Geriatric Care for Senior Dogs & Cats
Senior pets need routine preventive veterinary care and early diagnosis to help them maintain a good quality of life as they age.
Diligent care can help extend your pet's life and good health as they age, so it's important that they attend regularly scheduled wellness exams, even if they seem healthy.
Our veterinarians are here to help geriatric pets in Hattiesburg and Wiggins achieve their best health and happiness by taking a proactive approach to the early diagnosis and treatment of emerging health issues, and comprehensive management planning for advanced health concerns.
Typical Health Problems
Due to improved dietary options and better veterinary care, companion cats and dogs are living far longer today than they have in the past.
While this is certainly something to be celebrated, it also means that pet caretakers and veterinarians now deal with more conditions affecting geriatric animals than they did in the past.
Senior pets are typically prone to the following conditions:
- Joint or bone disorders
As your dog reaches their golden years, they can be affected by a number of disorders or diseases of the bones or joints that can result in pain and discomfort. Some of the most common joint and bone disorders in geriatric pets that our veterinarians see include arthritis, hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis, reduction in spinal flexibility, and growth plate disorders.
Addressing these issues early is essential for keeping your dog comfortable as they continue to age. Treatment for joint and bone issues in senior dogs ranges from simply reducing levels of exercise, to the use of analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs, to surgery to remove diseased tissue, stabilize joints or reduce pain.
Despite osteoarthritis being a condition typically associated with older dogs, this painful condition can also affect your senior cat's joints.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis in cats are more subtle than those in dogs. Cats can experience a decrease in range of motion, but the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis in geriatric cats include weight loss, loss of appetite, depression, change in general attitude, poor grooming habits, urination or defecation outside the litter pan, and inability to jump on and off objects. Lameness typically seen in dogs is not commonly reported by cat owners.
It is believed that approximately 50% of all pets in the US die from cancers, which is why it's important for your senior pet to visit the vet for routine wellness exams as they age.
Bringing your geriatric pet in for routine checkups even when they seem healthy allows your veterinarian to examine them for early signs of cancer and other diseases which respond better to treatment when caught in their earliest stages.
- Heart Disease
Like humans, geriatric pets can experience serious complications due to heart disease.
Older dogs are commonly affected by congestive heart failure, which occurs when the heart isn't pumping blood efficiently, causing fluid to back up in the heart, lungs, and chest cavity.
Heart disease is seen less in cats than in dogs, but a condition called Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is relatively common. This condition causes the walls of a cat’s heart to thicken, decreasing the heart’s ability to function efficiently.
- Blindness and hearing loss
Older pets can experience degeneration in eye and ear function as a result of aging, although this is more common in dogs than in cats.
When these conditions are age-related they may come on slowly, allowing geriatric pets to adjust their behavior and making it difficult for pet owners to notice.
- Liver disease
In senior cats, liver disease is common and may be the result of high blood pressure or hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of liver disease in cats include loss of appetite, jaundice, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst.
Dogs can experience a number of serious symptoms as a result of liver disease, including seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, jaundice, abdominal fluid buildup, and weight loss.
If your geriatric dog or cat is displaying any of the symptoms of liver disease, immediate veterinary care is essential.
Dogs and cats can develop diabetes at any age, but most dogs are diagnosed at approximately 7-10 years of age, and most cats when they are over 6 years of age.
Symptoms of diabetes in dogs and cats include excessive thirst, increased appetite accompanied by weight loss, cloudy eyes, and chronic or recurring infections.
Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes in both cats and dogs.
- Kidney disease
As pets age, their kidneys tend to lose their function. Sometimes, kidney disease can be caused by medications used to treat other common conditions seen in geriatric pets.
While chronic kidney disease cannot be cured, it can be managed with a combination of diet and medications to give your pet a good quality of life.
- Urinary tract disease
Geriatric cats and dogs with urinary tract conditions are a common sight for our Hattiesburg and Wiggins vets. Elderly pets can be prone to accidents as the muscles controlling the bladder weaken, but note that incontinence could be a sign of a bigger health issue such as a urinary tract infection or dementia.
If your senior pet experiences incontinence issues it's important to take your geriatric dog or cat to the vet for a thorough examination.
Veterinary Care for Seniors
Our vets will thoroughly examine your senior pet, ask for details about their home life, and perform any tests that may be required to receive additional insight into his or her general physical health and condition.
Based on the findings, we'll recommend a treatment plan that can potentially include medications, activities, and dietary changes that may help improve your senior pet's health and well-being
Routine Wellness Exams
Preventive care is essential to helping your senior pet live the healthy, happy, and fulfilled life that they deserve. Ensuring your pet attends their wellness checks also gives our veterinarians the opportunity to detect any diseases or potential health issues early.
Early detection of disease will help preserve your pet's physical health and catch emerging health issues before they develop into long-term problems.
With regular physical examinations, your senior pet will have a better chance at quality long-term health.