South Shores Pet Clinic is your partner in caring for your senior pet. We know your pet, their medical history, their lifestyle, and their individual risk factors. We also know that their major areas of increased needs as senior pets are veterinary care, pain relief, physical support, and dietary adjustments. Together, we can prepare a plan, and make your pet’s entry into senior citizenship a cause for celebration—not a cause for concern.

Senior pet veterinary care needs

Provide your senior pet’s increased veterinary care needs by following these guidelines:

  • Scheduling physical exams — Schedule your senior pet for twice-yearly physical exam appointments, to track weight, assess muscle mass, detect heart murmurs, and identify other clinical disease signs. Discussing changes may reveal that something you perceive as “normal aging” is actually a disease process we can diagnose and treat.
  • Watching for changes — Any time you suspect a problem, make an appointment. Senior pets have increased incidence of heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disease, and diabetes. Almost half of dogs over age 10 are diagnosed with some form of cancer, so bring any changes to our attention.
  • Scheduling lab work — Schedule at least twice-yearly senior pet lab work, including a complete blood count, chemistry panel, thyroid level, urinalysis, and other needed tests. If we can diagnose senior pet problems early, more can be done to treat and slow disease.
  • Scheduling dental care — Senior pets need regular dental care. Pets often hide tooth pain, but regular oral exams at our clinic will uncover common senior pet problems of gum disease, dental tartar, and tooth root problems, which we can treat before tooth loss and jaw deterioration ensue. 
  • Tailoring wellness plans— Adjust your pet’s preventive wellness plan according to our recommendations. Senior pets’ immune systems change, so we will tailor their custom vaccination and parasite prevention plans at every veterinary visit.

Senior pet pain relief needs

Senior pets are at risk for increased pain from arthritic joints, back problems, dental disease, and other issues, but they tend to hide their pain. Remember the following about senior pet pain needs:

  • Watch your senior pet for subtle pain signs, such as avoiding stairs, reluctance to jump, stiffness, and slowing down.
  • Be aware if your pet is slow to start moving in the morning, licks or rubs a particular area, is eating less, and is less active. These can all signal arthritis pain. 
  • Learn to detect pain in your senior cat by referring to the “grimace scale” to decode their facial expressions. Sixty to 90 percent of cats older than age 12 suffer from arthritis, but they hide it well.
  • Remember that pain doesn’t have to be a fact of life for your senior pet. We can diagnose and pinpoint the pain source with a detailed history, physical exam, X-ray, thermal imaging, ultrasound, and other advanced imaging techniques.
  • Follow our recommendations to provide pain relief for your senior pet. Many options for medication prescriptions and natural supplements are now available, and we will customize a pain relief plan for your senior pet.
  • Take advantage of additional pain relief modalities. We routinely perform pet laser therapy, which works at the cellular level to promote healing and reduce pain and inflammation. Our clinic also offers pet chiropractic services with an in-house specialist.

Senior pet physical support needs

Increased joint stiffness and decreased muscle mass mean mobility concerns for senior pets, as well as other increased physical needs.

  • Be aware that your senior pet is an increased fall hazard. If your home has slick tile or wood floors, consider non-slip pet booties or grip socks, or non-skid mats and rugs. 
  • Install ramps to assist pets who struggle with climbing stairs, and pet steps to help pets who have trouble jumping. 
  • Learn how to provide towel-walking for mobility-challenged pets, or have your pet fitted with a support harness. 
  • Consider orthopedic pet beds, which are more heavily cushioned, to support boney pressure points, and help older pets stay warm. Keep bedding clean and dry, and pay special attention to incontinent pets. 
  • Help senior pets avoid dehydration by providing fresh water in several locations, and considering elevated bowls. 

Senior pet dietary adjustment needs

Your pet’s golden years come with changed nutritional needs because of decreased activity levels, decreased muscle mass, and various disease processes. Consider the following:

  • Remember that pets with an ideal body condition score benefit from decreased joint stress and diabetes risk, and senior diets are designed to provide the correct caloric intake level, the proper protein balance, and the most readily digestible ingredients. 
  • Consider offering canned food or softened kibble, since senior pets often experience mouth pain, brittle teeth, and weakened jaw bones. Canned food also provides increased fluid intake. 
  • Ask about specialized prescription diet options. For example, “brain support” diets provide supplements and antioxidants for pets with decreased cognitive function, and “joint support” diets provide correct, balanced fatty acid levels for joint health.
  • Don’t forget—we can administer some natural supplements in injectable, treat, or liquid formulations, for administration ease. 

Your senior pet is easing into retirement—and this is cause for celebration. They have provided your family with love and companionship through the years, and now you can provide them with a little extra. Contact the team at South Shores Pet Clinic for help in caring for your pet senior citizen. Together, we will ensure they have everything they need.