Senior Wellness Care

The Purple Paw – Senior Care

Most of us don’t think of aging as something to celebrate, but having a senior pet means you have had a special friend in your life for quite a while. You must have taken excellent care of your pet to have gotten this far. We hope you will let us make the transition into the “Golden Years” an easier one for you and your best friend.

We are excited to offer you an opportunity to take advantage of our Senior Care Program. As our pets age, they do stumble across some problems. As a team, our doctors and staff are here to help detect, manage and control these problems.

Some things we monitor for in our senior patients include:

  • Glaucoma
  • Thyroid disease
  • Arthritis
  • Dental disease
  • Liver and kidney problems
  • Heart disease
  • Senility
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Diabetes

There are other problems that may develop, however these are the most common. The good news is that all of these problems can be detected and if caught early enough, successfully managed. This is why we recommend early detection starting at 7 years of age.

It is important to remember that the needs of our pets change as they age, just as ours do. Our human doctors recommend more frequent visits, blood work and other diagnostics, as well as having our eyes and teeth checked more often as we age. Our pet’s age a lot faster than we do, so we have to be prepared to make the necessary changes sooner.

Senior Pets - Where To Begin

Logan Damuth

Where to begin? The first step is to figure out how old your pet is. The chart below will help. Use the age and weight of your pet to find out how old they are.  As you can see the larger your pet is the sooner they reach that senior age.

Pet's ageCatDogs
0-20 lbs
21-50 lbs
51-90 lbs
>90 lbs
 Senior Geriatric

So, how old is your pet? Are they considered senior? Geriatric? or is your pet about to transition from his/her adult years to their senior years? No matter what the age of your pet proper diet, vitamins, regular exercise and routine medical checkups should be a basic part of their lives.

The fact that our pets age more rapidly than we do allows diseases and other health problems to develop more rapidly also. Our best defense against these health problems are awareness and prevention. If we can spot the warning signs early on, we can help ensure our pet a smooth transition from their adult years to their senior years.

Some warning signs that may indicate your pet is beginning to suffer from age related problems are:

Health CategoryExamples of Common Senior DiseasesSignsIf Left Untreated
DentalPeriodontal disease, gingivitis, cancerBad breath, red or swollen gums, masses, trouble eating/chewingHeart disease, tooth loss, kidney and liver disorder, systemic infection, cancer progression
JointsArthritis, hip dysplasia, back diseaseLameness, reluctance to walk or exercise, decreased appetite, discomfort/painProgressive disease, reduced mobility, neurologic deficits
Heart and LungsCardiac disease, pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysemaDecreased stamina, coughing, difficulty breathing, weight loss, pot bellyProgression to renal and liver disease, poor vascular profusion, eventual death
Endocrine SystemDiabetes, thyroid disorders, Cushing, AddisonsNoticeable weight change, increased appetite without weight gain, vomiting, increased water consumption, frequent urination, change in energy levelHeart failure, kidney failure, secondary metabolic disease
LiverInflammatory, degenerative and cancerous liver diseaseDecreased appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst/urinationHypo-albumineria, lipid metabolism disturbance, anemia, bleeding disorders, liver failure
KidneyKidney failure, kidney stones, kidney infection, kidney insufficiencyIncreased thirst/urination decreased appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, back painProgression to kidney failure, heart disease, electrolyte upset, fluid balance disturbance, death
CancerCancers of the skin, liver, spleen, lymphoid tissue etc.Bleeding, lumps, irritated skin, identified mass, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting, diarrheaCan progress to organ failure or death
OcularCataracts, dry eye, glaucomaGrey bluish hue at the center of the eye, rubbing, pressing head against objects, swelling, redness, irritation, tearingDifficulty seeing, corneal ulceration, can progress to blindness, loss of eye
Gastro-intestinal DiseaseInflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, cancer, colitisVomiting diarrhea, weight loss, fluid gainFurther weight loss, disease will progress to potential death

The good news is that most of these problems are controllable IF caught early on.  Although you can't turn back the clock, there are things you can do to keep your older pets healthy and YOUNG-AT-HEART. A Senior Pet Wellness Exam and Senior Blood work is one step you and your pet can take on the road to a comfortable old age.

So what is 'Senior blood work'? Senior blood work can help us detect hidden issues that may not be observable in your furry family members. It can be used to establish a baseline for comparison to blood work that was previously performed or may be performed at a future visit.  The blood work is either sent out to a lab or run in hospital, and we can usually provide you the results within a day or two.  We recommend senior blood work once a year for all senior pets.

Senior blood work tests include a CBC, (Complete Blood Count) Blood Chemistry, and a T4 (Thyroid Profile).  We also recommend a urine sample for a urinalysis.  All of these tests work harmoniously to see just how well your pet's body is functioning.

