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Aging Problems in Cats and Dogs

By Gay Published: November 2, 2009

Several weeks ago, I was brushing our Golden, Jake, after he had a bath. He looked so pretty and he smelled so good, both of us were enjoying the grooming session, until—I came to his right rear foot.

There is a huge lump, and atop the lump is an open sore that at first looked like an abscess. I wasn’t overly concerned at first; I thought he had got a scratch or was bit by something. However, as I examined it more closely, I knew this was trouble. It didn’t look nor act like an abscess. Gently pushing it didn’t expel any purulent matter. We scheduled an immediate appointment with our veterinarian, and he told us that it might be cancerous. ALWAYS HAVE A VET CHECK YOUR DOG OR CAT FOR LUMPS, SWELLINGS AND ABSCESSES.

I was concerned for several reasons. One, Jake has an underactive thyroid and takes medicine twice daily to counterattack that. Low thyroid often indicates a system that is low in resistance to germs, mites, and disease. It can also cause seizures.

Jake had had a bald spot on his hip which I cured, but it came back as soon as I stopped treatment. I know that this is a possibility of mange, and demodectic mange can be indicative of an underlying condition, such as cancer. I can’t tell regular mange from the more serious kind, but I suspected it was because I hadn’t been able to definitively cure it with my own products, and usually, I can.

So, that coupled with the horrid swelling on his foot took on a more serious aspect.

The vet took a needle biopsy, but that is not necessarily accurate. While no cancer cells showed under the microscope, it could have been that the needle hadn’t drawn cells from the correct area. An assistant held Jake around the shoulders, but Jake buried his head in Buz’ knees and never winced, he is so gentle and trusting.

He gave us an antibiotic to use twice a day for two weeks. Although the open wound looks less vicious, the swelling hasn’t decreased. We have about six days of pills left. I am not feeling optimistic.

Jake also has a lump on his flank, but it is soft and fatty, and it has been diagnosed, as I thought, as a lipoma, or fatty tumor. One of my dogs had a huge lipoma which we had removed. The vet made an incision and it fell out on the table. He was patched up and medicated and bandaged and good as new. This kind of lump—soft, malleable, and close to the surface—is quite common in dogs and cats and is not of huge concern. Once again, you need expert hands and eyes to determine if it is a lipoma or something more serious.

I am unsure of Jake’s future, but he is ten and a half, which is getting quite old for a Golden, even though he has been well-cared for, exercised regularly, and is kept for the most part, from people food. His weight, although 110#, is excellent for his enormous frame, and he is a really laid-back dog. We are paying especial attention to him, and frankly, I try not to think about it. There will time enough when he has his return doctor’s visit.

Cats and dogs are prone to many of the ailments humans have: They can, for instance, be diabetic, have failing kidneys, a problematic heart, arthritis, cancer, brain tumors and liver disorders. Treatment for each of these varies, of course. In some cases, it is a huge decision whether to treat your friend with multiple surgeries, radiation, chemo, and so on, or to let him go gently and painlessly.

My favorite cat, Spooky, is fifteen years old. He is the sweetest little guy. He never sees us without ‘speaking’ to us, and he loves to curl up on our laps, and we love to have him there. He is somewhat bow-legged, and his kidneys are functioning, but he is showing signs of age and wear. His lustrous, jet black hair is showing reddish tints, which indicates an internal organ problem. He has cataracts, which are not dangerous in and of themselves.

You may notice that your dog’s brown eyes are turning blue. As he ages, fibers in the eye lens change and reflect light differently, making them hazy. Have your vet check to make sure nothing more serious is underlying this condition, but be assured that this condition, called lenticular sclerosis, is just a sign of aging.

You may find your aging dog or cat is more comfortable with a raised food dish. You can buy a little ‘table’ for this purpose or construct you own. Your buddy’s neck can get arthritic and sore, and the posture of eating—head down—may be particularly uncomfortable.

As our pets age, they get more and more problems, just as we have or will. Think of what makes you uncomfortable and adjust for your animal. For instance, if your dog is used to six mile daily walks, he may find that half that distance is more comfortable for him. Your cats, who may be used to jumping to a high place, may not be capable of leaping that distance as she grows older. Your pet’s behavior will cue as to what is the right thing to do for him or her.

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