Caring for Geriatric Pets

November is Geriatric Pet Month!

Naomi O’Connell RVN BSc (Hons)

As a result of enhanced veterinary care and nutritional improvements, our animals are living longer lives. One question we get asked in practice is “When does a pet become old?” This can vary between breeds and species. Small dogs and cats are usually considered to be geriatric when they reach 7 years. Dogs that are larger breeds, unfortunately, tend to have shorter life spans and are considered geriatric when they reach roughly 6 years of age. As our animals are living longer lives, we as veterinary professionals are met with a completely new array of age-related conditions. In recent years extensive research has been carried out on the difficulties our older pets face and how we as owners and veterinary staff can best handle their individual needs.

Geriatric pets may need more attention, this can include dietary changes, more regular check-ups with their vet, and in certain cases adjustments to their home environment. Here are some important factors to bear in mind when caring for your older pet:

Regular veterinary visits; senior animals should have semi-annual visits with their vet so signs of illness or other issues can be identified early and treated. Geriatric pet check-ups tend to be more in-depth than that of a younger animal and can include dental exams, blood tests, and specific checks for physical signs of diseases that are more common in older animals.

Nutrition & diet; our geriatric pets typically require a diet that is more easily digested, with an altered calorie level and ingredients, and age-specific nutrients, such as Calibra Dog Life Senior Medium & Large breed

Weight management; obesity in geriatric dogs greatly increases their risk of health problems, while weight loss is a greater concern for geriatric cats.

Parasite treatment; our geriatric pets’ immune systems are not as robust as those of younger animals; consequently, is important to make sure that our older animals are treated regularly for parasites with an effective and safe product. 

Supporting mobility; it is important to keep our older pets mobile through suitable, gentle exercise. This can help keep them healthy and active even as they age.

Mental health; geriatric pets can display signs of senility. It is important to keep them stimulated through interactions which can help keep them mentally active. 

Environmental factors; some lifestyle changes may need to be implemented as our pets age, for example, sleeping or rest areas that avoid stairs, more time indoors, and specialised orthopedic bedding like the Balto Orthopedic Mattress  can all help to make our older animals more comfortable. 

Reproductive diseases; geriatric pets that have not been spayed/neutered are at an increased risk of developing mammary, testicular, and prostate cancers.

Speak to our veterinary team about how best to care for your older pet and be prepared for potential age-related health issues.