Caring for elderly animals

Caring for elderly animals 010

Senior pets are precious family members and recognizing the change in their needs is crucial to improving and increasing their quality of life.

Nutritional care is important for both our senior cats and dogs. As pets age they develop different nutritional and health care needs.

The most common ailments associated with aging are diabetes; kidney and thyroid disease; arthritis; cushings, heart and lung disease; digestive and dental problems; immune system problems and cancer.

Dr Yvette Berkeley has observed “that two of the most common diseases she sees in small animal practice affecting aging animals are diabetes in both dogs and cats, and kidney disease is cats”. Diseases readily diagnosed and treated.


Diabetes occurs in cats and dogs. About 1 in 500 dogs and cats are diagnosed with diabetes each year. Most often in dogs over the age of 7 and cats over the age of 6. Interestingly Burmese cats are over represented in feline diabetes. Left without treatment, affected pets will succumb to the disease within a few months.

Tell tale signs of diabetes in cats and dogs

Diabetes is a complex disease. When the pancreas cannot produce adequate amounts of insulin, or when cells become insulin resistant the body is unable to utilise circulating glucose, which continues to build up in the blood. The kidneys begin to work overtime, trying to rid the body of this excess, which in turn causes the animal to urinate more frequently. Because the body utilises water to flush the built up glucose through the urinary system, the animal compensates by drinking excessively.

Diabetic animals instinctively try to supply their body with energy by eating extra food. Unfortunately this food can’t be utilised efficiently because of either the lack of insulin or insulin resistant cells causing weight loss.

The most common signs to be aware of in cats and dogs with diabetes then are drinking and urinating more than usual and a good appetite with weight loss. In more complex cases, you may see vomiting, dehydration and extreme weakness. This occurs when protein is broken down for energy in place of glucose which isn’t effectively utilised.

Although diabetes cannot be cured treatment is often successful. Secondary cataracts may occur in dogs for which surgery can be an option.

Kidney disease in cats (chronic renal failure- CRF)

CRF is one of the most common diseases we see in elderly cats. It results

when the kidney’s filtration system, comprised of nephrons begins to die off and waste products and electrolytes can no longer be processed effectively. The waste then accumulates in the cat’s body acting as a poison. Electrolyte imbalances, anemia and blood pressure problems may also occur as the kidneys continue to deteriorate.

The common contributing factors causing CRF are age, genetics, environment, and disease. Interestingly, Burmese and Siamese cats are more likely to develop CRF than other breeds

Tell tale signs of chronic renal failure in cats

The most common signs are drinking and urinating more than usual. As the condition progresses, your cat may experience loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, poor hair coat and emaciation. Only 30% of kidney capacity is needed for normal functioning. Therefore, no symptoms will be seen until approximately 70% of renal function is lost. It is important to begin treatment as soon as the first symptoms appear.

Although CRF and Diabetes cannot be cured treatment is often successful. Deterioration of the kidneys can be stalled short to medium term depending on the degree of compromise, while management of diabetes can be very successful.

If you think that your pet may be suffering from diabetes or CRF book an appointment for a complete exam with your vet. Diabetes and CRF can be diagnosed immediately with a blood test and supporting urinalysis.

Contact us today for:
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(03) 5470 6300 or (03) 5472 2268