Geriatric Care for Senior Dogs & Cats
In order to help your pet maintain a good quality of life as they grow older, senior pets need routine preventative veterinary care and early diagnosis all throughout their golden years.
Diligent care can help extend your pet's life and good health as they age, just like in human medicine, it's important that they are scheduled for bi-annual wellness exams, and routine lab work, even if they seem healthy.
Our veterinarians are here to help your geriatric pets in the Somerset area to achieve optimal health by identifying and treating health issues as they emerge as well as in their earliest stages, while they are still effectively managable.
Typical Health Problems
Because of the improved dietary options and better veterinary care that has become available in recent years, our companion dogs and cats are living far longer today than they ever have in the past.
While this is something worth celebrating, pet owners and veterinarians are now facing more age-related conditions than they did in the past too.
Senior pets are typically prone to the following conditions:
- Joint or bone disorders
As your dog grows old and reaches their golden years, there are a number of different joint and bone conditions that may cause them pain and discomfort. Some of the most common bone and joint disorders affecting senior dogs include arthritis, osteochondrosis, growth plate disorders, reduced spinal flexibility and hip dysplasia.
Addressing these issues early is essential for keeping your dog comfortable as they continue to age. Treatment for joint and bone issues in senior dogs ranges 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 osteoarthritis is typically a condition we think of in older dogs, this painful condition can also affect your senior cat's joints.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis in cats are more subtle than those in dogs. While cats can experience a decrease in range of motion the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis in geriatric cats include weight loss, loss of appetite, depression, change in general attitude, poor grooming habits, urination or defecation outside the litter pan, and inability to jump on and off objects. Lameness typically seen in dogs is not commonly reported by cat owners.
It's generally believed that about half of all pets in the US die of cancer. That is why it is so important that you continue to visit your veterinarian for routine wellness exams as your pet begins to 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 onset slowly. This allows aging pets to adjust their behavior to match their ability, but it also means that the changes are much more difficult 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.
In dogs, liver disease can cause a number of different and serious symptoms, including diarrhea, jaundice, fever, weight loss and abdominal fluid buildup.
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 Somerset 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
Our vets will thoroughly examine your senior pet, ask about their home life in detail and perform any tests that may be required to receive additional insight into his or her general physical health and condition.
Based on these findings, we will recommend a treatment plan that may include medications, activities and dietary changes that are all designed to help improve your senior pet's comfort, longevity and overall health.
Routine Wellness Exams
Preventive care is essential to helping your senior pet live a healthy, happy and fulfilled life. It also gives our veterinarians the opportunity to detect diseases early.
The early detection of disease will help to preserve your pet's physical health, wellness and longevity and may even catch emerging health issues before they have a chance to develop into longer-term problems.
With regular physical examinations, your pet will have the best chance at quality long-term health.