Getting older…it’s happening to all of us every day, including our pets. And
just like humans, dogs and cats are prone to a number of medical problems as
they get older. With diet, supplements, and extra care, many of these conditions
can be prevented, delayed, or managed, to give your pet the best possible
quality of life throughout the senior years. Here are a few of the health issues
you may run into as your pet ages, and some things you can do treat them
Most older pets eventually develop arthritis. 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 may need a good weight
loss program (older cats tend to lose weight by themselves). A high protein diet
helps protect lean muscle mass while shedding fat. Proper weight and moderate
exercise are the keys to comfort.
Joint protectors and anti-inflammatories can help, and they include glucosamine
and chondroitin sulfate, and MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane); all of which can be
added to wet food. Other herbs and minerals may also be helpful. Antioxidants
provide good anti-inflammatory action and pain relief. It may take 3-5 weeks for
improvement to be noticeable. View
joint support supplements
As they age, pets experience a decreased ability to digest and metabolize
protein and fat that occurs with age. 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 raw diets. They’re easier to digest, and much more
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.
Kidney Disease (Chronic Renal Failure, CRF, or Chronic Kidney Disease, CKD)
The kidneys have a lot of responsibility, and they work hard 24/7. Over time,
cells die and are replaced by scar tissue. Only when 75% of kidney function is
irreversibly lost will signs of kidney disease occur. CRF 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 has nothing whatsoever to do with 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.
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 products available.
This is the most common problems that vets see in dogs and cats. It often begins
by the tender age of 3 - and gets worse from there! Many dogs and most cats are
relatively stoic about pain, and problems such as abscessed teeth and oral
tumors can easily be missed. One solution is to take your older pet in for a
thorough checkup twice a year instead of just once. (But don’t let the vet
vaccinate your older pet, unless the rabies vaccine is required by law.
See our article about vaccinations
for more information.) Try to brush your pet’s teeth at home, or use one of the products that 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 or even
Omega-3 fatty acids (cod liver oil is best for
this condition) are valuable in keeping your pet’s brain functioning at its
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.
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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The articles and information in the Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for
informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product.
The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian.
Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff,
guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care