As pets age their metabolism changes, their activity level tends to change, their immune system changes, and the wear and tear of a long life starts to noticeably affect the heart, the kidneys, the joints, the muscles, the brain, the eyes, the gums, and well, pretty much everything.
As loving owners we can anticipate these changes and take certain health measures in order to keep our aging pets as comfortable, happy, and healthy as possible. For as long as possible.
These preventive health measures include:
1. Twice yearly wellness exams designed to detect and discuss problems early enough to make a positive difference. At our hospital, the midyear wellness exam is very inexpensive. It's important to see our patients often enough to have a good "feel" for them and to monitor problems. And remember that pets age about 7 times faster than humans making fairly frequent check ups even more important. Click here to go to our pages about wellness and preventive medicine
2. Senior Screening tests for detecting early stage kidney and other diseases. With simple blood tests we can detect liver problems, pancreatitis, hidden infections, anemia, thyroid problems, diabetes, and most important... since it is all too common; kidney disease.
3. Chest, spine, abdominal, and pelvis radiographs to look for heart disease, lung disease, arthritis, spinal diseases, stones, and cancer. We recommend screening radiographs for both cats and dogs for any pets over 10 years old.
The fee for everything involved including light anesthesia if needed is $85 and with our amazing digital x-ray machine we get great definition. It's a really good diagnostic tool.
4. Dental Prophylactic Cleaning, polishing, and inspection when needed. If you don't already know how important oral health is to overall health, please click here to go to our pages about dental health. When and how often professional cleaning is needed differs from pet to pet and depends mostly on genetic luck, on age, and whether or not you've made an effort to use any of the oral hygiene pet products that help keep your pet's gums and teeth healthy.
5. Special Diets: Many of the problems that are associated with aging are greatly improved or prevented with the right diet. That's the focus of this page and we will discuss the several excellent diets designed for older pets with different problems in just a few seconds
7. Supplements: The health market is over saturated with supplements claiming to help with the problems of aging. The supplement market is also, for the most part, unregulated by the FDA, so there are lots of ineffective, poor quality, and plain bogus products being aggressively sold.
On the other hand, some supplements are not only legitimate medications of high quality but quite often are successful at improving the health and comfort of your pets.
Diets we may recommend for older pets
Canine Hill's J/D Joint Diet: This diet is well designed for middle aged and older dogs that are overweight with moderate to advanced arthritis. Hill's J/D diet is a low calorie, moderate-high fiber diet with extra high amounts of omega fatty acids and glucosamine added. The high levels of omega fatty acids are good for heart, skin, and kidney health as well as arthritis. This diet works well enough that many dogs on this diet are able to get off their arthritic pain medications. Available in dry and canned forms for dogs only.
Canine or Feline Hill's T/D Tarter Control diet: This is a unique food. The kibble has a patented fiber matrix that acts like floss and helps remove tarter and plaque from the teeth. The kibble doesn't crumble when chewed like a typical kibble... the tooth sinks into the kibble a little like caramel allowing the fibers to rub against the tooth and gums. This diet is dramatically superior in cleaning teeth than other brands claiming to aid in oral health and has earned the VOHC (veterinary oral health council) seal for controlling plaque and tarter. It works.
Also unique is that this otherwise low calorie and high fiber kibble has the dietary fat portion of the diet sprayed on the surface of the kibble. The significance of this is that most pets LOVE the taste of this otherwise high fiber food. It tastes so good, in fact, that if you don't use Hill's T/D as your pet's main diet, then you should get some to use as low calorie, teeth cleaning treats.
This diet is an excellent choice for middle aged to 13 year old cats and dogs with any gum and dental health issues that don't need Kidney diets. And it's great as a low cost treat for all age pets as an aid in oral health.
