by A. Grano on September 1st, 2011 at 7:00 am
While we’d all love to turn back the clock and have our pets be puppies and kittens again (fully potty-trained, of course!), unfortunately, they too must deal with the same aging process that we experience. However, there are common conditions that you can help control by implementing preventative health care measures.
In addition, addressing slight problems right away can lead to reduced costs in long-term care, as many diseases are potentially preventable. As diseases advance, the cost of treatment also increases. Therefore, early detection and regular maintenance can go a long way to building a strong foundation for your pet’s health.
Signs to watch for: A decline in energy levels, stiffness, and/or difficulty rising.
Why it’s important: Pain can decrease your pet’s mobility as well as cause changes in conduct-leading to potentially uncharacteristic “snappy” behavior. Thus, managing your pet’s pain levels is very important not only for his or her comfort, but the safety of yourself and your family, especially any small children.
What you can do: Regular exercise is essential for keeping joints flexible and muscles and ligaments strong, and also helps prevent weight problems (which can further aggravate arthritis). Regular moderate exercise rather than sudden bouts of activity will also help to keep joints in good shape.
Feed your pet a diet high in essential nutrients and low in processed foods, additives and sugar. Nutrition is a key element in the promotion of healthy joints and muscles – as well as for promoting the integrity of the entire skeletal system.
As part of a holistic approach to treating your pet, natural remedies can help to support a healthy immune system, encourage systemic cleansing (important for healthy joints and muscles), support strength in the skeletal system and generally support the overall health of your pet.
Signs to watch for: Persistent bad breath, bleeding gums, and a dark yellow or brown substance build-up on teeth.
Why it’s important: Conditions such as liver, kidney, heart inflammation and infection are many times triggered by poor dental hygiene and periodontal disease. That being said, dental disease is one of the most common forms of disease in pets.
Dogs and cats make much fuller use of their teeth than humans do – using them in ways we usually use our hands. It stands to reason, therefore, that maintaining canine and feline dental health is essential to their well-being.
More than half of all pets suffer from gum disease and dental problems. The numbers are slightly higher in dogs, where it is estimated that by age three, 80% of dogs develop symptoms of oral disease. In cats, 70% develop dental problems by their third year of life.
What you can do: The best thing you can do for your dog or cat’s dental health is to begin a prevention program and look out for your pet’s teeth and gums before it’s too late.
Regular inspection of the teeth is also a good idea to establish your pet’s level of dental health. Normal teeth in pets are shiny white all the way to the line of the gum. Any deposits or build up of a dark yellow or brown substance on the teeth, especially near the gum line, indicates a problem.
Chewing on hard food generally removes build up the teeth, especially the tips of the teeth. However, be aware that the gum line is slightly indented and can harbor the calculus-causing bacteria for months on end without being affected by your pet’s eating. The gums should appear a healthy pink color and there should be a clear delineation between gums and teeth.
In addition, natural and herbal ingredients can be very beneficial in promoting general dental health in pets, including Silica and Calc. fluoride. While Silica is naturally occurring in the body and is also frequently prescribed for gum health, Calc. fluoride is found in the enamel of teeth and bone surfaces and is excellent for maintaining the health and integrity of teeth.
Signs to watch for: Cloudy eyes, lack of interest in toys or other stimuli, and/or disorientation- such as bumping into furniture- are all signs that your pet’s vision needs attention.
What you can do: Like humans, vision declines with age, but you can help by keeping items your pet uses frequently (water and food bowls, toys, litterbox) and furniture in the same place.
Regular exercise, a healthy diet and lots of fresh water will help to support your pet’s immune system and therefore also maintain eye health. Keep your pet’s eyes and surrounding areas clean and free of debris and provide shady areas to prevent harsh sun damaging the eyes. Natural remedies can also provide great support for general eye and visual health in dogs and cats.
Signs to watch for: Fluctuations in weight and/or decreased appetite.
Why it’s important: Since the thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) which have a number of functions in the body– including maintaining your pet’s metabolic rate– improper functioning of the thyroid gland may have an impact on a range of other body functions such as digestion, body weight, heart rate, reproductive functioning, energy levels and even skin and coat health.
Maintaining balance of thyroid hormones and of the pituitary gland which regulates them is therefore important for the overall systemic health of your dog or cat.
What you can do: From a holistic approach, it makes sense that regular exercise and a balanced diet are important in maintaining systemic as well as thyroid health. Iodine is a mineral that is crucial to the functioning of the thyroid gland and it is therefore important that your pet’s diet include iodine or an iodine supplement – also found in kelp extracts. Apart from the beneficial effect on thyroid functioning, kelp is also used as a metabolic tonic to avoid excess weight.
Certain herbs are also known to support the health of the thyroid. As animals react well to supplementation with herbal remedies, these can also play an important role in supporting your pet’s thyroid functioning. Herbal remedies can be equally effective in maintaining skin and coat health, digestive functioning and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Signs to watch for: An increase in accidents, weight loss, and/or decreased appetite.
Why it’s important: The kidneys have a number of very important life-sustaining functions. These include excretion, fluid conservation, and endocrine processes. The kidneys filter waste products from the bloodstream, so that they may be excreted from the body in the urine.
They kidneys act as natural ‘filters’ of the body, filtering out nutrients from ingested food and liquids and leaving waste to be excreted. Animals cannot function properly if their systems are not ‘clean’ of toxins. The kidneys also produce hormones, including erythropoietin, which stimulates the bone marrow to produce new red blood cells.
What you can do: There are a number of things that we can do for our pets to prolong the healthy functioning of the kidneys. Make sure that your pet always has access to fresh, clean water. Make sure that dogs have the opportunity to urinate often and cats have access to a clean litter tray, so that they do not have to hold the urine in for unnecessarily long periods of time.
Feed your pet a natural diet low in salt, phosphorous and relatively low in protein. As your pet gets older, regular check ups at the vet are advised so that progress of the kidneys can be monitored. Our pets are exposed to a variety of toxins that are particularly harmful to the kidneys.
Many herbs contain properties to support kidney health, such as Burdock, which is widely known as a systemic cleanser and blood purifier. It is also has the ability to maintain balance in body fluid levels and can help the kidneys to maintain their natural action of flushing out toxins, and while helping to maintain blood sugar levels within the normal range.
Other Points to Consider
As preventative care is so important, consider additional protection for your pet in the form of pet health insurance. By taking your pet to the vet for annual check-ups and giving at-home exams for physical and behavioral changes on a regular basis, you can stay on top of all health conditions. Become knowledgeable of genetic conditions specific to your pet’s breed to help recognize potential problems later on.
And just like humans, following a general plan for overall wellness, including good nutrition and exercise, can greatly help your pet lead a long, healthy life!
NOTE: If your pet exhibits the following symptoms, consult a veterinarian: vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal discharge from the nose, eyes or other body openings, uncontrolled accidents, unusual behavior such as aggressiveness or extreme lethargy, or respiration changes. Some symptoms that resemble normal aging may be indicative of a more serious health condition.