Geriatric Dog & Cat Care
To protect their quality of life while they mature into old age, senior pets need routine preventive veterinary care and early diagnosis during their golden years.
With diligent care, our vets can help extend your pet's life and good health as they grow older, so attending regularly scheduled routine wellness exams is important.
Our veterinarians help geriatric cats & dogs from across San Diego achieve ideal health by identifying and treating emerging health issues early, and providing proactive treatment while any problems can still be effectively managed.
Typical Health Problems
Companion cats and dogs are living far longer today than they have in the past due to improved dietary options and better veterinary care.
While we can certainly celebrate this, pet owners and veterinarians are now also facing more age-related conditions than they have in the past.
Typically, senior pets are prone to these conditions:
- Joint or bone disorders
As your dog enters their golden years, they may face numerous joint or bone disorders that can lead to pain and discomfort. Some common joint and bone disorders that our veterinarians see in geriatric pets include hip dysplasia, reduction in spinal flexibility, growth plate disorders, osteochondrosis and arthritis.
It's essential to have these issues addressed early to keep your dog comfortable as they age. For joint and bone issues in senior dogs, treatment may range from simply reducing exercise levels to using analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs, to surgery to remove diseased tissue, reduce pain and stabilize joints.
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 approximately 50% of all pets in the US die from cancers. That's why it's important for your senior pet to visit the vet for routine wellness exams 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 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 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
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 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 cannot be cured, it can be managed with a combination of diet and medications.
- Urinary tract disease
Our San Diego 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
Your senior pet will be thoroughly examined by our vets, who will ask about their home life in detail and perform any tests that may be needed to gain additional insight into his or her physical health and condition.
Based on our findings, we'll recommend a treatment plan that may include activities, dietary changes and medications to help improve your senior pet's health, comfort and well-being.
Routine Wellness Exams
To help your senior pet live a healthy, happy and fulfilled life, preventive care is essential - even if your pet seems healthy. It also affords our veterinarians the chance to detect disease early.
Early detection of disease helps protect your pet's physical health and identify emerging health issues before they become long-term problems.
With regular physical examinations, your pet will have the best chance at high quality of life and long-term health.