Canine or Feline Hill's K/D (Kidney Diet)
or Hill's G/D (Geriatric Diet): Designed for really old cats and dogs with both heart and kidney problems. Available in both canned and dry forms. Most pets over 14 years old should be on G/D or K/D diet to minimize blood pressure, fluid retention, and stress on the kidneys and heart. These two very similar diets have reduced phosphorus levels that slow the progression of kidney disease and lots of Omega 3 fatty acid which helps with circulation. K/D also has added buffers that counteract metabolic acidosis, something that is important in pets with kidney disease. These diets are designed to minimize muscle wasting without challenging the kidneys with low quality proteins. In addition, this diets contains the right levels of B-complex vitamins needed by older patients, anti-oxidants, and soluble fiber designed to minimize serum urea nitrogen. Both G/D and K/D are available for both cats and dogs and in both dry and canned forms.
We recommend K/D diet for any age pet with confirmed kidney disease. Kidney patients on K/D diet live 30% longer and with much higher quality lives than those patients fed other diets.
We recommend either G/D or K/D diets for all really old patients over 13 years of age, even if they don't yet have detectable kidney disease. The main difference between these diets is that many pets prefer the taste of G/D, and that the K/D diet has added buffers to prevent metabolic acidosis in pets with advanced kidney disease. These are the best designed diets on the market for pets in the last stage of life.
Canine Hill's B/D Brain Diet: This diet is designed for those very old pets showing signs of senility. This diet has added anti-oxidants and added omega 3 fatty acids. It has added lipoic acid and carnitine which maintaine mitochondrial health. To maintain cardiac and kidney health in old patients, this diet is formulated with reduced phosphorus, proteins, and sodium. This diet is available in dry form only by special order.
Phosphate binders are especially important for pets that refuse low phosphate renal diets.
Lean Treats: ideal as treats for over weight pets of any age, but also good for older pets with sensitive digestion, kidney disease, heart disease, pancreatitis or other conditions where we try to avoid high fat treats.
Dental Chews: We have several types of delicious chews designed to remove plaque and tarter and keep gums healthy.
Hill's T/D Tarter Control Diet: This diet is described above with the other diets we recommend for older pets. But this diet is so good tasting, that we also recommend it as a very low cost, low calorie treat for both cats and dogs
Supplements we often recommend to help make older patients healthier and happier are discussed below and to your left:
FoxNest Joint Support Chews:
Cosaquin, Dasuquin and SynoviFlex are first rate products containing high quality glucosamine, chondroitin, anti-oxidants, and MSM and very helpful in dogs with joint diseases like arthritis. These 3 brands are much superior to the typical glucosamine products you buy from Walmarts and other stores. When it comes to glucosamine, quality and effectiveness vary WIDELY.
But our Joint Support Chews are even more effective because they also contain therapeutic doses of high quality omega3 fatty acids. They're less expensive too. And most important, we see a high rate of obvious improvement in our patients. We see a big improvement with 10-14 days in about half our arthritic patients, a fair improvement in another 25%, and unfortunately no obvious improvement in the other 25%. But these results are much better than any other glucosamine product we've tried.
Joint and Urinary Support for Older Cats:
We have a similar product... tuna flavored... for cats that slows down the rate of joint deterioration, increases joint health, and helps with inflammation and discomfort. This same product also helps lubricate and soothe the urethra
Duralactin for Cats and Dogs:
Duralactin contains MicroLactin®, a patented dried milk protein from the milk of hyperimmunized cows. MicroLactin® contains factors that appear to block cytokines to inhibit neutrophil participation in the inflammatory response. This reduces inflammation and makes dogs and cats feel good. I recommend it for pets with arthritis, chronic illness, cancer, ear infections, bladder infections, and after surgery or trauma. I also use this product mixed with lysine for young cats with colds. This new medication is super safe, flavored, inexpensive, and very effective in a lot of pets. I love it. Safe and appropriate to use in combination with other pain medications if needed. The Cat version of Duralactin ... which we also recommend for small breed dogs ... has added omega fatty acids and comes in a flavored liquid.
For both cats and dogs, using Duralactin in combination with either our Canine Joint support Chews or our Feline Joint Support Tuna Flavored Powder is both safe and appropriate and the results are often awesome.
