Geriatric Care for Senior Dogs & Cats
To help your pet maintain a good quality of life as they age, senior pets require diligent routine preventive care and early diagnosis all throughout their golden years.
Diligent care can help extend your pet's life and good health as they age, so it's important that they attend regularly scheduled wellness exams, even if they seem healthy.
Our vets are here to assist Santa Cruz area pets in achieving their optimal health as they age by identifying and treating health issues as they emerge, providing proactive treatments while we still are able to effectively manage them.
Typical Health Problems
Because of recent improvements in the treatment and nutritional options, our companion dogs and cats are now living far longer than they ever have before.
This is something worth celebrating, but it also means that veterinarians and pet owners now face far more age-related conditions than they have 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 as early as possible is critical to helping your dog to remain comfortable as they age. Treatment for joint and bone issues and disorders in senior dogs can range from reducing their level of exercise and the use of anti-inflammatory medications to surgical interventions to stabilize joints and remove diseases tissues.
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's generally believed that about 50% of all pets in the United States die from cancer. Because of this, it is very important for you to bring your senior pet in to visit our vets for routine wellness exams as they grow older.
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 commonly suffer from congestive heart failure, which occurs when the heart isn't pumping blood efficiently, causing fluid to back up in the heart, lungs, and chest cavity.
While heart disease is much less common in dogs than cats, Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a relatively common condition. This causes the walls of a cat's heart to thicken over time, decreasing their heart's ability to efficiently function.
- 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 develop slowly, allowing geriatric pets to adjust their behaviors and making it quite difficult for pet owners to notice the changes in their companions.
- Liver disease
In senior cats, liver disease is common and may be the result of high blood pressure or hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of liver disease in cats include loss of appetite, jaundice, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, 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 cats and dogs can develop diabetes at any age, most dogs who are diagnosed are done so somewhere between 7 and 10 years old. The majority of cats diagnosed with diabetes are older than 6 years.
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 cannot be cured, it can be managed with a combination of diet and medications.
- Urinary tract disease
Our Santa Cruz 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, asking about their home life in detail and performing any tests that may be required and searching for additional insight into their general condition and overall 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 critical to helping your senior pet live a long, healthy and happy life. It also affords our veterinarians the chance to detect diseases early and efficiently.
Early detection of disease will help preserve your pet's physical health and catch emerging health issues before they develop into long-term problems.
With regular physical examinations, your pet will have the best chance at quality long-term health.