’s health can deteriorate rapidly as they age.

Many of the conditions that older pets suffer from are treatable if caught early enough and some are even curable. So, what changes do owners need to monitor? It would be impossible to list all of the symptoms of geriatric illnesses, however some of the most commonly noticed signs are:

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Drinking (and urinating) more
  • Changes in appetite (decreased or increased)
  • Changes in coat condition
  • Stiffness upon rising
  • Inability to jump
  • Limping
  • Coughing or panting excessively
  • Lack of energy
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea

Kidney and liver disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, senility and heart disease are all common in both humans and animals as they age. Just like in human medicine, treatment of geriatric diseases in animals can not only extend but also hugely improve the quality of life.

Many changes that people associate with normal ageing in pets are actually signs of illness that can be treated. Vets recommend dogs and cats over the age of eight have check ups at least every 6 months. Even this is similar to a 64 year old person only having a check up every four years. Eastgate offer free 40 minute health checks with a veterinary nurse every 6 months in pets over eight years of age.

Diabetes is one of the diseases that is common in both people and animals. The main sign that someone has this illness is increased drinking and urinating. Diabetes week in humans begins on the 9th of June. To coincide with this, we are setting up specialised diabetes nurse clinics which will help advise people with diabetic pets. It can be very scary to have a pet with diabetes, but with support from medical professionals, an owner can help their pet to live a normal, active life. We screen for diabetes in our Golden Oldie health checks with a free urine test, as the earlier the disease is diagnosed the easier it is to stabilise. Cats may even revert back to non-diabetic if treated before damage to the pancreas becomes irreversible. As with all diseases, prevention is better than cure, so ensuring your pet maintains (or attains, if a little porky) an ideal body weight is the best way to avoid having to inject them with insulin twice daily.

We all want to keep our pets with us for as long as possible. Just like with people, the best way to do this is to: screen for common diseases as they age, feed them appropriately, keep them fit and love them.