Thursday, November 3, 2011

Age is not a disease

I always say that.  Age is not a disease.  Often I see geriatric pets who are presented for a regular check up.  Frequently, I find a problem that can be addressed but their owner may think that there is nothing wrong, because they think that certain things are normal for old animals.  Or, they know that there is a problem, but because their pet is old, they think that there is nothing that can or should be done. 

I can think of a lot of examples, and I am sure that other veterinarians would have similar stories.  One situation that I see all of the time is older dogs slowing down.  People think that it is normal.  Age doesn't make it hard for a dog to stand up, age related diseases do.  One of the most common age related diseases in a dog is arthritis.  Dogs who slow down probably have advanced arthritis, and deserve some treatment for that.  I always think of it this way, I would have to be in pretty severe pain before I would choose not to go up or down the stairs at my house, and I am pretty sure that I would have taken some pain medicine long before it got to that point.  It is reported that people with arthritis seek medical help long before they become immobile.  I am lucky, many of my clients are very attached to their pets, and ask for help early enough to get good results.  Sometimes, though, people just don't know there is a problem.  They think that their dog is just old.  The earlier I can diagnose and try to manage arthritis for a dog, the better the outcome is likely to be.   Check out this link to see if your dog might have arthritis.

I just saw a cat yesterday who is 17 years old.  His owner loves him dearly.  I met them 2 years ago.  His owner was terrified to bring him in, because she thought that he was too old to survive the kind of stress a veterinary appointment might cause.  I guess she had some bad experiences in the past.  We figured a lot of things out for that old guy, and he had been happily ticking along with a few medicines and a couple of check ups until a few weeks ago.  He stopped eating well and was getting pretty skinny.  He would go to the food, take a bite, then quickly walk away.  His problem was a horrible tooth root that had the pulp exposed.  His owner was so afraid to do anything about it, because he "is so old".  Luckily, I was able to convince her that age was not Cougar's disease, a tooth with the pulp exposed was.  Luckily, he did great and was happy to savor a meal without tooth pain this morning.
Thank God you pulled that tooth, now can I eat in peace?

Old animals are pretty cool, they don't usually complain about their age related disease.  Owners have to let me look for it, and fix the things that we can and don't let them suffer when we can't.  Sometimes I even have to remind myself that age is not a disease, when I do that my advice is always better.

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