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Senior and Geriatric Dogs - Maximizing Wellness

  • November 29, 2016 2:17 PM EST

    Senior and geriatric pets are a growing segment of the pet population largely due to advances in preventative health care and treatment options for various diseases and conditions. Elderly pets are also more prone to developing a chronic illness and these illnesses often have clinical signs that may be vague or even difficult for a pet owner to recognize as abnormal.

    Classification of life stage and differentiating an adult from a senior or a geriatric pet has been somewhat arbitrary, and over the years various pet/human age analogy charts have been developed. It’s widely known that lifespan of dogs can be associated with breed type. For example toy breeds typically live longer than giant breed dogs. As such, it’s been suggested that the classification of life stage should be associated with the weight of the dog and not its age.

     (Adapted from: Fortney WD: Implementing a Successful Senior/Geriatric Health Care Program for Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, and Office Managers. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 2012;42:823–834)

    Many veterinary care providers offer senior and geriatric wellness or other health care programs in an effort to promote early detection and treatment of diseases that might otherwise affect quality of life and/or the longevity of a pet. Until recently, there was little evidence published regarding health changes in elderly pets. 

    A recent study of 100 senior and geriatric dogs that were considered to be healthy by their owners revealed information that supports the recommendation for regular health screening. And although pet owners play a critical role in identifying and reporting health problems in their pets, this study also showed that they don’t always know normal from abnormal or that they may attribute a change in their pet to aging and not a medical problem - pointing to the importance of client education.

    This week's Specialty Update focuses on the findings reported from this study and provides some talking points when counseling clients about elder pet care and health screening.

    View This Specialty Update (Running time 18 mins)