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Help ... I Think My Pet is Aging!

The outward signs of human aging are obvious: graying hair, wrinkles and slackening skin. However, aging is not always so apparent when it comes to our pets…especially cats. As pet parents, it's important to recognize our aging pets and nurture them accordingly. This issue of the HealthyPetNet News will educate you on pet aging: what to look for and how to combat it.

What is Aging?
According to Webster-Merriam, the definition of aging is: to become old: show the effects or the characteristics of increasing age. Scientifically speaking, the process of aging is largely recognized as unstable molecules called free radicals that attack the healthy cells in our bodies and damage them in a process called oxidation. Rust on a nail is a metaphor for oxidation; the rust damages the nail and eventually destroys it.

Although free radicals are created in the body naturally, they also come from the external environment. For instance, the exposure to pollutants and over-exposure to sunlight are two factors that encourage the growth of free radicals.

Oxidation is a natural process that all living things must undergo. Nothing lives forever. However, the process of oxidation can be slowed. There are superhero molecules known as antioxidants that combat free radicals, thus protecting normal cells in the body. Though the body produces some of these superhero molecules naturally, others must come from your pet's diet. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. They come in many forms and can be found in vegetables, fruits and even certain meats and fish.

Did You Know…
Large breed dogs age faster and have a shorter lifespan than smaller breeds. For instance, the average lifespan of the Great Dane is about nine years. Small breed dogs can live into their twenties, although the average is closer to 13 years.

Did You Know…
Cats can live to be 30 years old, though in reality the average lifespan is about 15 years. Genetics, diet, environment, exercise and veterinary preventative care affects how long cats can live.
 

5 Signs of an Aging Pet

If your pet doesn't get gray and wrinkles, how will you know he is aging? Below are the telltale signs of aging for dogs and cats. Please note that it's much harder to detect an aging cat as opposed to an aging dog because cats often conceal their age.

1.  Is your pet stiff?
Has your dog or cat grown more sluggish over the years? You may have to think about that because an animal slows down over time and we just get used to it. Do you find that your dog is slow in getting up to greet visitors? Does your cat leap onto the counters less often than she used to? When you throw a ball, does your dog get up slowly before he races after it? You get the picture. These are telltale signs of aging. With time, weight on the joints can cause damage. The larger the pet, the more stress on the joints. There are approximately 14 million dogs with joint challenges and most veterinarians agree that most cats over 12 years old show signs of unhealthy joints. The earlier you intervene in this often painful process, which only gets worse with age, the better. Keep your dog's nails trimmed for good balance. Watch his weight and start a new anti-aging program filled with health-promoting foods. Increasing exercise is invaluable to a stiffening pet. Take your dog for walks. Cats love to play with a fishing pole that has something dangling from it. Finally, nutritional joint support supplements are also a must.

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 August 2006 Issue
 


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Dr. Jane Bicks
Veterinarian
Product Formulator

Dr. Jane is a highly respected and nationally recognized holistic veterinarian. She is the author of three national books on pet care and nutrition and has served on professional boards including the Cornell Feline Health Center.  Dr. Jane is responsible for HealthyPetNet's product formulation and development.

 

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