Event Highlights UAE's Growing Senior Pets Population

Top Quote Animal professionals gathered in Dubai to deliver informative talks about issues relating to the UAE's growing number of senior animals, which may now represent over 15 per cent of the pet population according to a leading vet. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) September 16, 2015 - "Dubai is a relatively new city in population terms and elderly pets used to be a rare sight, but now there are many and the population is growing quickly," says Dr Sara Elliott, director of veterinary services at British Veterinary Hospital who hosted the event. Hayley Strifler of Dubai Senior Dog Project and Paula Robinson, a specialist veterinary physiotherapist, also delivered presentations.

    Large dogs can be classified as senior from age five, smaller dogs and cats from seven, explains Dr Elliot: "It varies between breeds, but this is a good benchmark to work from. The number of elderly pets in the UAE is increasing and the proportion is increasing as older animals are brought into the country and those already here continue to age.

    "Old age is not a disease, but an active youth can take its toll on the body for pets, just like humans. Prevention and action are much better than cure or treatment and certain solutions can be found to improve quality of life."

    Attendees learned many facts specific to the care of older pets, including how physical exams are less effective at representing the true health of the animal. It was explained how changes in organ function can impact overall wellbeing of the pet and the potential for significant health issues to develop increases with every six months of life once animals reach their senior years.

    Dr Elliott adds: "We need to determine the normal laboratory profile for the patient so we can benchmark against it if they become unwell or we can chart changes to identify diseases early. Early detection lowers the impact on the pet, improves management and reduces overall cost of care.

    "Also, physiological changes impact mental wellness, which can lead to unwelcome behaviours, such as loss of house training, increased nocturnal activity, excessive vocalising and aggression. The harsh reality is these factors can deteriorate the human-animal bond and end in an untimely euthanasia discussion."

    Yvonne Preston, owner of 19 year old cat, Teddy, said: "I first realised Teddy was getting older when he could no longer jump as easily as before. He now needs a lot more grooming and is on food specially prescribed for older cats, but other than that he is just the same as ever.

    "Teddy also gets checked every few months and has some medical issues relating to age that need to be monitored more closely. It's great tests are conducted in-house at the hospital and not sent away for analysis, so results are quick and efficient."

    ‪Dubai Senior Dog Project co-ordinator, Hayley Strifler, said: "Senior pets are much more difficult to rehome than a cute puppy or kitten and it can take a special person or circumstances to take on an aging pet, so our efforts give a better chance of this match being made.

    "The positive element of the UAE is we have a transient expatriate workforce where many are happy to adopt or foster an older pet as it fits with their timeframe within the country and it is our goal to match these animals with potential homes.

    "We are a volunteer organisation existing completely on charitable donations and our current resources allow us to handle between 12-25 dogs at any one time. With a growing senior pets population, the number of displaced pets is always increasing, which is a concern as we have limited resources and no facilities."

    Throughout September British Veterinary Hospital is also honouring pets in their golden years with a free consultation followed by options of veterinary wellness examination. The free session covers behaviour, diet, activity and health concerns, plus screening. As part of the campaign, there will also be discounted senior care packages and specialist pet food purchases.

    To detect early problems in senior pets the hospital offers on-site blood machines, blood pressure monitors, ultrasound, eye pressure measurements, x-rays, ECG and cardiac technology. Also on hand are highly experienced nutritionists for food advice to get the best out of pets and decide plus support diet and lifestyle changes. The staff is also trained to perform tests designed to assess age-related mobility and cognitive changes.

    Five top tips from Dr Elliott on caring for senior pets:
    1. Fitness first: if you ensure your pets are active and don't become overweight, they can be healthier, happier and more handsome for longer.
    2. Don't assume all issues are down to age: if you see any changes in a senior pet, never assume it's not a medical problem and 'just old age'. The culprit can be anything from diabetes, to arthritis or dental disease and other conditions that, once diagnosed and treated, can mean a return to normality.
    3. Diet changes can deliver quick results: ask your vet about specialised diets to aid their changes in metabolism plus cognitive health and activity levels.
    4. Entertain and challenge: with many animals it's important to keep them engaged and free from boredom, which can decelerate brain aging. Buy them food-dispensing devices they have to work to eat and keep making them perform their special tricks.
    5. Two is company: no one likes to be lonely and bringing a new friend into your older pet's life often reinvigorates an animal. Research has shown pets with buddies live longer and with better health.

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