Senior Pet Care

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Senior Pet Care

Older pets have special health needs and may require more attention and care than younger pets. As your pet ages, changes occur in his physical condition that warrant more frequent visits to the veterinarian. If medical problems are recognized and treated when they are first detected, the treatment may be easier for your pet and less costly for you. Twice-a-year wellness examinations, special health services and veterinary diagnostics are recommended for older dogs and cats to diagnose medical problems in the early stages.

Geriatric Veterinary Exams

A geriatric exam is more extensive than a simple check-up and includes a complete physical exam, oral and rectal examinations and recording of body weight and body condition. Your veterinarian also examines your senior pet’s ears, eyes, and various internal organs. Some laboratory work may be done, including a complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exam, and perhaps endocrine blood tests and other complementary examinations. Establishing a base line is an added benefit and can ultimately help your older pet should there be any changes, even small ones, to your pet’s health.

Preventative and Ongoing Veterinary Exams are Crucial

As dogs and cats age, their organs may become less efficient and they may be less able to resist infections and other diseases. As a responsible pet owner, you want your senior pet to remain healthy and active for as long as possible, so it’s important to be aware of any condition that may warrant your veterinarian’s attention.

Special Health Needs of Senior Dogs

  • Your senior dog’s coat and the area around his muzzle begin to turn gray. Because your pet is getting older, it is important to know that skin problems may occur more often since the skin may be thinner, less elastic and does not repair itself as quickly.
  • Your senior dog begins to slow down, has less energy, has trouble getting up, and may demonstrate a limp.
  • Longer, more frequent naps are common side effects of aging.
  • A change in habits, including play preferences and eating or drinking habits, is commonly observed in older dogs.
  • Weight changes are common in older dogs. Some dogs gain weight as they age while others lose weight.
  • Dental problems that translate as bad breath are more likely to appear in older pets.
  • Hearing, vision and other senses become less acute when dogs get older.

Special Health Needs of Senior Cats

  • As old cats are often less active, their muscle tone tends to diminish, which may reduce their ability to run, jump and climb. Lack of exercise contributes to the stiffening of joints.
  • Frequently, older cats suffer from a poor appetite as the senses of taste and smell often deteriorate with age. Teeth problems are common and can discourage eating.
  • Bowel function may deteriorate with age, causing problems such as reduced ability to absorb food nutrients. This can lead to weight loss. Some elderly cats suffer from constipation.
  • Elderly cats have decreased thirst and are at risk of dehydration. This is particularly dangerous for cats with kidney problems.
  • Older cats tend to sleep less heavily but more frequently.

Elderly cats often have poor coats that may make them less resistant to cold and moisture.