Senior Pet Care for your Aging Friend

By the time your pet enters its senior years, he or she is your devoted friend, having provided many years of loyalty and affection. As your pet ages, healthcare needs may change, requiring an extra level of care, such as pain management, special nutrition, extra grooming, and low–impact exercise to stay fit and healthy. Modern veterinary medicine allows pets to live a longer, healthier life than ever before.

The point at which your pet enters the senior stage depends upon the type of pet, size, breed, and lifestyle. For example, a small dog may be considered senior at age 10, a giant breed such as a Great Dane is already a senior at 5 years old, and cats are typically considered seniors at age 8.

For optimum health, we recommend a wellness visit twice a year for all older pets.

An exam for your senior pet may include the following steps, depending on age and health history:

  • Comprehensive physical exam
  • Oral and dental exam
  • Blood work
  • Urine screen
  • Blood pressure check
  • Nutritional assessment
  • Chest X-rays

Your participation in the senior exam will assist us in determining if there are developing problems, by advising us of any changes in appearance or behavior since your last visit. This is an excellent time to bring up your questions and concerns about your old friend.

As your pet ages, you may begin to notice a few changes in behavior. Some changes may be very subtle and occur slowly over a long period of time. You may not think about it, but your pet’s aging process is very similar to ours. We often see urinary incontinence, senility, and increased irritability in our older pets. Our veterinarians can determine if these are truly behavioral or may have an easily treatable medical cause.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a specific condition common in older pets. Most of the symptoms are not exhibited in the exam room but instead are things you will notice at home. This is a condition that often responds to medical therapy and symptoms may include the following:

  • Wandering aimlessly
  • Appearing lost or confused in familiar places, such as the backyard or the house
  • Getting “stuck” in corners or behind furniture
  • Having difficulty finding the door or going to the wrong side of the door
  • Barking at night for no apparent reason
  • Sleeping more
  • Staring into space or at walls
  • Inability to recognize loved ones
  • Having accidents in the house or not asking to go outside

If you notice a sudden onset of any of these symptoms, a veterinarian should see your pet right away, as these can be signs of pain or serious conditions such as vestibular disease and brain tumor.

Not all senior pet concerns are simple ones. Senior pets can develop chronic conditions, such as arthritis or diabetes, or may require ongoing pain management. Should you face such concerns, we will discuss all treatment options available for your senior pet and help you make the best decision possible for both you and your beloved friend.

Contact our office regarding questions about your senior pet—together we will make a plan that addresses your old friend’s unique needs. And visit our Pain Management page to learn about our approach to chronic pain.

Aging pet needs are discussed in this selection of articles and videos by pet health experts at WebMD.

Northpark Animal Hospital

Old dogs, like old shoes, are comfortable. They might be a bit out of shape and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well.

~ Bonnie Wilcox