Primary Care

Geriatric Medicine

Providing Senior Pets with the TLC They Deserve

It is always a bit surprising to suddenly realize that one of our pets is a senior. Where did the time go? There is a selection of fun free apps to help you calculate your pet's human equivalent age, but we think any pet over seven years of age deserves special attention.

The good news is that, just like people, pets are living longer and healthier lives. We want to make certain that the individuals in your animal family do, too.

Veterinary Care

We recommend your senior pet see us twice a year for examinations. We watch your senior pet more closely for signs of disease, since a number of age related disorders can arise insidiously and in a fairly short period of time. We may advise more frequent clinical laboratory testing to assess the function of major bodily organs and systems. Many diseases can be treated, managed, and even cured if identified early on.

Age related conditions we check for include:

  • Progressive organ dysfunction in liver, heart, kidney, and intestines
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis and other painful joint or mobility issues
  • Diabetes, thyroid problems, and other hormonal disorders
  • Dental and periodontal disease

Home Care

As your senior pet's health and mobility declines, you may wish to adapt your home and routines to accommodate new limitations. It is also common for older animals to experience cognitive changes similar to dementia in humans. Suggestions for home care and TLC include:

  • Provide good footing such as mats or carpetingfor your older pets, especially large dogs.
  • Consider providing ramps for stairways or steps to sleeping surfaces.
  • Keep pathways clear of obstructions throughout your home.
  • Maintain good nutrition to guard against weight gain and preserve muscle.
  • Continue to play with and exercise your pet but adapt to gentler, shorter sessions if stiffness occurs.
  • Buy a low sided litter box for cats and consider multiple litter boxes around the house.
  • Brush you cat more frequently, especially in hard to reach spots; try the Furminator, available in our office.
  • If changes in housebreaking or litter box use occur, it is especially important to rule out medical explanations before assuming that it is a cognitive change.

If your cat or dog is experiencing other behavioral changes such as confusion or apparent cognitive changes, and we've ruled out other medical explanations, try to be patient and accepting. There are some useful treatments for geriatric cognitive disorder, so be sure to talk this over with your veterinarian. Other suggestions include:

  • Try not to change or rearrange furniture.
  • Maintain a routine feeding, watering and walking schedule.
  • Keep commands short, simple, and compassionate.
  • Encourage gentle and involved movement. You may also want to massage your pet.

Test your knowledge of senior pet care with AAHA's interactive spinner quiz.