Help your pets enjoy growing older

web-pet-graphicRecent headlines about Guinness World Records naming a new “World’s Oldest Cat” has sparked some questions about the longevity of pets.

A 26-year-old feline named Corduroy was named the current record holder. Corduroy was born Aug. 1, 1989. and grew up on a farm in Oregon.

The oldest cat ever recorded was a 38-year-cat named Creme Puff (Aug. 3, 1967-Aug. 6, 2005), according to the 2010 edition of Guinness World Records.

Guinness has two dogs listed as  making it past 29 years of age: Max and Bluey.

One of the reasons for regular preventative health care is to maximize the quality of life in your pet’s “golden years.” Parasite control, good nutrition, exercise and dental care help make most of the senior pet years.

As pets age, they are more prone to kidney and liver disease, thyroid disease, arthritis, dental problems and tumors.

Some changes that pet owners should watch out for are:

1. Changes in appetite and weight. As cats get older, they can get hyperthyroidism — their thyroid gland becomes overactive, and they tend to lose weight in spite of a good appetite.  As dogs get older, it is more common for them to become hypothyroid — with a tendency to gain weight.

2. Changes in water intake and urination. As the kidneys become less efficient, they are less able to concentrate the urine to conserve fluid. Most people think of kidney failure as not being able to produce urine, but the first sign of kidney problems is actually increased urination and increased thirst. Diabetes can also cause increased urination and thirstiness. If your pet is hanging out at the water bowl, if the litter box needs to be changed more often, or if  your pet is asking to go outside to urinate more often, it is time to get them checked out.

3. Changes in behavior. Is your pet less willing to go up and down stairs or jump on the couch? Having accidents in the house? Does your pet have decreased tolerance for exercise, which could signal orthopedic or heart problems?

4. Changes in appearance. Any new lumps or bumps?  Cloudy eyes? Bad breath? If so, let your veterinarian know.

A question I am often asked is “How old is my pet in human years?”

A “one size fits all” answer is hard to give, because the breed and size of the pet affects the aging process. Toy breeds of dogs live much longer than giant breeds on average. The average cat lifespan is 12-15 years, with indoor cat’s life expectancy being much longer on average than outdoor cats. (Corduroy is an exception to this rule; he lives on a 160 acre farm.)

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) outlines these life stages for cats.

Kitten — Birth through 6 months
Junior — 7 months through 2 years
Adult — 3 through 6 years
Mature — 7 through 10 years
Senior — 11 through 14 years
Geriatric — 15 or more years

The attached chart  may be interesting to help you compare human versus pet years.

Exercise, nutrition, veterinary care and lots of love will help your pet age gracefully so you can enjoy each other’s company for years to come!

LESLIE YOW, DVM, is a veterinarian with Asheboro Animal Hospital. Send questions for her to criscoe20@hotmail.com.

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