Maryland Veterinary Medical Association

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Caring for Your Aging Pet

As pets get older, they develop signs of aging just like people. Older pets can develop many different conditions including kidney and heart disease, dental disease, arthritis and cataracts. It is important for owners to be aware of these conditions so they can watch for signs that these conditions are starting to develop.

Dental Care is Key

The most common problem is dental disease. Dental disease develops when food builds up on your petís teeth. This food mixes with the saliva in your petís mouth to form tartar or plaque. Plaque usually has a dark green or grey color and adheres to the teeth. Over time, tartar builds up and cuts in the gum. The gum then starts to recede and an infection develops.

As your pet ages, you may need to brush its teeth as well. When your pet is young, rub your finger or a tooth brush on its teeth regularly so it becomes accustomed to this activity at an early age. When the time comes to brush, ask your veterinarian about the flavored tooth pastes available that will make the job easier and more fun.

Heart Healthy Advice

Most heart disease develops when the heart is required to pump blood through more tissue than that for which it was designed. Obesity has become a major contributor to heart disease over the last 10 years. The more overweight your pets is, the more its heart must do to pump blood to all of the bodyís tissues. Step one in reducing the chance of heart disease is feeding your pet a healthy diet to keep it at its optimum weight.

Light exercise is also important. Make sure your pet exercises regularly. Short, frequent walks or one long walk three times a week is enough to keep the heart in shape. It will help to control weight gain as well

Tips for Healthy Joints

Arthritis can also develop as a result of your pet being overweight. While obesity isnít the only cause of arthritis, it does affect the frequency and severity of the disease. Other causes of arthritis are excessive running, hard aggressive exercise and individual diseases such as Lyme disease.

Long-distance running can keep your pet in shape but, over time, can wear down the cartilage in weight-bearing joints. Also, aggressive exercise such as Frisbee and ball chasing can strain the hips, knees and shoulders. The sudden turns at full speed can produce sprains and torn ligaments. Limit this kind of activity. Allow your pets to enjoy themselves, but donít overstress their joints.

For aging pets, proper diet and light exercise are very important. Avoid obesity by feeding the correct amount of a quality food. Then, make sure your pet exercises regularly. This will help your pet live a longer, healthier life. 

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Maryland Veterinary Medical Association l PO Box 5407 l Annapolis, MD 21403
phone: 410-268-1311 l fax: 410-268-1322