Caring for the Elderly Pet

Increasingly, with improved nutrition, health care and management changes, more and more pets are living to greater ages. Stuides over the last ten years show there has been a 15% increase in pets over 10 years of age and the proportion of the pet population aged 15 years or older has increased from 5% to 14%. From this we can see that elderly pets form an ever increasing group of animals that need to be cared for.

Why should we treat old pets differently to young pets?

1.With advancing age body functions change.

As pets age all of their body systems are affected:

Reduction in exercise may result in reduced muscle tone, which may further reduce the cat’s ability to jump, climb or exercise. There may also be a stiffening of the joints because of chronic degenerative joint damage.

When coupled with a reduced metabolic rate (common in older individuals), lack of exercise can result in a fall in energy requirements of up to 40%. If a cat maintains a good appetite its daily food intake must therefore be reduced to prevent excessive weight gain.

Specific nutrient requirements are usually best achieved by feeding a quality diet designed for older animals.

2.With advancing age medication must be given with ever increasing care.

Changes in physiology not only affect food absorption, they also affect the way many drugs are metabolised. Liver and kidney disease occur commonly in older pets. When coupled with mild dehydration these can result in reduced clearance rates and marked elevations in drug concentrations circulating within the blood. When treating geriatric patients the dose and dosing intervals of some drugs may therefore need to be altered.

Does my old pet still need to have regular booster vaccinations?

It is generally assumed that with age immune function may deteriorate. This may in turn result in a reduced ability to fight infection or screen for neoplastic (cancer) cells. Regular booster vaccinations are generally recommended and prompt treatment of disease is essential.

My old pet becomes very distressed when we try to medicate her. Should we keep trying when it upsets her so much?

This is something you should discuss with your Vet. There is no simple answer to this question; it depends on whether the treatment may lead to a cure, or whether it is aimed at controlling clinical signs. It also depends on how ill the pet is, and on how distressing it finds the disease for which it is being treated. Older pets can be poorly tolerant of excessive physical handling or environmental change, so while Veterinary medicine may be able to offer complex therapeutic options, it is important that each case be assessed individually. Treatment should not be attempted where it will be poorly tolerated for medical or temperamental reasons.

What diseases do old pets suffer from?

The major diseases seen in older pets are hormonal disorders, kidney disease, neoplasia (cancer), infections periodontal disease and arthritis. However, older pets can also be affected by diseases more commonly seen in younger animals (such as inflammatory bowel disease), and road traffic accidents.

It is important to remember that while young animals usually have only one disorder at a time, this is often not so in older patients, where diagnosis and treatment may be complicated by the concurrence of multiple interacting disease processes.

While it is true to say that ‘old age is not a disease’, it is important that we pay particular attention to our older pets, so that if they do develop disease we can recognise it, and treat it early, and so maintain their quality of life for as long as possible.

What can I do to make my old pet as happy as possible?

Most pets age gracefully and require few changes to their general regimen. Since older cats do not generally respond well to change, if changes must be made it is important they are introduced slowly.

Elderly pets should have easy access to a warm, draught-free bed, situated where the cat can sleep safely without fear of disturbance.

It is advisable to feed older pets on a high quality diet designed for older animlas. They should always have easy access to fresh drinking water. Regular Veterinary dentistry is often required to maintain dental hygiene.

As pets age some show an reduced ability to control urination and the passing of bowel motions. To reduce the risk of ‘accidents’ it may therefore be necessary to allow access to an indoor litter box.

Older cats should have regular Veterinary health checks usually two to four times a year

Get in touch with us

Four great Veterinary locations in Sydney Australia
  • Alexandria
  • Dee Why
  • Kingsford
  • Marrickville

Shop 1/138 Botany Rd
Alexandria NSW 2017
Phone: (02) 9698 4120
Fax: (02) 9698 4125

815 Pittwater Rd
Dee Why NSW 2099
Phone: (02) 9972 2044
Fax: (02) 9982 2307

70 Gardeners Rd
Kingsford NSW 2032
Phone: (02) 9662 6703
Fax: Fax: (02) 9662 8829

402 Illawarra Road
Marrickville NSW 2204
Phone: (02) 9558 2500
Fax: (02) 9559 3410

  • Alexandria
  • Dee Why
  • Kingsford
  • Marrickville


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