You’ve survived your furbaby’s toddler phase. You’ve struggled with the rebellion of the teenage years. Now that they’ve settled into adulthood, it’s hard to believe that the years are flying past. Suddenly they’re a little more grey, a little slower, and a little heavier.
Come their annual physical exam at the vet, your veterinarian breaks the news to you gently. Your furbaby is old – no, not old – seven-plus, the line which separates the adults from the geriatrics.
You protest. “My pug’s not old!”
However, most of the diseases of the pug seven-plus population are startlingly similar to the diseases of human old age. Eyes become cloudier, joints start to creak, warts start to pop up, hairs start to grey – your furbaby is starting to enter the realm of seniorhood.
Just as with humans, though, sound veterinary care can make the senior years a lot more comfortable. The veterinary field has advanced in leaps and bounds in the past decade, resulting in much longer, happier lives for our furbabies.
So, what are the simple things you can do to look after your ageing pug?
Regular physical examinations
Don’t skip that health check! While physical examinations don’t give us the whole picture, they definitely help us narrow down the main issues your pug is dealing with. Be it dental disease, long-term allergies, a suspicious sounding heart, or new lumps and bumps, it’s our job to help you be the best pug-parent you can be!
An annual blood test
A good history and the best physical examination might not tell the full story. While we’re always on high alert for those tell-tale signs of disease, it’s nice to be able to catch problems just as they’re brewing. For example, this can mean looking out for signs of kidney disease; kidneys are such powerhouses that they may not show signs of disease until they lose three-quarters of their function!
Keep those teeth clean!
Hopefully you’ve been brushing those teeth since your pug-baby was little! It’s more than just about bad breath. Dental disease is an innocuous disease that has systemic effects. The inflammation in the gums lead to a leakage of bacteria into the blood, creating a state of chronic, low-grade inflammation. This predisposes your pug-baby to liver disease, diabetes, cardiac disease, among others.
Dental disease is also painful! I’ve had gingivitis and, being a pain intolerant, I rushed to the dentist…who told me to floss better. Can you imagine having full-on dental disease with the bone resorption and abscessation?
If your furbaby’s teeth are a little funky, it’s not too late! Get those teeth clean and work with your vet to keep them clean.
Think thoughtfully of diet
Whatever you’re feeding, keep in mind that your pug-baby has different requirements as they age – fewer calories, less salt, more omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids – the list goes on.
Why the different requirements? Well, to use calories as an example, it’s a little harder for ageing furbabies to shake off that excess weight. It may be a slowing metabolism, it may be less exercise – whatever the reason, as they’re ageing, they definitely shouldn’t be on high-calorie food. Steer clear of food labelled for “all life-stages” because, chances are, if the food is suitable for puppies, it’s way, way too high in calories for your older pug-baby.
This is something you need to discuss with your vet. Keeping in mind your pug’s preferences, your pug’s health, and your specific needs, they should be able to collaborate with you to feed a diet most suitable for your pug.
Keep them comfortable
Pug-babies can have different ideas on what comfort means. If your pug-babies have sore joints, staying comfortable might mean installing non-slip mats where they commonly hang out or introducing slopes instead of stairs to prevent them from straining their backs. If they’re finding it hard to go to the toilet in time, leave extra pee pads out for them just in case.
It’s the little things that count. And your pug-baby will thank you for it.
When your pug-baby was younger, it might have been easier for him/her to shake off a bad tummy bug. When they’re older, it’s a little different.
It has a lot to do with functional reserve. That’s just the fancy way of picturing your pug-baby’s regenerative abilities. Take the liver – its functional reserve is amazing! The liver is in the business of metabolism, taking all the hard knocks from toxins and helping the body make use of the nutrients absorbed. It’s a ridiculously hard worker. As the body ages, though, the hard knocks make bigger dents. That doesn’t mean the liver will stop functioning, it just means that it needs a little extra help.
The same goes with the heart. And the kidneys. And the immune system.
Some changes might not significantly impact your pug-baby, some changes might be a sign of something sinister – the key to understanding the difference is being vigilant and having a close relationship with your veterinarian. Cloudy eyes, for example, can be due to normal degenerative changes (the fancy term is nuclear sclerosis)…or it could be cataracts, which can lead to a number of complications.
Now, this isn’t to scare you! As I’ve mentioned, veterinary medicine has come a very long way! It’s in catching issues early that we’re able to intervene most effectively. We became vets to help you be the best pug-parent ever, from cradle to walking stick.
In short: Talk to your vet. Get that senior pug pep talk! We wish you and your pug-baby lots and lots of love.
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