Older Pet Care: Savoring Your Pet’s Senior Years

Senior Pet Care Services at Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary Hospital

As pets become older, they face many of the same health challenges that humans do. These can range from weight gain and decreased mobility, to heart, kidney, and liver diseases—as well as diabetes. That’s why being proactive about veterinary care is especially important for senior pets. For this reason, we recommend that you bring your senior pet in twice a year for a full wellness exam. By detecting and treating problems early, pets are able to live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

The veterinarians and staff at Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary Hospital have extensive experience when it comes to caring for senior and geriatric pets. In addition, because we believe so strongly in the importance of preventive pet health care, we offer discounted senior care packages with savings of 10% off the cost of annual senior lab work. We are committed to ensuring all of your older pet’s health needs are met.

Is My Pet a Senior?

Typically, pets are considered to be seniors around the age of 7. Of course this will vary according to a pet’s species, size, and breed. In the case of canines, smaller dogs tend to have longer lifespans than their giant-breed counterparts. For example, a giant-breed dog may be considered a senior as young as 5 years, while a small-breed dog may not reach senior status until 10–13 years of age.

Other factors that will affect how individual pets age include body weight, nutrition, environment, and overall health. If you would like a general idea of how old your pet is considered to be, please look at the appropriate species chart below.

Senior Pet Care Handouts

Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary Hospital has provided informative and helpful handouts about the care of your senior pet. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us.

For canines:

For felines:

Senior Symptoms to Watch Out For

As your pet becomes older, you may notice his or her chin is starting to turn gray. Perhaps he or she is also beginning to slow down. These are obvious signs of aging and aren’t really cause for concern. However, other subtle changes can take place very gradually, and they could be signs of a more significant underlying condition.

That’s why it’s essential that older pets receive regular pet wellness exams. These appointments enable our veterinarians to carefully monitor your senior pet and evaluate any changes that have taken place. If you notice your pet exhibiting any of the symptoms below, please be sure to bring them to our attention.

Behavioral Changes

  • Decreased activity
  • Less interaction with family members
  • Less enthusiastic greeting behavior
  • Sleeping more or sleeping during the day and staying awake at night
  • Disorientation or confusion (getting "lost" in the house or yard)
  • Less responsive to verbal cues or name
  • Excessive barking or meowing or whimpering for no apparent reason

Metabolic Changes

  • Weight gain or loss
  • Changes in appearance of the skin, coat, or muscle tone
  • Changes in eating or drinking habits
  • Increased urination
  • Loss of house training or litter box training

Physical Changes

  • Limping or stiffness of gait
  • Poor vision or difficulty hearing
  • Dental problems (offensive breath)
  • Increase in infections
  • Digestive problems, such as increased episodes of vomiting or diarrhea
  • New lumps or bumps
  • Changes in breathing

Proper Preventive Care

Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary Hospital follows the guidelines of the American Animal Hospital Association, which recommends that senior pets have semi-annual wellness exams. During these appointments, our veterinarians will perform a complete physical exam, where we will check your pet’s body weight, heart, lungs, ears, eyes, teeth, gums, thyroid gland, skin, coat, and more.

If your pet is exhibiting signs of periodontal disease, we will recommend appropriate pet dental care. This could range from at-home measures—such as brushing your pet’s teeth, using special chews/treats, or a dental rinse—to a professional dental cleaning.

Should your pet experience a noticeable weight change, our veterinarians will first determine whether there is an underlying medical cause. If there isn’t, then we will provide pet nutrition counseling to ensure that your pet is receiving the appropriate nutrients and calories for his or her lifestyle and needs.

At least once each year, we will perform veterinary diagnostic tests for your senior pet. These include:

  • Full serum chemistry profile—This is used to assess the status of the liver, kidneys, and pancreas, as well as other organs.
  • Complete blood count—This test is helpful in the diagnosis of infection, anemia, and bleeding problems. It can also provide insights into the status of your pet’s immune system.
  • Thyroid profile—We use this diagnostic tool to examine your pet’s metabolism. Dogs are prone to low thyroid levels, while cats are more likely to have high thyroid levels. In both cases, this can lead to many other pet health problems.
  • Urinalysis—Testing a urine sample enables us to check for evidence of infection and to assess your pet’s kidney function.
  • Fecal parasite screening—Your pet’s fecal sample will be carefully examined for evidence of parasites and unusual bacteria and protozoa.

Once your pet has reached geriatric age, we also recommend:

  • Thoracic and abdominal pet radiographs—These will be reviewed by a board-certified veterinary radiologist.
  • Blood pressure screening—Because pets can be affected by hypertension just as people are, it’s important to periodically check the blood pressure of older patients.
  • Advanced Veterinary Treatments—While we hope your senior pet will never require advanced care, our veterinarians are highly trained across all areas of veterinary internal medicine—from cardiology, dermatology, and eye care, to gastroenterology, endocrinology, urology, and more. We also offer holistic medicine and veterinary acupuncture treatments, which can be extremely effective in treating a variety of conditions, including cat or dog arthritis.

We are committed to providing your senior pet with the best of care so that you can enjoy many more happy years together.