Our pets are living longer than ever thanks to high quality pet foods and preventative veterinary care. Just as people, pets develop problems as they age. Common problems that we see with older animals include dental disease, arthritis, and kidney or liver disease.
Symptoms of age-related diseases are often subtle or vague. Changes in pets’ activity level, appetite, and weight can indicate that there is a problem. Twice yearly exams and regular bloodwork of older pets can be a very effective way to detect geriatric disease early. Early detection frequently means more effective treatment and a better quality of life.
One of the most common problems seen in our older patients is arthritis. Often owners note that their dog doesn’t like to go on long walks anymore, has difficulty getting up in the morning, or difficulty going up the stairs. Please share this information with your veterinarian as there are a number of options available to treat pain and arthritis. These include diet, nutritional supplements, and anti-inflammatory medications.
By some reports 80% of senior pets have dental disease. This often causes pain and discomfort to the pet but all the owners notice is bad breath. In most cases it is safe to perform dental cleanings on geriatric pets. We take precautions such as blood work, chest x-rays (when necessary), IV fluids and intensive monitoring during the procedure. After dental cleanings many owners report that their pet acts years younger and they wish they had the teeth cleaned sooner.
Geriatric examinations usually include a standard physical; eye, ear, mouth, chest, abdomen, and orthopedic; blood chemistry profile; complete blood count; urinalysis and possibly endocrine (glandular) tests, and in some cases X-rays.
These exams may add $200–$400 to your annual veterinary costs, but the expense is much less than what you will ultimately pay if diseases progress untreated. Still, planning for preventive care makes sense.
When will your pet require geriatric care?
Cats usually require geriatric care when they are 8–10 years old.