Veteran Care – Same but Different
Kate Hore RNutr (Animal). R.Anim.Technol
Whether horse, pony, dog or cat one thing is true of all our animal companions, and that is they are getting older. Much like we see in people, as advancements in veterinary medicine and basic welfare continue to improve, so we see a generally ageing population in horses, dogs and cats. With ageing populations come the onset of age related health issues. So as caring owners, what are the major issues and how can we improve our animal’s ‘healthspan’ – that period of life free of pain or disease – rather than just their lifespan?
One issue true of ageing in all mammals – including ourselves – is the phenomenon of inflammageing, a progressive, chronic inflammatory response within the system, which is most often seen as joint changes and mobility challenges. The signs of joint stress in older horses and dogs may be similar, with an obvious change in gait, shortening of the stride and, perhaps, less willingness or ability to work the joints in the same way as they previously had. In horses we often see a drop in performance, while dogs may be less willing to enjoy those long walks, or perhaps showing a reluctance to jump into the car or run up stairs. In cats the signs are much subtler, indeed, not well recognised until quite recently. However, a trial in 2002 found joint stress evident in over 90% of cats, and it’s worth knowing those signs. You are more likely to see general reduced activity, i.e. simply spending longer sleeping, decreased grooming, sometimes seen with heightened grooming and licking over the joints, and behavioural changes, such as less interaction with us and appearing moodier.
Whichever animal, the basics of nutritional support of sound, healthy joints are the same. Formulated by the Veterinary and Nutrition teams here at NAF and Natural VetCare, we recommend choosing the right synergistic blend of joint support nutrients, including glucosamine sulphate, MSM and omega 3 fatty acids, formulated to suit the lifestage and dietary requirements of the specific animal.
NAF Five Star Superflex Senior is the ideal choice for older, working equines who need a high specification, cost effective solution to soundness. Superflex Senior utilises high levels of glucosamine sulphate – the only form of glucosamine consistently shown to be effective – in a synergistic blend with MSM, chondroitin sulphate, HA and powerful, naturally sourced antioxidants. Superflex Senior is advised daily to maintain flexibility in older horses still leading active lives, and is also suitable for elite equines of all ages with hard working joints.
As we head towards winter, where cold, damp weather and increased periods of stabling can both negatively impact joint health, now is the ideal time to review joint health in your horse, and upgrade to Senior management where appropriate.
Natural VetCare Ageility provides all round daily nutritional care for all older dogs who want to stay active. Particular to the older dog, Ageility combines optimal levels of key joint support nutrients, with targeted nutritional support for canines. The ‘super-food’, chlorella, works in synergy with pure Vitamin E to support the body’s antioxidant defences against progressive oxidative damage. Compromised heart health is common in older dogs, hence Ageility includes the natural power of hawthorn to support a strong, healthy cardiovascular system.
Natural VetCare Senior CatCare provides all round nutritional support to maintain health and vitality in older cats. Key joint support nutrients are combined with potassium chloride and omega 3 fatty acids for kidney support, as urinary health is often a major marker of ageing in senior cats. The amino acid taurine is included, as cats are ‘obligate carnivores’, meaning they rely on a meat diet, and cannot naturally produce taurine. Interestingly, dogs need a more varied diet, meaning taurine is non-essential for them as they manufacture it themselves. Thus showing, that while there are similarities, cats and dogs retain their distinct differences, and we recommend advising species specific products for both.
For those animals who need a little extra support with maintenance of comfortable joints, don’t forget the herbal power of Devils Claw, whose action is so well recognised that it is banned for competing horses. For the older, retired, horse NAF Devils Relief can be the ideal choice, as is Natural VetCare Relief for old, stiff dogs.
It will come as no surprise to find that a decline in mental acuity, or your brain’s ‘sharpness’ and health, is a common sign of ageing in most mammals. Changes in brain function are often most noticeable in older dogs. Signs include changes in their sleep patterns, with increased sleeping during the day but wakefulness at night. Disorientation and memory loss are also seen. Older dogs may appear ‘lost’ in their own environment, and if those basics of obedience are not obeyed every time don’t think they are ignoring you – they may simply have forgotten the meaning. Cats, too, show changes associated with the geriatric brain, with over half of all cats aged fifteen and above showing signs of behavioural changes. In cats the signs to look for are similar to those for joint stress, reduced activity, increased sleeping and becoming withdrawn. For both cats and dogs inappropriate toileting behaviour, such as in the house, is also recognised as a key sign of cognitive stress.
Horses, too, can show the same cognitive changes. While we often hear of horses ‘still acting like a four year old’ well into their teens, as they progress into their twenties and beyond this does tend to change. A general calming can be welcomed by some owners, but we should be aware that it can deteriorate in geriatric horses to issues such as staring into space, change of behaviour or becoming disorientated. Older horses may lose their place in the herd, so it’s worth keeping an eye on our golden oldies to ensure they are still happy and settled.
Targeted nutrition to support these changes is recommended whether equine, canine or feline. The ‘adoptogenic’ herbs, such as Ginseng and Immortality herb have attracted interest across species research, including in people, for their ability to help the brain adapt to those changes. These adaptogens work in synergy with natural antioxidants, important as oxidative changes leading to free radical stress, are seen in the ageing brain. Research shows that antioxidants can support healthy cognitive function. While omega 3 fatty acids also provide an important role, alongside the antioxidants, to support the body’s own anti-inflammatory response.
NAF In the Pink Senior is the perfect concentrated balancer for our equine OAPs. In the Pink Senior combines broad spectrum vitamins, minerals and trace elements for general health, with pre and probiotics to support digestive function – particularly important here, as digestion can become compromised in the older horse or pony. In the Pink Senior also provides the adaptogenic Ginkgo and Ginseng, to maintain that ‘spark’, working alongside natural antioxidants such as beetroot, rosehip and carrot.
Natural VetCare Ageility, is the perfect all round choice for older dogs, as alongside joint support, Ageility also provides herbal support for mental acuity. One of the things we love about herbs is that, often, the name of the herb tells you what it does. Here we find a very good example of that, in ‘Immortality herb’. Of course, we’re not promising your customer’s dogs will become ‘immortal’, but we can certainly see how this particular has, quite literally, built a name for itself as a powerful adaptogen.
Natural VetCare Senior CatCare, like Ageility, provides all round support for the older pet. To maintain that natural curiosity that cats are famous for, Senior CatCare includes Ginseng, working alongside natural omega 3 fatty acids, with antioxidants including Chlorella, Seaweed, Selenium and Vitamin E.
In conclusion, whether horse, pony, dog or cat, NAF and Natural VetCare can provide the right targeted nutritional solutions for age related issues in all your creatures – great and small!
- Bellows et al (2016) Aging in cats: Common physical and functional changes. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 18(7) p.533-50
- Day M.J (2010) Ageing, Immunosenescence and Inflammageing in the Dog and Cat. Journal of Comparative Pathology. 142 Supp1, p S60-S90
- Hardie E, Roe S.C & Martin F.R (2002) Radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease in geriatric cats: 100 cases. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 220(5) p.628-32
- Siared-Altman M.H et al (2020) Relationships of inflammageing with circulating nutrient levels, body composition, age, and pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction in a senior horse population. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology Vol 221, 110013
- Willis L.M (2009) Modulation of cognition and behaviour in aged animals: role for antioxidant – and essential fatty acid – rich plant foods. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 89(5) p1602s-1606s