By Dr. Kathy Boehme

We used to lump all aging pets into a senior classification once they were older than about 7 to 8 years of age. For giant breed dogs it is even earlier. We all know that a healthy 8-year-old lab is quite different than a 12-year-old lab. Senior pets are more defined by age category and are those that we may be looking to alter the intensity of exercise with, consider dietary adjustments and consider nutritional supplementation. We also start to examine and monitor senior pets more frequently to pick up on changing trends. Geriatric pets, on the other hand, are defined more on health rather than actual age in numbers. This allows us to really focus individualized attention on those pets that are in the last stage of their lives and require more care. They may have diminished sight or hearing, their strength and mobility may be less, they may be developing cognitive changes such as increasing anxiety.

Some of the biggest concerns that come up for geriatric pets are:

  • Changes in mobility
  • Onset of anxiety and dementia
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Diminishing senses, especially hearing and sight
  • Decreasing energy level
  • Decreasing strength
  • Pain
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Dental disease
  • Cancer

Geriatric pets require individual recommendations and planning and truly need help to ensure the optimal quality of life as their bodies change. It also requires honest communication to develop a plan that will work for the human caregivers as well. It is a very sad but true fact that 60% of cats and 44% of dogs do not see a veterinarian in the 12 months prior to their euthanasia. There is so much help in terms of tips and tricks, medication, supplements, diets and tools to alter the environments so that dogs and cats have a much more comfortable, enriched end of life. We can help partner with you to navigate these important issues.

If you have further questions about senior pet care or need to schedule your pet's next appointment, you can contact us here.

Located in Encinitas, CA, The Drake Center for Veterinary Care is an AAHA-accredited animal hospital. The Drake Center takes pride in being a leading source of information for all pet owners across the country however if you have any questions regarding pet care and do not live in Encinitas, CA or surrounding cities, we encourage you to contact your local veterinarian.