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Is Fido or Fluffy ill, or just getting older?

Your dog or cat is less energetic and playful, sleeping much of the time, is losing weight, and the backbone and hips are more noticeable. Does your pet have an illness or is it just a consequence of advancing age?

The signs of aging are usually very gradual in pets, just as they are in humans. When a pet has a rather sudden or rapid decrease in activity level, rapid weight loss (especially if appetite is decreased), or any other signs that occur relatively quickly, an illness or disease may be the cause rather than advancing age. A pet owner should never attribute somewhat quick deterioration in activity, appetite, or weight to aging alone. As in humans, medical problems become more likely as pets get older, and in many cases, if diagnosed and treated sooner rather than later these health problems can be cured or controlled.

If your older pet is declining, an examination may reveal a very treatable cause that you might have attributed to just old age. As well as lethargy, decreased appetite, increased sleeping, and weight loss, other signs to look for are increased or decreased drinking and urination, increased appetite (especially in older cats), vomiting, diarrhea, lameness, weakness, or other signs of pain, coughing or other respiratory symptoms, and behavioral changes.

If you are not sure, be proactive and have your pet examined! Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence for veterinarians to see pets with advanced disease and/or other medical problems that could have been corrected if seen earlier but on presentation are too ill to respond to treatment. “I just thought it was due to old age” is sometimes heard from clients whose dog or cat is in advanced kidney, liver, or heart failure. In many cases, what would have been treatable or curable, restoring the pet to a greatly improved quality of life, can not be addressed in advanced stages. Sadly, many pets are euthanized because they were not brought to the veterinarian until their condition was too advanced to treat.

The good news is that most illnesses and diseases in older pets can be treated, controlled, or cured to restore your dog or cat to optimum health for their age. Just as longevity in humans has improved with medical advances and an emphasis on early diagnosis and treatment of age related health problems, a proactive approach to your geriatric pets can help assure the best quality of life and longevity for your canine and feline family members.

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