Pets show many signs of aging, such as white hairs, thinner and less elastic skin, changes in hearing and vision, changes in appetite and thirst, sleeping more or less, stiffness when getting up in the morning and bad breath, to name but a few. Many people will just accept these changes as "just getting old", which may be the case, but sometimes they are signs of diseases which can be managed very well, especially if the process is caught early. I will write more in-depth information about these conditions in later blogs, but this is a little overview of what can happen.
Sometimes, changes can be subtle, especially if it is a slowly developing condition, like arthritis or kidney disease. My own venerable lady (Abbie, pictured) used to follow me wherever I went, then, a couple of months ago, stopped coming upstairs with me at night. Stroking her, I realised that she had back pain. She now has a monthly injection to deal with this, and is much more like she used to be.
Eating less or not at all is one of the most common reasons why people take their cat to a vet. Some animals are just fussy about flavours and textures of food, but if an older animal which has previously been a good eater is less keen on their food, it is worth having them checked over. I cannot count the number of animals I have seen over the years that haven't eaten for days, and the problem lies with the teeth (I have even seen a cow once with a loose tooth which made her lose her appetite)
Drinking more can be a sign of many things, including diabetes, kidney or liver disease, over- or underproduction of cortisol or thyroid hormones. These conditions are manageable if found early enough. Buddy, my Yorkshire Terrier, is diabetic, but with the correct food and insulin injections, he is living the life of Reilly!
Skin and hair changes are often genuine old age change, but again, some can indicate underlying diseases, so thinner skin, changes in skin colour, hair loss or more frequent skin infections could suggest underlying disease processes which can be managed. In cats, the inability to groom because of arthritis shows itself with an odd coat texture and longer nails.
So, let's notice the changes in our pets as they age, deal with the issues facing them and they can live longer, happier, healthier lives.