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OPVMC Senior Pet Wellness: Exams, Nutrition & Disease Prevention

senior pet health

The team at Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center values the affection we share with our pets, especially our loyal senior companions. Help that friendship last by working with us to maintain health, vigor, and quality of life.

Senior Pet Care

As your pets age, changes occur in their physical condition. These changes may warrant veterinary care in addition to the regular checkups. We develop a complete geriatric health maintenance program to provide optimal care, specifically addressing the needs of your older pet.

Our complete geriatric health maintenance program can provide a means to target age-related health problems, institute preventive health care measures, and detect any disorders early enough to provide the appropriate medical attention. This program also educates you, the pet owner, on health risks to your older pet and preventive steps that lead to a more comfortable golden age for your companion.

We recommend most senior pets schedule an exam twice a year, for the ultimate in early detection and treatment of age-related disease. Visit Senior Pet Care to learn more .

The Geriatric Exam

A geriatric exam is more extensive than a simple checkup. Our veterinarians conduct a comprehensive physical examination as well as oral and rectal examinations at every wellness visit.

Along with these comprehensive exams, we examine your pet’s ears, eyes, and thyroid glands. Some laboratory work is done, including a complete blood count and urinalysis; however, endocrine and other laboratory tests may be done if we believe it is necessary. It is important to establish a baseline of normal values for your pet in order to readily identify changes.

Even if your pet seems perfectly healthy, regular geriatric checkups are important to manage many of the changes associated with aging. Most dogs and cats over seven years of age should be examined by a veterinarian twice a year.

All of these components as well as following your veterinarian’s recommendations for exercise, administration of medication, and a proper diet are essential to the health and quality of life of your older pet.

Pet Age
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The aging process varies with breed, size, and lifestyle, but your veterinarian will follow these guidelines to help determine when your pet reaches the “golden years”:

  • Small dogs (less than 20 pounds): 9–13 years
  • Medium dogs (21–50 pounds): 9–11.5 years
  • Large dogs (51–90 pounds): 7.5–10.5 years
  • Giant dogs (more than 90 pounds): 6–9 years
  • Cats (most breeds): 8–10 years

Age, Weight & Exercise
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Older pets may gain weight as metabolism and activity level slow down. Therefore, food consumption must be balanced with the activity level of the pet. At every senior wellness visit, we recommend appropriate exercise and proper diet to meet your pet’s specific needs. Weight gain or loss can also be associated with certain diseases that may need to be ruled out by your veterinarian. This may require additional laboratory testing.

Regular exercise is important to your senior pet in maintaining bone strength, muscle tone, and stamina. Daily walks and play are excellent methods of promoting physical activity and enjoying your companion.

If your pet has difficulty standing up or walking, a degenerative joint disease, or arthritis, regular activity may be a problem. Arthritis is a common ailment in older dogs, often impairing the ability to stand or walk. We offer many treatment options available for these age-related conditions.

Senior Dental Care
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Tooth loss and gum diseases are more common as your pet gets older. Such problems may make eating painful for your pet. Tumors of the mouth and gums also are more likely to appear in an older pet. Dental disease left untreated can also lead to heart or kidney disease. We perform dental exams and cleanings as determined by the condition of your pet’s teeth, and will educate you on home dental care for your senior pet.

Grooming Older Pets
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Weekly grooming is an ideal time to look for external parasites and examine the general condition of the skin, eyes, ears, mouth, paws, anus, and genitalia. In older pets, problems may occur more often since the skin may be thinner, less elastic, and does not repair itself as quickly.

Hair loss may be due to disease or because hair follicles are not as active as in the younger years. Tumors, in and under the skin, become more likely. If you happen to notice abnormal odors, discharges, swellings, or lumps during grooming, report them immediately to your veterinarian.

Changes in Senior Pets
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A number of degenerative changes may occur that can affect your aging pet’s behavior. Hearing and vision may deteriorate due to specific diseases involving the eyes or ears. Various behavioral changes may be interpreted as simple aging, but it actually might be due to a treatable geriatric disease such as cognitive dysfunction. Some typical signs include confusion, disorientation, decreased activity, changes in the sleep/wake cycle, loss of housetraining, or a decrease in your dog’s interest in, or ability to interact with, the environment or with you. Contact your veterinarian to diagnose and manage your pet’s particular problems.

You also should be aware of any unusual changes in activity level and attitude, appetite, water intake, urination, bowel movements, or body weight. These and other signs of illness in senior pets, such as vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, or sneezing, should be promptly reported to your veterinarian.