Senior Medicine

Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, pets are living longer than ever before. However with this increased lifespan comes an increase in the types of ailments that can afflict senior pets. As pets reach the golden years, there are a variety of conditions and diseases that they can face, including weight and mobility changes; osteoarthritis; kidney, heart, and liver disease; tumors and cancers; hormone disorders such as diabetes and thyroid imbalance; and many others.

Just as the health care needs of humans change as we age, the same applies to pets. It’s critical for pet owners to work closely with their veterinarian to devise a health plan that is best for their senior pet. To assist veterinary hospitals in offering optimal care for senior pets, AAHA has issued a set of Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. These guidelines provide a framework for veterinarians to provide optimal care for all senior pets. Major highlights of these guidelines are covered in this article.

When Does “Senior” Start?

So when is a pet considered a senior? Generally, smaller breeds of dogs live longer than larger breeds, and cats live longer than dogs. Beyond that, the life span will vary with each individual, and your veterinarian will be able to help you determine what stage of life your furry friend is in. Keep in mind that some small dog breeds may be considered senior at 10-13 years, while giant breeds are classified as seniors at ages as young as five. Your veterinarian is your best source for more information to determine when your pet reaches the golden years.

Senior Health Exams

Scheduling regular veterinary examinations is one of the most important steps pet owners can take to keep their pets in tip-top shape. When dogs and cats enter the senior years, these health examinations are more important than ever. Senior care, which starts with the regular veterinary exam, is needed to catch and delay the onset or progress of disease and for the early detection of problems such as organ failure and osteoarthritis. AAHA recommends that healthy senior dogs and cats visit the veterinarian every six months for a complete exam and laboratory testing. Keep in mind that every year for a dog or cat is equivalent to 5–7 human years. In order stay current with your senior pet’s health care, twice-a-year exams are a must.

During the senior health exam, your veterinarian will ask you a series of questions regarding any changes in your pet’s activity and behavior. The veterinarian will also conduct a complete examination of all of your pet’s body systems. Client education and laboratory testing are also key components of the senior exam.

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