If your pet is getting along in years, and you haven't kept up with recent advances in veterinary medicine, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Within the past five to 10 years, veterinary medicine has seen some significant improvements in treatments for the maladies commonly faced by aging cats and dogs.
"Owners should be aware that now we have some options for treating problems we couldn't treat very effectively as recently as five to 10 years ago," said Bill Fortney, a veterinarian at Kansas State University's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. "In older animals in particular, although we may not be able to cure some of these problems, we can improve an animal's quality of life immensely due to advances in medication and other treatments."
Sometimes, older pets suffer from senility or dementia. They may fail to recognize friends or family members, or become confused even in their own homes or yards. Owners formerly attributed declining mental capacity to old age and presumed that nothing could be done to slow the ravages of time.
"Senility and dementia are common in older dogs and cats," Fortney said, "and some newer medications have been developed that can help. Many dogs benefit from a drug called Anipryl, made by Pfizer Animal Health. It acts on one of the neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for nerve to nerve communication. The drug slows the natural destruction of the chemical compound dopamine in the brain. Because the problem is progressive, even if the drug works initially, ultimately it will stop being effective. But it helps many pets for some time. We've been able to prolong quality of life for six months to a couple of years."
Another disorder that causes problems for older pets is urinary incontinence. A veterinary consultation is necessary to determine the cause. Sometimes a tumor or mass blocks the urethra. Surgery can correct this problem. More often, the animal lacks muscle control around the urethra -- a weak sphinc
Contact: Dr. William Fortney
Kansas State University