Geriatric Care for Senior Dogs & Cats
In order to help your pet maintain a good quality of life as they age, senior pets require routine preventive care and early diagnosis throughout their old age.
With diligent care, our vets are able to help extend your pet's good health and wellbeing as they age. Because of this, it is key that your pet attend routinely scheduled wellness exams, even if they seem healthy.
Our veterinarians are here to help geriatric pets in New Ulm achieve optimal health by identifying and treating emerging health issues early, and providing proactive treatment while we can still effectively and easily manage them.
Typical Health Problems
Because of advancements in the dietary options and veterinary care available to our companion dogs and cats, pets are living far longer today than they ever have in the past.
While this is something worth celebrating, pet owners and vets now have to contend with far more age-related diseases and conditions than they did in the past as well.
Senior pets are typically prone to the following conditions:
- Joint or bone disorders
As your dog reaches their golden years, there are a number of joint or bone disorders that can result in pain and discomfort. Some of the most common joint and bone disorders in geriatric pets that our veterinarians see include arthritis, hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis, reduction in spinal flexibility, and growth plate disorders.
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 is believed that around half of all pets in the United States die of cancer. Because of this, it is important for your aging pet to visit the vet for routine wellness exams as often as possible as they 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 will commonly suffer from congestive heart failure. This is a condition where their heart is not able to efficiently pump blood throughout their body and, as a result, fluid builds up in their 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 come on slowly, allowing geriatric pets to adjust their behavior and making it difficult for pet owners to notice.
- Liver disease
Liver disease is quite common in senior cats and can often be the result of high blood pressure or hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of liver disease can range from jaundice, drooling and diarrhea to vomiting and increased thirst.
Liver disease in dogs can cause a number of serious symptoms including seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, jaundice, abdominal fluid buildup, and weight loss.
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 is unable to be cured, it is possible to manage it using a combination of a specialized diet and medications.
- Urinary tract disease
Our New Ulm 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 and ask you in detail about their home life. We will also conduct tests which may provide us with insight into their general physical condition and health.
Based on the findings, we'll recommend a treatment plan that can potentially include medications, activities and dietary changes that may help improve your senior pet's health, well-being and comfort.
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 and catch emerging health issues before they every develop into longer-term problems.
With regular physical examinations, your pet will have the best chance at quality long-term health.
How can I monitor my pet's quality of life?
At New Ulm Regional Veterinary Center, we offer a number of different resources for monitoring your pet's quality of life. We recommend The Grey Muzzle quality of life calendar on iOS and Android as a way of keeping track of your pet's quality of life as they grow older.
You can also use a daily dairy for quality of life.
What end-of-life care services do you offer?
Your pet was your loyal companion, trusted confidant, and best friend throughout their entire life, during which time you provided unconditional love, protection, and care. Saying goodbye to them is difficult. We offer pet cremation service through Veterinary Hospitals Association.
- What is the Veterinary Hospitals Association?
Veterinary Hospitals Association (VHA) is a local not-for-profit association that has been supporting and serving the veterinary community with cremation services for over 35 years. You can trust that our compassionate cremation staff provides the highest amount of dignity and respect your beloved pet deserves so that you may begin to find peace following your final goodbyes. Our team monitors each pet with its own identification number throughout our entire multiple checkpoint system process. This assures the ashes returned to you are your pet’s ashes. Each pets’ cremains are returned to your veterinary clinic in a respectful white box (if an urn is not desired) along with a personalized cremation certificate. We are honored to support our area veterinary clinics and pet owners with the highest level of compassion and care as we help pets’ make their final journey across The Rainbow Bridge. Know our thoughts are with you during this difficult time and know that we promise to take care of every cherished pet as if they were our own.