Ask the Vet: The veterinarian’s secrets to keeping senior pets healthy

A woman pets a beautiful Labrador retriever
Over the years animal guardians have relied on periodic reminder cards from the veterinarian to keep their pet up-to-date on vaccinations. It’s no secret many veterinarians relied on the “hook” of these reminder cards to also perform checkups on pets during their visit for shots. However, there continues to be increasing awareness of vaccinations remaining effective longer than initially anticipated, as well as the potentially harmful effects of over-vaccinating companion animals. As animal guardians become aware of this, veterinarians must reeducate the public that the principal reason for veterinary evaluations should not be based solely on “shot reminders.”

In fact, aging pets should be taken in for veterinary exams twice each year for thorough physical and oral exams, as well as blood and urine testing to search for early signs of degenerative and organ based diseases.

Keeping pets at ideal weights as they age can lessen the likelihood of obesity-related illnesses including degenerative spinal/joint disease and diabetes in both dogs and cats. Therefore, I recommend feeding aging and senior pets diets made with quality protein sources and low in processed carbohydrates and fat. In addition, I often recommend starch-free diets for pets such as the brands Wysong Epigen and Halo.

Unfortunately a high percentage of adult and senior pets have significant periodontal disease which can lead to diseases of the liver, kidneys and heart. It is important for animal guardians to implement routine dental care. Further, brushing your pet’s teeth can significantly help reduce dental issues.

In both my traditional and holistic practice of veterinary medicine, I recommend that my clients consider the benefits of supplements to help counter the effects of a pet’s declining body function. Since overall health often begins and ends with an optimally functioning digestive tract, I recommend supplementing with quality probiotics and enzymes such as FortiFlora and NaturVet digestive enzymes. As free radical inflammation is often involved in degenerative diseases, it is critical to include antioxidant supplements, such as Proanthozone, as well as Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation. Evidence has shown Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation may help in many areas of a pet’s body, including a healthy skin and coat, heart, kidneys, liver and brain/central nervous system function.

In short, the veterinarian’s secret(s) to helping aging and senior pets is to:

  • Schedule at least two veterinarian visits/checkups each year
  • Modify your pet’s diet
  • Practice routine dental care
  • Supplement with probiotics, antioxidants, and Omega 3
Have pet health questions? For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form.

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  1. Great article, thank you. Currently, my 13 y.o rat terrier is fed Hill’s prescription diet I/D ( Both canned and dry ). What do you think of this particular brand as he ages further? Also, can you recommend a specific brand and dosage size of an omega 3 supplement? rat terrier/ 13 years old / 19 pounds.

  2. I think the ID food is fine Robert. As for fatty acid. My preference is Nordic Naturals pet omega 3 which is dosed at 1 capsule daily for a pet of this weight.

  3. Would be perfect for my furkids trips to the vet 😃

  4. Little Miss Sophia would love this!!!!

  5. I have a 14 year old boarder collie. He is still active for his age. But I have noticed his eye sight is getting bad. He has trouble seeing in bright light. He loves being outside in the sun, but when he is running and playing with the younger dogs he sometimes runs into things. Is there anything I can do to help him with this. He doesn’t over do he knows when to stop, hefinds a place he can see from and watch the other dogs. I have talk to a vet bout his eyes. But he will not do any surgery because of his age. He know what we could do to help him with his eyes. Are there any eye drops I can use? Or something I can add to his food that would help. I don’t really like the vet and his thinking about older dogs. He started telling me when my dog turned 10 years old that we should start thinking about putting him to sleep. Just because he started to slow down, awould get stiff sometimes from over doing.

  6. Hi Terr, and thanks for your question. Feel free to pose your question to our holistic veterinarian directly using our Ask the Vet form. We hope your Border Collie’s golden years are his best ever!
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

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