Tampa vets discuss care for senior cats, dogs

Tampa vets discuss care for senior cats, dogs

Valentine Yarbrough thought her 14-year-old pug, Zoe, didn’t have long to live when she brought her to Dr. Greg Masters of highly rated Main Street Animal Hospital in Dunedin, Fla.

Zoe suffered from a collapsed trachea, an old leg injury and the onset of dementia, but Yarbrough says Zoe now thrives under Masters’ care. “He’s given her a sprightly attitude again,” the Clearwater member says.

A new diet, medicine and nutritional supplements control the progression of her dementia. Yarbrough says she spends $90 per session for acupuncture to treat Zoe’s trachea and about $50 monthly on medicine and supplements that help with the dementia and leg pain, and ward off the arthritis that would otherwise develop.

Veterinarians say pet owners can help their furry friends maintain a comfortable life as “senior citizens” by carefully managing the effects of aging. Dr. Bob Encinosa, owner of highly rated Boyette Animal Hospital in Riverview, says dogs tend to develop aging problems at around age 10, and cats around 12. He recommends owners bring their senior pets in for more frequent checkups, usually twice a year.

The average checkup costs between $50 and $55, he says, and blood profiles frequently ordered for cats cost between $100 and $150. “A good vet can tell a huge amount of things before a pet owner might even pick up on something being wrong,” he says.

Although every pet differs, Dr. Jeanne Hart at highly rated Tampa Mobile Veterinary Services says certain problems crop up more frequently with age. “Urinary and fecal incontinence is a major problem in dogs, and cats see a lot of kidney and thyroid problems,” she says. “They get joint pain and arthritis quite frequently, so you want to make sure they have soft bedding and get up and move around to exercise. Even if they’re not chasing Frisbees like they once did, they need to move around.”

Encinosa says nutritional supplements and weight control help treat arthritis. For advanced cases, he prescribes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. Depending on the dog’s weight, they can cost several hundred dollars per year.

When cats develop kidney problems, Encinosa recommends a fat-heavy diet instead of a protein-rich one. Monthly medication can treat feline hyperthyroidism, but he says a radio iodine treatment, costing between $1,400 and $1,800, tends to cost less in the long run since it permanently addresses the problem without need for regular medication.

Hart says simple changes around the house can make life easier for older pets. “If a cat has joint problems, they need a low stack on their litter pan so they don’t have to jump up to pee,” she says. “If a dog has a high bed, move it closer to the ground or add stairs or a ramp.”

Encinosa also encourages owners to make sure their pets get enough exercise and pay attention to weight. “Just like with humans, weight and activity level are really key to good pet health,” he says, adding that oftentimes pets require less food as they age. “Once cats and dogs reach senior citizen status, you can still achieve a very high quality of life for several more years.”

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Dr. Jen Olson says biannual checks for older cats can catch treatable problems early. (Photo courtesy of Alamo Feline Health Center)
Dr. Jen Olson says biannual checks for older cats can catch treatable problems early. (Photo courtesy of Alamo Feline Health Center)

Highly rated San Antonio-area veterinarians suggest preventive care, regular checkups and vaccinations to keep cats and dogs healthy as they age.

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