** Based on 2023 AAHA Senior Care Guidelines
Who are our senior pets?
Various definitions exist but typically we’re talking about pets in the final 25% of their life span or cats older than 10 years of age (not to say that cats only live 25% longer than 10 years old).
Why are senior pets special?
Just as young puppies and kittens have special needs, older pets do as well.
These older pets may encounter similar concerns and disease processes and thus we can tailor our care to address these common concerns before or as they arise.
How can we care best for these patients?
A detailed history of at home observations is very helpful. These should include:
- Eating/drinking habits
- Exercise and movement
- Play behavior
- Vision and hearing
We also want to know exactly what your pet is eating and what medications, supplements, nutraceuticals, ointments and oils they may be receiving.
Your vet or veterinary nurse may inquire if you have pictures of videos of changed behaviors or your pet’s mobility, so don’t hesitate to obtain these and share them with us.
How often should you visit?
In general, older pets should have two physical examinations per year.
Depending on any co-morbidities (other chronic issues or upcoming concerns) we may advise more frequent visits or seek the consultation for specialists.
A full physical examination in a senior pet should also include a comprehensive diagnostic profile including (but not limited to):
- Cell Blood Count
- Chemistry profile to evaluate organ functions
- Thyroid (Total T4)
- Urinalysis, which we may have specific reasoning for obtaining (at home before the visit) or in office sterility
- Fecal screening
- Heartworm and tick testing (if warranted)
- Blood pressure measurement
- Advanced diagnostics may also be warranted after review of preliminary diagnostics.
How else your senior visit may be different:
- We will do our best to keep your pet as comfortable as possible including using padded beds, blankets, and we may also use “pheromones” which are natural calming scents.
- We may provide you with a questionnaire ahead of time with questions directed at behaviors you may be seeing at home as your pet ages.
- Your visit may last longer than it has in the past, because there may be a lot of different details to discuss and we want to create a solid plan for your pet as they enter their golden years.
- We may create a body map of lumps and bumps that you’re noticing, so we don’t lose track of them and so we don’t sample the same lesions over and over again.
Considerations for older pets
- Dental Care is important at all life stages, but possibly more so as a pet ages.
- Age is not a disease, and so if your pet has dental disease, we may recommend a comprehensive dental cleaning including anesthesia to alleviate pain and discomfort and prevent worsening dental disease.
- We can perform anesthesia safely on aged pets, but we may advise additional pre-anesthesia diagnostics including chest x-rays and complete bloodwork or cardiac evaluations if warranted in your pet.
- Nutritional Consultation
- Senior pets may have different needs as it pertains to chronic disease or metabolic needs changing with age.
- Cognitive Decline
- 14-22.5% of older pets will suffer from age-related cognitive impairment that may start as early at 8 years of age
- You may note clinical signs such as disorientation, confusion of days and nights or changed sleeping patterns, loss of house training, altered activity levels and increasing anxiety
- We’re here to help and early intervention with supplements and medications can make a difference in many pets, so please don’t hesitate to mention these things
- We have a helpful questionnaire that you can work through to help identify these changes
- Pain Management
- Older pets are more likely to encounter chronic pain conditions
- The management of these conditions may include prescription drugs, supplements, nutraceuticals and alternative therapies like cold laser, acupuncture, or physical therapy.
- We have a list of favorite resources for this, which is included at the end of this information sheet.
We are constantly learning how better to care for our senior patients and their families. We have resources for you if you should find your pet has changing needs and you aren’t sure where to turn.
For example, in home grooming or home visits may be more appropriate for pets that are having discomfort at the vet or groomer.
Is your pet sitter comfortable with a senior pet and will they need to administer medications during their stay with your pet?
Is your dog walker comfortable with senior pets and are they able to do 1:1 walks vs pack walks, which may not be ideal for an aged pet at this stage of life.
We also have included some tips and links to videos on administering medication to pets
If you find it hard to medicate your pet, ask us about compounded medications which can be made into formulations that are not stressful to give (treats, creams, liquids, etc.).
As your pet ages, no concern is too minor to bring to our attention. Noting changes early can make a big difference in having options for treatment and for maintaining longevity and quality of life.
- Joint Health:
- Dasuquin Advanced or Dasuquin with MSM (Nutramax) for cats and dogs
- Fish Oils:
- Omega Benefits
- Ellevet oil or chews or gelcaps (for cats and dogs)
- Gastrointestinal Support:
- Visbiome Vet
- Pain Management:
- Prescription NSAIDs
- Alternative Therapies:
- Dr. Rachel Barack
- Dr. Jeff Levy
- Physical Therapy and Rehab: