SHOULD I BE WORRIED? (Putting pet health concerns into perspective)

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By Gary A. Borgman, DVM

In the past year, my Osceola Woman articles have focused on puppy and kitten health issues.  A lot happens in the first few months of these adorable family members but soon they become adults, middle aged and eventually seniors.  Most canines and all felines are full grown and sexually mature by one year of age, so this equates to about age 18 for humans.  The old adage that a dog’s life is seven in human years is not very accurate.  After one year of age, we like to add 5 “human years” for each dog/cat year.  With this criteria, a six year old pet is about 43 (early middle age), and a nine year old is 68 (early senior).  A dog or cat who lives to 15 calendar years is 108!  Smaller breed dogs and cats usually age more slowly than large dogs.  A large or giant dog can be very old at 10 years!

As our pets accumulate some age and often some excess weight and dental plaque and tarter, a lot can happen.  Veterinarians depend upon the owner’s observations at home to help us figure out the health status and diagnosis of what is going on with individual patients.  We suggest that owners mark observations on a calendar or diary to assist with the history (subjective data).  We always welcome telephone calls with observations and questions.

Some common concerns:

  • Decreased appetite (with or without vomiting/regurgitation)
  • Increased water consumption (polydipsia) and increased urination quantity (polyuria)
  • Changes in elimination habits (both defecation and urination)
  • Painful or difficult urination (sometimes with blood in urine)
  • Blood or mucous in bowel movements
  • Vomiting, regurgitation of undigested food, spitting up stomach fluids
  • Coughing, gagging, wheezing, or labored breathing
  • Collapsing, fainting or weakness with exercise
  • Pain of any kind (especially of the abdomen)
  • Seizures, tremors, general weakness or inability to use rear legs
  • Loss of vision or hearing
  • Difficulty in jumping up, climbing stairs, or getting up from rest
  • Itchy/painful skin or ears
  • Lumps and bumps on the skin or beneath the skin (rapid growth is worrisome)
  • Difficult chewing or swallowing of food
  • Unusual odor from mouth, skin, or ears

Young pets often experience acute gastro-intestinal problems (vomiting and diarrhea), upper respiratory problems (coughing), and skin problems (itching/hair loss).  As dogs and cats age, along with the above mentioned problems of the young, we often encounter heart, respiratory, liver, kidney, hormonal, allergic and dental conditions.  I will address these various body systems and the potential issues which can arise, during the next year of articles.

Finally, I want to mention the common health problems of aged pets. Arthritis, obesity, periodontal disease, heart disease, hormonal problems, and liver and kidney diseases can and do occur.  Cancer of various types, unfortunately is also common.  The annual physical examination along with appropriate laboratory diagnostics is very important in early detection and treatment of health issues at all ages.

The veterinarians and staff of Kissimmee Animal Hospital (Tel 407-846-3912) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (Tel 407-518-0880) are happy to answer any questions and concerns about pet health.  We are here to help and to serve.