Misconceptions Found About Aging Pets

Armen Hareyan's picture
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The new Aging Pet Care Awareness Survey has uncovered some alarming results that indicate pet owners across the nation could use a little pet care 101.

The most surprising statistic from a survey of more than 1,000 people by PetAg, Inc., a leader in senior pet care product development: more than one-third of American pet owners don't know when their pet will become a senior.

With 71 million pet-owning households in the U.S., there are millions of pet owners unable to plan for or adapt to an aging pet's changing needs without further education. For instance, while most dogs and cats begin the senior years at age seven, larger dogs start sooner. Following are the top refuted myths:

MYTH: Pets and their owners age differently.

FACT: "Given the parallels that exist between humans and pets in the aging process -- graying hair, weight gain or loss, dental health, loss of cognitive function and more -- many of the same health and wellness strategies may be implemented in pets to increase longevity," said Dr. Kelly Swanson, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois who teamed with PetAg to design the survey.

Two-thirds of those surveyed consider taking nutritional supplements themselves to ensure personal long-term health. "This demonstrates a belief that nutritional intervention is an important part of a health regimen," said Darlene Frudakis, president and COO for PetAg. "Just as humans' nutritional and physical needs change as they age, so do pets, and we've developed our nutritional supplements and functional treats with that in mind."

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MYTH: As long as my pet isn't overweight, it isn't a major health concern.

FACT: Pet owners don't often consider that underweight pets can have just as many health concerns as overweight animals. Weight loss can be in indication of poor dental health, poor appetite, nutrient malabsorption and more.

Maintaining a healthy weight in pets over a lifetime can help reduce or even prevent two of the age-related symptoms most concerning to survey participants -- aching joints (55.7 percent) and lack of energy (36 percent), both common in overweight pets. While the issues associated with over- and underweight pets are different, both are 'unhealthy' and should be monitored by owners and their vets. "A daily nutritional supplement or complete liquid meal replacement such as DogSure or CatSure can help pets reach their ideal weight -- difficult to do when a pet suffers from illness or other critical signs of aging," said Dr. Swanson.

MYTH: Exercise and engaging toys are the best ways to prevent cognitive decline.

FACT: While Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is not a life-threatening condition in its initial stages, it can greatly impact quality of life and is often a reason for getting rid of a pet. Surprisingly, only 25 percent of pet owners surveyed are concerned about cognitive decline in senior pets.

Maintaining proper levels of exercise can help maintain cognitive function, but Dr. Swanson explained that there is more evidence supporting dietary intervention, including the use of nutritional supplements. He suggests looking for products that include antioxidants (i.e. vitamins E, C and beta carotene) or those with omega-3 fatty acids.

"Understanding the signs and symptoms of aging early and addressing those needs with the proper diet and exercise can help to curb the effects," said Frudakis. "We will continue to encourage pet owners to embrace the changes they experience and to pass on to their family pets the same advantages of this education."

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