This week I would like to discuss a common problem that I see in senior pets. Unfortunately, I often see this problem when it is too late to correct. Your senior pet needs to maintain their lean muscle mass as it ages. Once your pet begins losing lean muscle mass, it is difficult to regain it.
What causing muscle wasting in senior pets?
- Cachexia: Cachexia occurs in sick dogs and cats with heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer.
- Sarcopenia: Sarcopenia occurs in healthy animals due to the aging process.
Senior pets with either one of these conditions will become less mobile. It is important first to determine if your senior pet is losing muscle mass. Your veterinarian can determine this with a muscle condition scoring chart. With this chart, they can determine if your pet has normal, mild, moderate or severe muscle wasting. I find it difficult to reverse the problem once I see patients with moderate to severe muscle wasting so early detection is very important.
Secondly, your veterinarian will need to determine if the muscle wasting is due to cachexia or sarcopenia. A complete physical exam, senior bloodwork, and urinalysis can detect these diseases that cause muscle wasting in your senior pets. Early detection and treatment can slow down the process and help your pet live a longer life.
Let’s say that we have determined your senior pet is healthy and is losing muscle mass. Sarcopenia is a common scenario, and many people chalk it up to their senior pets getting old. It is impossible to reverse the aging process, but with proper nutrition and exercise, you can help slow the process.
All senior pets should be evaluated and treated as an individual. There is no one size fits all diet for senior patients.
Here are three important factors to look at when choosing a senior diet:
- Calories: Senior pets fall into two categories. They are either too fat or too thin. Choose an appropriate diet that fits the needs of your pet.
- Protein: Healthy senior pets do require more protein than their younger counterparts. Unfortunately, most of the senior diets contain less protein than adult dog foods. It is also important to make sure that you are feeding a high-quality protein.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Some diets contain fatty acids within the food. However, I find it’s just as easy to add this as a nutritional supplement in the form of a liquid, chewable treat or gel cap. Fatty acids help maintain your pet’s skin, heart and kidney’s and most importantly cognitive function, and arthritis.
Our goal at Guthrie Pet Hospital is to keep your senior pets living a longer healthier, happier life. Call today for an appointment and have your senior pet evaluated. During November bring your pet in for senior lab work and be entered to win $100 credit on your account!