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Confederate Woods Veterinary Hospital

Geriatric Care

Just because your pet is entering their “golden years” does not mean they have to stop doing the things they love.

Geriatric Care

Just because your pet is entering their “golden years” does not mean they have to stop doing the things they love. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, pets are living longer and more active lives – than ever before. However, with a longer lifespan comes an increase in the types of ailments that can afflict senior pets. It’s our job to ensure that your pet enjoys a wonderful quality of life in their golden years.

When Is My Pet a Senior?

Age seven marks the start of your pet’s golden years. Why age seven? It’s when most pets start to experience physiologic changes that can affect their health and longevity. If these changes are found early, our doctors can successfully treat these diseases, enabling your pet to live a longer, healthier life.

Isn’t It Normal for My Pet to “Slow Down” as They Age?

As pets age, they develop many of the same age-related changes we do, such as heart disease and arthritis. When your pet “slows down,” it’s because they are not feeling as lively as they did when they were younger. For many pets, joint pain can cause them to be less active.

Your pet can’t tell you that they are in pain, and they won’t actually vocalize or whine until their joint pain (arthritis) becomes severe. What will you observe? When your pet is in pain – they will sleep more, they will hide (especially cats), and they will become disinterested in their favorite activities, such as showing excitement to go for a walk, or hesitation to jump on furniture.

If You Are Concerned About Your Pet’s Health

The first step is to schedule a physical exam so that our doctors can determine the cause of the change you’ve observed. During the visit, we may recommend that your pet undergo diagnostics, such as radiographs and lab work. The information provided by these tests helps our doctors to diagnose the specific cause of their illness and develop a therapy plan to not only improve the quality of your pet’s life but support their longevity as well.

What Preventative Care Is Recommended for My Senior Pet?

As your pet enters their golden years our doctors will recommend some additional diagnostics to better evaluate their health. Annual blood work provides a significant amount of information about your pet’s health. When performed regularly, our doctors can catch and treat the early onset of many diseases. We also recommended that a urine test, or urinalysis, be done annually. Checking a urine sample can assist our doctors in the diagnosis of urinary tract infections, diabetes, and dehydration, and is the best way to detect kidney problems.

How Do I Know If My Pet Is in Pain?

Unlike people who can tell us they hurt, our pets don’t communicate this to us, and there are usually no obvious signs that they are in pain. We need to watch for subtle changes in their habits and behavior to see if they are hurting or uncomfortable.

For example, cats will often stop using the litter box because it is too painful for them to climb in and out or even make it to the box if it requires going up and down stairs, etc. You may notice your dog isn’t meeting you at the door when you come home or is reluctant to use the stairs. Having your pet evaluated by one of our doctors is the best way to determine the underlying cause of your pet’s change in behavior.

Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

Many senior dogs and cats experience the symptoms of joint inflammation or arthritis, which can be painful and debilitating. The good news is that there are several treatment options to help your pet stay comfortable, including pain medication, nutriceutical supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, and laser therapy.

The pain medications we use are formulated to be safe for pets and should never be substituted with human non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s). Periodic blood work is needed to monitor your pet for any changes in their liver and kidney health while your pet is taking this class of medication.