Rimadyl Chewable Tablets For Dogs with Arthritic Pain: There are about 5 brands of cox-1 inhibitor medications available that are far superior in pain relief and safety for long term use than aspirin, Advil, ibuprofen, and Aleve. (note; none of these products including Rimadyl are safe for long term use in cats). Rimadyl (approved for people in Europe) seems to be the very best pain medication there is safe enough for everyday use in most dogs. Like all potent medications, Rimadyl has some potential negative side effects, the most common being GI irritation and elevated liver enzymes so we recommend a $12 liver screening test before starting long term Rimadyl therapy.
Why go to trouble? Because if your dog has obvious pain and stiffness due to joint disease you won't believe the difference Rimadyl makes in most dogs. It's important to keep arthritic patients active and moving or the condition only gets worse. Rimadyl lets arthritic patients get up and move without pain and it really helps.
Adequan & B-12 Injections for Dogs: For really old dogs that are stiff, sore, arthritic, and just not feeling well, it's amazing how much better they feel and get around after giving an injection of Adequan and B-12. This is not normal, approved, veterinary medicine. Adequan & B-12 is used by equine race track vets to help horses with joint inflammation run better and it's a trick I learned while working as a young vet doing horse work. These injections are fairly expensive at $20-30 a pop depending on the size of your dog and need to be repeated every 1-4 weeks. We often do this just once or twice to get old patients feeling better when they're down.
Multivitamins with added Omega Fatty Acids: We have chewable multi-vitamins with added Omega Fatty Acids. Very appropriate for general use in middle aged and older pets as a supplement. The only negative about any dry pet food or chewable tablet, is that only a modest amount of fatty acid containing oils can be added without making the product too oily. That's why the most effective products are liquid supplements. But often the modest amounts added in the dry diets and tablets are enough to make a positive difference. Especially if you give both.
Multi-Vitamins: Most diets have more than adequate amounts of vitamins for normal, healthy pets. But for military and working dogs, pets that are nursing, sick pets, and older pets, giving additional vitamins can help a lot and maximize performance and vitality. We have inexpensive, high quality, chewable multi-vitamin tablets for cats and dogs.
Dr Ross' Bull, Stud, & Rooster Tonic: My secret off label recipe of liver extract, geritol, vitamins, and viagra. This is for pets that are very anemic, weak, debilitated, or very old. Just $7 a bottle, but watch out. (Note: I had to stop adding the viagra for reasons I won't go into here.)
Proin for incontinence: Just to let you know we have a prescription, chewable, inexpensive tablet if your older pet urinates while sleeping, leaks urine, or otherwise have trouble controlling it's bladder.
S Adenosyl or SAMe: Enteric coated supplement for older pets with liver disease, depression, poor appetite, low energy, and senility. This is "brain food".
S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine and L-Cysteine are amino acids crucial of proper brain and liver function. Other ingredients include milk thistle, taurine, vitamin E, Zinc, and B vitamins.
On This Page
A discussion about Preventive Medicine for older pets and the diets and supplements we recommend to keep them comfortable, happy, and healthy.
On Other pages we discuss the special diets and supplements use to treat:
Supplements we often recommend to help make older patients healthier and happier:
B-12 Vitamin Injections for old Cats or Dogs: Inexpensive
B-12 injections make a lot of old cats and dogs feel good for 3-4 weeks at a time. B-12 is made naturally by the liver in young and healthy mammals and plays a role in stimulating metabolism and perking you up after waking. But B-12 levels fall when mammals become ill, old, or if they aren't eating well. We routinely give B-12 injections to sick patients in our hospital. If you have a pet older than 12 years old, the next time you bring in your pet for a routine wellness exam, ask us about giving a $5 injection of B-12 to see if your pet doesn't act perkier and better for the next few weeks. It's harmless, inexpensive, and for reasons no one really understands, seems to work much better than the same medication given orally.
Omega Fatty Acids for Cats or Dogs:
A good many of the special diets and supplements designed for older pets or for treating diseases already contain added Omega Fatty Acids. That's because they play an important role in the health, healing and flexibility of blood vessels, skin, and the mucosal layers or surfaces of the bladder and urethra. Omega fatty acids of the right type and ratio are important to the health and repair of the brain, the eyes, the kidney, and heart.
