At what age is a pet considered a senior?
- It varies, but typically cats and small/medium dogs are considered geriatric around 8 years of age.
- Large/giant breed dogs are considered geriatric sooner, around 6-7 years of age.
How do you know when your senior pet needs a hip or joint supplement/medication?
- Common signs of joint pain:
- Stiff gait
- Difficulty rising from rest
- Difficulty using the stairs, especially going down stairs
- Exercise intolerance or quick to fatigue
- Resistance to or difficulty jumping, climbing etc.
- Pain or swelling of the affected joint
- Generalized signs of discomfort: panting, restlessness, lethargy, decreased appetite
- Starting a joint supplement before symptoms are even noticed is always a good idea, especially if your pet is a large breed and/or very active.
- Additional therapies like anti-inflammatories, pain medications, advanced joint supplements, laser therapy, and physical therapy may be recommended by your veterinarian as well.
Is all the testing veterinarians recommend necessary? What tests should be done and how often?
- Screening labs (blood work, urinalysis) are recommended as a pet reaches senior age even if symptoms are not present in order to maximize chance of early disease detection. The earlier a disease is caught, the more manageable it can be.
- Many senor pets are on chronic medications, and routine lab work to ensure efficacy and safety is smart as well.
- Typically, senior labs are recommended anywhere from once to up to 4 times a year depending on the pet and potential disease process being monitored.
What changes needed to be made in a household for senior pets?
- Try not to alter their routine environment as much as possible, especially in cases of senior pets experiencing a decline in vision, hearing, or cognition (i.e. don't move furniture, their food/water/crate etc).
- If you know your pet has vision/hearing/cognitive deficits, you may need to change how you approach them so as to not startle or surprise them.
- Senior pets with joint issues can benefit from the addition of joint supportive surfaces and structures, including mats and area rugs on slippery surfaces to improve traction, thick/soft bedding to minimize pressure on joints, ramps/stairs to assist getting in/out of the car or on the bed/couch.
- A diet change to a senior blend or prescription food may be recommended by your veterinarian.
What are the common symptoms or signs of disease in a senior pet?
- Unintended weight change
- Joint pain/limping
- Exercise intolerance
- Dental disease (calculus, gingivitis, bad breath, mouth pain or bleeding)
- GI upset (i.e. vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, inappetance)
- Increased urination and/or incontinence
- Increased drinking
- Changes in skin or hair coat quality
- Confusion or disorientation