Aging affects all body systems. The skin becomes drier, less elastic, and more prone to infections and tumors. The teeth develop tartar buildup, worn down enamel, and may abscess at the roots; gums recede and may become inflamed secondary to tooth problems; oral tumors and polyps increase in frequency. Digestive ability and liver function diminish. Obstructive lung disease, chronic bronchitis and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections result from diminished respiratory function.
Heart disease occurs more frequently with resultant coughing, exercise intolerance and fluid accumulation in the lungs and abdomen. Chronic kidney failure is very common, especially in aged cats. Hormonal problems also develop in older animals-these include (but are not limited to): hypothyroidism with resultant lethargy and weight gain; hyperthyroidism with resultant weight loss, rough hair coat, and behavioral changes; diabetes mellitus; excess estrogen production and hair loss resulting from testicular tumors; estrogen deficiency and resultant urinary incontinence; Cushing's disease from pituitary and adrenal gland tumors.
Loss of bone and muscle mass, with proportional increased fat mass occurs, along with arthritis and sometimes, degenerative spinal changes, which lead to weakness, stiffness, and difficulty in rising. Eyesight and hearing may diminish. Cataracts, glaucoma, and nasal/ocular discharges occur more frequently. Tumors and cancer are diagnosed much more frequently in older animals. Senility may develop in older animals-possible exacerbating causes may include less oxygen in the blood secondary to heart and lung problems, toxins present in the blood secondary to diminished liver and kidney function, chronic ear infections affecting the inner ear, and cerebrovascular accidents otherwise known as strokes.
With young animals our primary concerns consist of making sure your pets are protected against infectious diseases with routine vaccinations, and to check they are parasite-free by regular fecal examinations, dewormings, and heart worm tests. Emergency situations involving younger animals commonly consist of fight, trauma, or poison victims.
Geriatric pets, on the other hand, need close monitoring to keep age related changes in check. Blood differentials and serum chemistries help us to detect infections, anemia, kidney and liver problems, diabetes, and thyroid imbalances, among other problems. Urinalysis is used to help diagnose kidney disease, bladder infection, tumors of the urinary tract system, and diabetes. Chest x-rays are used to look for lung disease such as infection or tumors, and heart disease such as heart worm infection or congestive heart failure. Electrocardiographs (ECG) are run to categorize heart disease and help define treatment. Fecal examinations are performed to find intestinal parasites, which may be contracted from the environment.
We know as your animal ages there are many changes that you begin to notice. This is why we ask you to fill out a detailed history form-to highlight your areas of concern. Based on your concerns, our physical examination findings, and test results, we will formulate a treatment plan designed to minimize the adverse affects of aging and maximize your pet's life span.