Q: My 11-year-old lab is having some difficulty getting up and down and cannot walk as far as she did when she was younger. I know this happens with old age, but is there anything I can do to help with her discomfort?
A: Due to advances in veterinary care our animals are living longer than they did 20-30 years ago. This means there are more senior animals out in the world that are dealing with the issues that arise with getting older.
There is a saying that age is not a disease, but unfortunately with age comes the higher likelihood of medical and physical issues.
There are many wonderful treatments available for older animals to help with discomfort but first you need to make sure that your dog is healthy. This means a thorough physical exam by your general veterinarian and senior blood work to rule out any underlying medical condition.
Once that has been done, and any issues are taken care of, then you must look at the body condition of your dog and ask the hard question: Is your dog overweight? If the answer is yes, then that becomes the number one issue you must immediately start to work on. Extra weight on an older animal is extremely detrimental to its quality of life, and it is vital that they be as trim as possible to maximize their physical abilities.
There is no magic pill that will help a dog lose weight so to help your dog you must decrease her caloric intake through her diet and increase her activity with exercise. If she is having a hard time with exercise you can start by walking her for shorter periods of time more frequently. This will help to get her moving, and you can use a harness to help her get up and down.
Next, providing nutritional supplements to help with joint mobility can be helpful in some dogs. The trick is to be consistent over time with administrating the supplements and to purchase them from a reputable source, preferably from your veterinarian.
Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, and rehab can be very beneficial in getting your dog to move more comfortably and to improve her strength.
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Ultimately, most senior dogs need to be on an oral pain medicine to help with day to day discomfort to help them get up and move around. There are many different types of oral pain management medications and I would advise you to talk to your veterinarian about the best options for your dog.
Q: My cat is overweight, and I do not know what to do to get the weight off him.
A: Keeping weight off your cat is just as important as keeping weight off your dog. Overweight cats suffer many adverse issues such as diabetes, arthritis, and pain, and this adversely affects their overall quality of life and can lead to a shorter life span.
First, it is important to take your cat to your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues. Legitimately, cats are more difficult to exercise but adding in playtime throughout their day with cat toys and cat trees can be very beneficial. Providing a safe outdoor space that is enclosed can also help with exercise and increase activity and some cats are amenable to walks on a leash outside.
As far as nutrition, the best thing you can do for your cat is to not offer a never-ending supply of dry food throughout the day, as this is one of the main causes of obesity in cats.
I recommend meal feeding cats with two small meals a day with a small amount of a canned food and a small amount of dry food. Just pick a good quality food and stick with it. Fasting between those meals is important in the metabolic health of your cat.
Cats are challenging for weight loss but consistency and determination can make it happen!