Here is what we are checking in your pet…

  • CBC – This provides information on the red and white blood cell counts, as well as platelet counts.  A CBC helps us to detect such issues as anemia, infection, or potential bleeding disorders.
  • Blood Chemistry – This checks various enzymes, liver and kidney values, and a blood glucose level as well.  The following are checked in the Blood Chemistry:
  • Albumin (ALB) - Protein produced by the liver.  Lowered levels may suggest chronic liver, kidney, or intestinal disease.
  • Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) – Elevated levels of this enzyme can coexist with liver disease or injury.
  • Alkaline Phosphatase (ALKP) – Enzyme found in liver and bone tissues.  Liver disease, Cushing’s syndrome, or steroid therapy can be indicated from elevated levels.
  • Amylase (AMYL) – Pancreatic enzyme which aids in digestion.  Higher levels may point to pancreatic disease.
  • Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)– Produced by the liver and excreted by the kidneys.  If elevated, it can indicate kidney disease or dehydration.  If low, it could suggest liver disease.
  • Calcium – Elevated levels can be associated with kidney or parathyroid diseases, or even be a sign of certain types of tumors.
  • Cholesterol (CHOL) –High levels are seen in a number of disorders, which could be liver or kidney disease or hypothyroidism.
  • Creatinine (CREA) – Muscle metabolism by-product, and is excreted by kidneys.  If these levels are high, it could mean kidney disease, dehydration, or urinary tract obstruction.
  • Blood Glucose (GLU) - Most often a sign of diabetes when high (but could also just be stress!), however; could also suggest liver disease, infection, or even certain tumors if the levels are low.
  • Phosphorus (PHOS) – Could point to kidney disease if elevated.
  • Total Bilirubin (TBIL) – These levels are useful in indicating liver disease and may even lend a hand in characterizing anemia.  Bilirubin is a breakdown product of hemoglobin, and is also a component of bile.
  • Total Protein (TP) – This can indicate an assortment of conditions, including diseases of the kidney, liver, or intestine, or dehydration.
  • Urinalysis – Urine contains by-products from many organs filtered through the kidneys.  Abnormal levels can indicate diabetes, urinary tract disease, kidney or liver diseases.
  • T4 (Thyroid Test) – A thyroid profile is very important for if left untreated, thyroid disease can have a severe impact on your cat or dog’s health.  We need to be sure that thyroid function is normal.

If your pet is a senior or geriatric pet, it is very important to ensure that their entire body is working in harmony by being devoted to the care of your pet, and the prevention of serious illnesses. It is important to perform this exceptionally key blood work for ensuring your pet’s good health.

Senior Health Checklist

Leo Damuth

If your senior pet is experiencing one or more of the following signs be sure to speak with your pet's veterinarian.

Check ListYESNO
Wanders Aimlessly  
Appears Lost or Confused in House or Yard  
Gets Stuck in Corners  
Stares into Space or at Walls  
Has Difficulty Finding the Door to Go Outside  
Does Not Recognize Familiar People  
Does Not Respond to Verbal Cues or Name  
Appears to Forget Reason For Going Out  
Circling or Repetitive Movements  
Sleeps More in a 24 Hour Period  
Sleeps Less During the Night  
Decreased Activity  
Difficulty Climbing Stairs  
Difficulty Getting Up  
Exercise Intolerant  
Increased Stiffness or Limping  
Increased Thirst  
Excessive Panting  
Persistent Vocalization  
Attitude Change  
Tremors or Shaking  
Skin and Hair Coat Changes  
Urinates/Defecates Indoors When Previously Housebroken  
Signals Less to Go Inside  
Increased Urination  
Solicits Attention Less  
Less Likely to Stand/Lays for Petting  
Less Enthusiasm Upon Greeting  
No Longer Greets Owner (s)  
Altered Appetite  
Weight Change  
Other (Vomiting, Diarrhea, Constipation...)  

Environmental Enrichment For Senior Dogs

George Long Thanks

All dogs need enrichment in their lives no matter how old they are. Enrichment activities include any exposure to interesting and novel experiences and things, mentally stimulating activities, and fun, enjoyable activities. Fortunately, there are many options to add more enrichment to the lives of senior dogs that don’t require much mobility.

  • Take a breath of fresh air! Just enjoying the outdoors is stimulating to dogs. Smells are a stimulating factor for dogs. On a day with a light breeze dogs can smell what going on from across the neighborhood without having to walk very far. Be cautious to avoid extreme conditions like hot afternoons, uneven surfaces and slippery surfaces.
  • Have a visitor! Dog or human, seeing friendly faces can brighten even a tough senior day. Nothing like a head scratch to help a dog feel better. Try to keep visits short a sweet and avoid rough play that could cause injury or pain.
  • Interactive toys. There are many great toy choices out there! Find something that will challenge your dog. Puzzles are great because most do not require any mobility, just curiosity!
  • For warmer months swimming is a good low-impact activity for our senior pets to enjoy.

It’s hard to watch your dog age. Providing some enrichment activities and low impact, safe exercises for them could get your dog’s tail wagging again! Contact the office for more enrichment activities or questions regarding where you could purchase some interactive toys.

Environmental Enrichment For Senior Cats

George Parsons

Your home is your cat’s haven. Just like any family member, a cat needs a healthy living environment that allows for room to grow, play, and most importantly, to thrive. Creating an enriched environment for your senior cat can increase activity and mental stimulation, and reduces potential behavior problems. Below are a few ideas to help enrich your cat.

  • Give your cat some (vertical) space. This gives your cat a greater overall space to move and climb about and provides the perfect place for items such as cat trees that give your senior cat plenty of places to hide, stretch and hang out.
  • Scratch a post off your list. Scratching posts offer an outlet for your cat to let loose. Plus, it should prolong the life of your furniture! Make sure your senior cat’s scratching post is sturdy and made from a cat friendly material such as wood, sisal rope or rough fabric. Place it next to a window, your cat’s sleeping area or other popular areas where your cat can be a cat.
  • Join the chase. Cats absolutely love to stalk and hunt. And if you have just one cat in your house, it is especially important to engage in games and activities that allow your cat the ability to chase. Studies show the most popular cat toys are ones that involve humans.
  • Be a good companion. Because cats are social animals, it is important to give your senior some companionship and mental stimulation. Gentle petting, stroking, grooming ad playing are good engaging activities. If your cat is alone for longer periods of time, you may want to ass another cat in the household to help fill the gap. If you plan on getting a new pet call our office for helpful tips on how to introduce your new addition!

Many enrichment toys can be purchased at your local pet store, or you can build your own at home!