In addition to the special diets and supplements like Feline Duralactin that already contain therapeutic levels of high quality Omega Fatty Acids, we also offer several choices of Omega Fatty Acid supplements containing different combinations of cold water fish oils, sunflower oil, olive oils, and other oils known to contain healthy ratios of poly-unsaturated Omega 3, Omega 6, and Omega 9 fatty acids.
We offer several choices of Omega Fatty Acid Products. Most of them are marketed for shedding, skin allergies, and other skin problems but they are also excellent for internal health in middle aged and older pets.
Virbac OmegaDerm for Cats or Dogs: Packaged in pre-measured daily doses of oils you squirt on your pet's food every day. Our highest quality, most successful Omega Fatty Acid product for shedding, skin disease, or skin allergies.
Allerderm Omegaderm is a potent nutritional supplement providing the best essential fatty acids (EFA) from the omega 6 and omega 3 families. Omegaderm is formulated in an ideal 5:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. Omega -Derm helps in the control of various dermatological conditions in dogs particularly in allergies. Ingredients: Sunflower seed oil, cold sea fish oils, and evening primrose oil.
Optima 365 for Cats or Dogs: A less expensive competitor to OmegaDerm with a different ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 claiming to be better for inflammation and shedding. I can't really tell which one works better but some pets prefer the taste of one over the other so we offer both.
Optima 365 has 33% less calories than other brands. Provides the essential 10:1 ratio of omega 6 and 3 fatty acids ideal for skin and coat conditioning. Highly palatable. Contains Antioxidants Vitamins A and E and other essential vitamins and minerals. Fortified with serine and proline for healthy skin and shiny coat.
Ingredients include Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Non-Fat Dry Milk Solids, Olive Pomace Oil, Sunflower Oil, Vitamin E, Evening Primrose Oil, and Borage Oil
Epakitin Flavored Phosphate Binder for Dogs & Cats:
Phosphorous levels rise with kidney disease which initiates a destructive cycle further reducing kidney functions. All prescription renal diets have reduced phosphates to help prevent this problem. But, by adding medications that further reduce serum phosphorus has been shown to improve quality and quality of life in kidney patients. Phosphate binders are available in tablets but they are notoriously bad tasting.
But luckily, new on the market is Epakitin which has helped a lot of my patients and has the advantage of tasting good... an important plus especially for cats.
Vetasyl Flavored Fiber Capsules: Flavored fiber capsules to aid in regular bowel movements, improved digestion, and less gas. Good for either older cats or dogs.
FoxNest Hair Ball Treats: Intestinal lubricant for any age cat with slow bowel motility due to ingested hair or old age. What makes our brand special is the taste; most cats go nuts over these treats.
DigestRite digestive Enzymes and Probiotic: an effective all purpose flavored powder containing enzymes that break down starches, proteins, and fats to aid in digestion for older animals combined with Probiotic "good" bacteria cultures that keep the gut healthy and functioning. Good for cats and dogs. Digest-Rite is a source of live, viable,
microorganisms and digestive enzymes, beneficial amino acids and Yucca.
It helps to re-establish natural digestive balance, controls gas, stool-eating, weight problems and other digestive disorders.
FortiFlora Probiotics made by Purina: Flavored cultures of "good" bacteria help keep the gut healthy and functioning well. Designed for pets that get frequent diarrhea associated with stress, antibiotic therapy, or are being treated with medications like Rimadyl that sometimes irritate the bowel. Available in either feline or canine flavors that you add to the diet.
Baths and Grooming: Just a reminder that older pets may need more frequent grooming to remove old hair and damaged skin, clean out pores and glands, and moisturize the dermis. We have a wonderful groomers working on site and for do it yourselfers, we have excellent medicated shampoos and moisturizing shampoos (Hylyt) for sale at the clinic that are excellent for older pets.
Elimiodor Spray: Older pets often have body odor. This enzyme spray breaks down the sulfur chemical bond that gives "doggy" and other pet odors such a strong smell. This spray can be used directly on pets and also on furniture, bedding and so forth. It works.
Don't Forget the Love