Senior Pet Care - September 2013

By Dr. Adrienne Kanne

Senior pets are great companions! Cats and dogs are considered seniors at the age of 7.  As our pets get older, their health care needs change, just as they do with humans.  While old age is not a disease itself, many age-related conditions become a concern in our senior pets.

Senior Wellness Care and Screening

All senior pets should be examined by a veterinarian on a semi-annual basis.  The verterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination and make recommendations for screening for seom fo the common problems that arise as pets get older.  Basic screening tests include blood chemistry, complete blood count, thyroid level, urinalysis and fecal testing.  Early detection of subclinical disease can help seniors live longer, healthier lives.  By taking action early in the course of disease, symptoms can be managed more effectively, progression of disease can be delayed, and certain conditions can actually be cured.

Common Health Concerns for Seniors

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Hypertension
  • Dental disease
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Hyperthyroidism (cats)
  • Heart disease
  • Hypothyroidism (dogs)
  • Behavior changes

Symptoms Indicating Concern

  • Weight loss
  • Limping/stiffness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Formation of lumps/bumps
  • Increased water consumption
  • Bad breath
  • Increased frequency of urination/accidents in the house
  • Changes in haircoat/skin

Follow-up visits

It is very important to follow all instructions from your veterinarian regarding rechecking areas of concern found during the senior wellness exam or through the screening tests. The longer illnesses are left unchecked, the more difficult and costly treatment can become. 


Dietary needs change in senior pets. Senior wellness diets have fewer calories to support their less active lifestyle. This is important in order to prevent weight gain and conditions related to obesity. The diets also have appropriate levels of highly digestible protein to help maintain muscle. Glucosamine for joint support and fatty acid components for skin and coat health are also components of a senior diet.



Routine exercise is also beneficial to maintaining a healthy weight and healthy joints. Shorter and more frequent walks (a couple 10 minute walks a day) are better for older animals, especially as osteoarthritis develops.  Other low impact activities, like swimming, are also great ways to exercise your senior pet.