Preventive and Emergency Care for Senior Pets

senior pets: cat and dog

With good care and attention, our pets are living longer lives. As they become seniors — most dogs and cats over age seven are considered senior pets — they need closer attention to health problems.

Preventive Care for the Senior Dog and Cat

As our pets get older, they may need more visits to the vet for preventive care. They will need particular attention to dental care, weight checks, and some blood work; this is to check for common medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

For many dogs, weight gain as they get older — and for cats, weight loss with age — can be a sign that something else is wrong. Arthritis pain, for example, may limit walks and play time. Pets may become more sensitive to the food they eat, and may need softer and more nutrient dense food. Indoor dogs may need more frequent, but shorter walks and bathroom breaks. Even a healthy older pet may sleep more and seem more easily confused.

Changes and Adjustment

Good nutrition can keep our senior pets healthy; but even so, some health problems are common with age. Many pets develop hearing and vision problems. Dogs, especially, may have both decreased generalized hearing and increased sensitivity to loud, piercing noises (like alarms or sirens). You may notice that vision is beginning to cloud over with cataracts. But hearing and vision problems can usually be managed with small changes in the environment. Pets with poor eyesight manage to move around familiar spaces with little difficulty. Some pet owners find that small adjustments, such as touching the dog on the head while speaking his name, are effective. Change is more difficult for seniors, so moving furniture around or taking trips to new places may be disorienting. In many cases, introducing a new puppy or kitten into the family can be a difficult adjustment; seniors often need more quiet and rest.

The AVMA recommends that senior pets get semi-annual health checks, so health problems common in seniors can be identified and treated early. They also may have different needs for immunizations, dental care, and diet.

Arthritis and Pain

Larger dogs are especially prone to arthritis as they get older. The pain and stiffness may cause dogs to not want to play or walk as much; they can seem depressed and irritable. They may be sensitive to being petted over the arthritic joint, sleep more, and not want to walk up stairs or jump up on chairs or into the car.  There are many therapies and treatments for arthritis in senior pets, including some holistic and natural methods, environmental changes, and medications for pain and inflammation. Many senior pets with arthritis will have improved quality of life with treatment for pain and inflammation.

Medications include over-the-counter Omega 3 fatty acids and glucosamine chondroitin supplements, as well as prescription NSAIDS- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications. Similar to human varieties such as naproxen, the medications for pets are specifically formulated for dogs and cats. Pets should never be given human NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. These human drugs can be toxic to pets. In addition there are some orthopedic devices that can make life easier for a pet with arthritis, such as raised feeding platforms and raised beds.

Arthritis can be progressive and increasingly painful over time, so the vet will make a treatment plan that is design to slow the progression of the disease and treat pain. The goal is always to allow a senior pet to enjoy the best quality life.

Can Senior Pets Develop Senility?

Just like with people, as pets get older, they can develop both mild and more severe types of senility, called cognitive dysfunction. Many times pet owners start noticing changes in behavior, such as being less responsive to human company, wandering, repetitive activity or increased anxiety, no longer following commands, or having accidents in the house. The vet will rule out other causes of the behavior change, such as pain, urinary tract infection, or a change in the family such as a new pet. If behavior signs and the exam suggest senility, there are both over the counter and prescription medicines that can help control the symptoms and make sure your pet is enjoying good quality of life.

What about Heart Disease?

Heart disease is very common in both humans and pets as we get older. We may see weight loss, lack of energy, increased sleeping, and shortness of breath and coughing. Good nutrition and especially managing weight is critical to both prevention and treatment of heart conditions. There are many treatments for heart disease available to vets. A sudden change in weight, with shortness of breath or cough, needs to be evaluated quickly.

What are the Signs of Cancer?

Cancer is senior pets is closely related to age; over the age of ten, the rate of cancer increases. Senior pets who show signs of weight loss, trouble urinating or defecating, decreased appetite, shortness of breath, or unexplained pain should be seen by the vet. A limp, or favoring one limb, or a change in gait, or ability to walk, should be evaluated quickly. While arthritis may be the more common cause, a more serious diagnosis is also possible. There are new treatments being developed for cancer in pets.

What About Quality of Life?

It is very important to both pet owners and to veterinary staff that animals enjoy a good quality of life. Quality of Life scales are used to determine if the pet’s basic needs can still be met, despite advancing age and illness. Examples of the issues evaluated on the Quality of Life index are pain control, ease of breathing, mobility and generalized weakness. Vets evaluate if animals can eat, drink, and go to the bathroom. In addition, happiness, and the number of good days and bad days are examined. The AVMA uses this HHHHMM scale to evaluate quality of life.

With extreme old age, many pets develop generalized weakness. When a senior pet has trouble getting out of bed and walking, or collapses with walking, it is important to allow the vet to examine your pet. There may be a treatable cause of the weakness. If the vet determines, after an exam and talking to you, that the collapse and weakness is a sign of extreme old age, or if your pet has intractable pain that is failing treatment, quality of life will need to be evaluated.

We can offer care for your senior pet. Please contact us for an appointment.

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Google Reviews
Donna Swingley
Donna Swingley
posted 1 month ago

This is the BEST VET I have ever taken a pet to!
I took my 12 week old puppy for a "vet check up" and they treated him like he was their own! Dr. Susan was very helpful and answered all of my questions and made sure I understood, she gave me suggestions on how to crate and potty train my new little friend too. I was very happy would refer this practice to anyone that asked. I am taking my puppy back in two weeks for sure!

Brittany Haney
Brittany Haney
posted 4 weeks ago

My dog stayed for just over a week and I couldn’t be happier with the service I and my pup got. Immediately upon entering we were greeted and they knew exactly who we were, even though we had never been there. The check in process was smooth, and I felt very comfortable leaving my pup. When picking up I received a report card telling me how my pup did, she made herself right at home! The check out process was seamless and quick. Before evening checking me out they called back for my pup to be brought up so it was fast and easy. Would highly recommend, and we will surly be back!

Teresa Phillips
Teresa Phillips
posted 4 weeks ago

They were wonderful. The place is very clean. They are reasonably priced. They should let future customers know ahead of time more about the feeding situation. For example, the customer should know to bring in his or her own wet food, if that is the daily intake. Dry pet food is supplied. I would recommend.Tip to Tail. Correction, Tipp to Tail.

Beth Hutton
Beth Hutton
posted 1 month ago

I was amazed by everything that everyone did. When I wanted to check up on my 2 Boys when they were there, the were very prompt about letting me know how they were doing. Now, I did have 10 year old Basset with hip and back problems, and 3 yrs old Siberian Husky who can be a handful too. They sent pictures of my boys letting me see they were doing well. They let me know when my Husky wouldn't eat and if they could try other options for feeding due to his anxiety. They are very helpful!! I would refer anyone here, as I was thoroughly happy with the service I received. 😊

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