Geriatric Care for Pets
As they continue to age, senior pets need routine preventive veterinary care and early diagnosis to help them maintain a good quality of life.
Attentive, diligent care can help extend your pet's life and good health as they age, so it's imperative that they attend regularly scheduled routine exams, even if they seem healthy.
Our veterinarians are here to help geriatric pets throughout East Valley achieve ideal health even in their golden years, by identifying and treating developing health issues early, and providing proactive treatment while conditions can still be managed easily and effectively.
Typical Health Problems
Many companion cats and dogs are living much longer today than they have in the past due to better veterinary care and improved dietary options.
While we can certainly celebrate this fact, pet owners and their veterinarians are now also facing more age-related conditions with their beloved animals than they did in the past.
Senior pets are generally prone to these conditions:
- Joint or bone disorders
As your dog enters their golden years, numerous joint or bone disorders can lead to pain and discomfort. Some of the most common joint and bone disorders for geriatric pets include reduction in spinal flexibility, growth plate disorders, hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis and arthritis.
It's essential to ensure these issues are addressed early, so your dog can stay as comfortable as possible while they age. Treatment for joint and bone issues for senior dogs can range from simply reducing levels of exercise, to the use of analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs, to surgery to remove diseased tissue, stabilize joints or reduce pain.
While we typically think of older dogs as being prone to osteoarthritis, this painful condition can also become an issue for senior cats.
In cats, symptoms of osteoarthritis are more subtle than those in dogs. While cats may experience a decrease in range of motion, the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis in geriatric cats include depression, weight loss, loss of appetite, poor grooming habits, urination or defecation outside the litter pan, inability to jump on and off objects and change in general attitude. While dogs typically experience lameness, this symptom is not commonly reported by cat owners.
It is believed that approximately 50% of all pets in the United States die from cancers. That's why it's important for your senior pet to visit the vet for routine exams as they age.
Bringing your geriatric pet in for routine checkups even when they seem healthy allows your veterinarian to examine them for early signs of cancer and other diseases which respond better to treatment when caught in their earliest stages.
- Heart Disease
Like people, heart disease can be a problem for geriatric pets.
Senior dogs commonly suffer from congestive heart failure, which occurs when the heart isn't pumping blood efficiently, causing fluid to back up in the heart, lungs, and chest cavity.
While heart disease is seen less in cats than in dogs, Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is relatively common. This condition causes the walls of a cat’s heart to thicken, decreasing the heart’s ability to function efficiently.
- Blindness and hearing loss
Degeneration in the eyes and ears can lead to varying degrees of deafness and blindness in older pets, although this is more common in dogs than in cats.
When these conditions are age-related they may come on slowly, allowing geriatric pets to adjust their behavior and making it difficult for pet owners to notice.
- Liver disease
In senior cats, liver disease is common and may be the result of high blood pressure or hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of liver disease in cats include loss of appetite, jaundice, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst.
Liver disease in dogs can cause a number of serious symptoms including seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, jaundice, abdominal fluid buildup, and weight loss.
If your geriatric dog or cat is displaying any of the symptoms of liver disease, veterinary care is essential.
Although dogs and cats can develop diabetes at any age, most dogs are diagnosed at approximately 7-10 years of age and the majority of cats diagnosed with diabetes are over 6 years of age.
Symptoms of diabetes in dogs and cats include excessive thirst, increased appetite accompanied by weight loss, cloudy eyes, and chronic or recurring infections.
Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes in both cats and dogs.
- Kidney disease
As pets age, their kidneys tend to lose their function. In some cases, kidney disease can be caused by medications used to treat other common conditions seen in geriatric pets.
While chronic kidney disease cannot be cured, it can be managed with a combination of diet and medications.
- Urinary tract disease
Our vets often see geriatric cats and dogs with urinary tract conditions and incontinence issues. Elderly pets can be prone to accidents as the muscles controlling the bladder weaken, but it's important to note that incontinence could be a sign of a bigger health issue such as a urinary tract infection or dementia.
If your senior pet experiences incontinence issues it's important to take your geriatric dog or cat to the vet for a thorough examination.
Veterinary Care for Seniors
Your senior pet will receive a thorough examination from the veterinarian. We will ask about their home life in detail and conduct any testing that may be needed to gain additional insight into his or her general physical health and condition.
Based on our findings, we'll recommend a treatment plan that may include activities, dietary changes and medications to help improve your pet's senior health, comfort and well-being.
Preventive care is key to helping your senior pet live a happy, healthy and fulfilled life. It also allows our veterinarians a chance to detect health issues early.
Early detection of disease will help preserve your pet's physical health and catch developing health issues before they turn into long-term problems.
With regular physical examinations, your pet will have the best chance at quality long-term health.