A bit like the NHS sends us a nudge when we reach the age of 40 (or was that just me??) to have a check-over, it is worth taking your pet to be checked at your vets annually (or more depending on what your vet advises) and to call them if you notice any changes in your pet’s behaviour, actions, vocalisation, toileting, eating or drinking habits, weight loss, symptoms of pain, changes to their body.
They may even wish to do ‘senior profile’ bloodwork when there are concerns to assess certain criteria which can indicate conditions like kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and more. This is to monitor your pet’s health, not to line their pockets.
Give your pet a once-over yourself, checking their:
– Ears (no discharge or unusual changes or they are not shaking their head or scratching their ears a lot)
– Eyes (e.g. whether their third eyelid is down, their eye appears cloudy or other changes)
– Weight – you can weigh yourself on your scales, and then hold them in your arms (if they’re a cat or small dog), weigh again and subtract the two. Or they may be happy to stand on your scales if they are bigger than you can handle. Alternatively, your vets have weighing scales, which I am sure they will not mind you popping in to use.
– Claws (for trimming purposes)
– Drinking/eating/toileting – observe these so you are familiar with their habits, and would therefore be more likely to notice if something changes.
– Nose (for any discharge or changes in the nostrils, appearance, scabs, etc.)
– Bottom (checking for any redness, or signs of changes to their toileting, like loose stools)
– Teeth/mouth (check for plaque, changes to their gums, resorptive lesions, cracked teeth, bad breath, changes in breath and so on)
– Coat (check for any matts that could be in places they can’t get to. Check the condition of the coat – has it changed – greasy, dry, flaky. Can you feel any lumps or bumps, see any changes on the skin under the coat, etc.)
It’s not that uncommon for me to look closely at a cat’s poo daily to just do a quick check for changes when they are elderly, and especially if they have a medical condition e.g. blood, change in colour, or feel how hard it is. Nor is it uncommon for me to check whether the smell in their ears is getting less, lol, if they have an ear condition for instance, which is exactly what i had to do with Panda.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal, some of this you can do when you are stroking them, cuddling them, or at other times that may be appropriate to the observation. If you don’t feel confident doing a check-over, then ask your veterinary team if a vet nurse can show you how to do this safely, and what is best to keep a check on, unique to your pet and their overall health.
My Pet is Drinking ‘A Lot’
I have even measured the water intake by using a jug and the water bowl to be able to tell a vet how much they are drinking in one sitting because saying ‘they are drinking a lot’ just doesn’t cut it – the vet and I may both have different perceptions of what ‘a lot’ is and what it can mean, given they are a vet with years of medical veterinary training and I am not!
When cats have hyperthyroidism, they often become more vocal, but this can also happen with cognitive deficit, where they just forget where you are, they are and they can be real wailers when they do it! So if your cat is a lot more vocal than they normally were, ring your vet for advice. Hyperthyroid cats often have weight loss too, but that can be indicative of other changes as well, so again check with your vet. I am not a vet so I cannot diagnose.
Start Them Young
Hopefully if you have done a check-over with your pet from when you got them, or raised them from a kitten/pup perhaps, they will be more accepting of you doing this.
Phoebe used to get resorptive lesions on her teeth, which appeared as the tiniest red dot that was hard to pick up, so after the first few, I made more of a point of checking her teeth and mouth. She used to get ear mites when young, so the same check was taken.
My foster, Panda, was 20yrs old, and he had ear, eye and kidney conditions, along with a touch of arthritis, so he had to be nursed daily and I used to wipe the sleep from his eyes and give him a onceover with a pet wet wipe, as he struggled to groom himself when he first came and needed the extra help. He was my inspiration for this series ‘things to consider for your elderly pet’.
Be as observant as you can, and monitor your elderly pet. the more you know them, the better. If you are concerned in any way, phone your vets for advice. It is better to monitor their health and catch things early and deal with them or manage them.