We Love Our Senior Citizens!
Providing appropriate care for our pets as they enter the later years of their lives is one of the most rewarding things an owner and veterinarian can share. These guys have been with us throughout the years, often through thick and thin. Some have stood by us with unquestioning loyalty and unconditionally support us through the worst days of our lives. After years together, we know each other's quirks and personalities. We know what we like and don't like. The senior years can be the time we reward our furry friends for all the years of love they shared with us.
Alternatively, if you have been fortunate enough to take the leap and adopt a senior pet, you are in for a marvelous adventure together. They are story tellers. They have a history which they will share with you. Old dogs can certainly teach us new tricks. Old cats, too.
Certainly our seniors sleep more, play with less vigor, and tire more easily. Some will develop mobility issues, changes in sleeping, eating, and drinking habits. It is very important for owners to keep in mind that age is not a disease. It just means our body is more likely to have more problems. Many of these can be corrected or controlled if owners continue to advocate for their furry friends and report any and all "aging changes" they observe to their veterinarian.
Many of these senior patients have been with our veterinary hospital for years as well. Watching the wild child puppy or kitten grow to be a mature responsible adult is a joy for our profession. Helping them over the bumps in the road through their senior years is what we are trained to do. The challenges can sometimes be tougher, but our staff are up to the challenge and love working with our seniors.
Geriatric Care - Examinations and Testing
At the Animal Clinic at Thorndale, we ideally like to see our senior patients at least twice yearly for regular examinations. If we are working with known health issues, we may want to see them more often. Patient history is an extremely important part of these examinations. An increased thirst or need to urinate could be signs of impending kidney failure or diabetes, not just a response to hot weather. At least once yearly, senior pets should have a complete blood count with differential and a full blood chemistry and urinalysis. Blood thyroid level testing is important as well since hyperthyroidism is common in older cats and hypothyroidism is common in older dogs. Additional tests may be recommended based on the physical examination and screening blood and urine tests. Radiographs (x-rays) of the chest and abdomen may be warranted to look for things such as internal tumors, heart disease, bladder stones, pneumonia, and other conditions. We may suggest an abdominal ultrasound if you pet is having digestive or urinary problems.
Unspayed and unneutered pets are predisposed to a number of potentially life threatening problems. Unspayed females become more likely to develop a pyometra or infection of the uterus. They will become very ill and potentially die if the uterus ruptures internally. Unspayed females are also more likely to develop breast cancers. Unneutered males can develop testicular tumors and also can suffer from benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). With careful physical examination and testing, we can accurately diagnose and treat these problems.
Heart and respiratory problems are more common in elderly pets. Coughing or an increase in the respiratory rate or effort can be the sign of serious illness. Some pets will have problems with urinary incontinence as they age and may leak urine while they are sleeping or resting. Other pets will be generating large volumes of urine because they are diabetic or in kidney failure. Some older pets may begin to experience digestive problems, like constipation, intermittent vomiting or diarrhea. Proper blood and stool testing, along with x-ray and ultrasound can help determine the cause and lead to an effective treatment plan. Arthritis is common in our older pets. They begin having problems going up or down the stairs or climbing into bed. Some of these problems, rather than being joint or bone problems, may actually involve the nervous system. A careful physical examination, and perhaps x-rays, CT scans and MRI's, can sort out the underlying cause and result in a working treatment plan. Each body system is affected by normal wear and tear. Cancer happens, but it is not always a death sentence. Oncology is a very dynamic field in veterinary medicine. New therapies and treatments are always being identified.There are many ways, with our guidance, that owners can greatly improve the quality and quantity of life for their pets if problems are identified and addressed in a timely manner
Treatments and Prognosis
Of course, at the Animal Clinic at Thorndale, each patient's treatment plan is directed specifically toward the individual. We will try to establish a complete "problem list" for your pet and continue to update it as the years progress. By treating all the treatable things, not just one or two major problems, we can greatly improve the quality of life for many of our pets. Some treatments are as simple as making dietary changes, adding supplements, and incorporating controlled exercise programs. Some problems are so complicated or advanced that they will require referrals to Board Certified Veterinary Specialists and intensive care to stabilize your pet before it can return home. The majority of our senior patients can be readily managed at home with continued good communication between owner and veterinarian. With appropriate diagnostics and examinations we can formulate and modify our strategy. At the Animal Clinic at Thorndale, we work very carefully with our owners to optimize patient care within whatever limits the owner sets. Quality of life for all is our ultimate goal.