Senior or geriatric pet? What’s the big deal?
As animals enter their senior years, there’s a tendency among vets and pet owners to assume their needs are the same from the age of seven years. But this is a big mistake leading to poor decisions or missed opportunities to help animals live longer and better.
At OrtonVets we think differently and have developed a second age bracket, the “Geriatric Pet”, to allow you a better understanding of what is going on with your pet.
Growing old doesn’t have to be a burden and in this article, we’ll help you understand what the difference between senior and geriatric care is.
What is the difference a senior and geriatric pet?
The best way to understand this difference is to think about two people you know well.
The first person is not a spring chicken any more, but remains a relatively fit, healthy 60-70 year old. They are independent, can make decisions for themselves, feed themselves, get around town without help from others and are still very active both physically and socially.
This person would be the equivalent of a “senior pet”.
We’re talking about the dog who is going grey in the muzzle and maybe seems a little stiff in the morning, but is otherwise happy to go for walks. They eat and drinks well, can climb stairs and go to the toilet without problems. They still clearly enjoy life.
Senior pets are generally older than seven years but less than 12 years of age.
Now think of a very old person you know who is perhaps 80-100 years old. They may have dementia or perhaps they now need assistance walking. Their home has been modified to allow easier access to hard to manage places like the shower and toilet. They may now live in a bungalow because stairs are getting too hard, or even a nursing home. Their appetite is a fraction of what it was, and they tire easily. Their vision and hearing are significantly impaired and are now supported by aids. Other people may be responsible for cooking, cleaning and collecting the weekly grocery shopping.
This person is the human equivalent of a geriatric pet and, you’ll agree, is in a different category of care completely.
Now we’re talking about the dog or cat who sleeps for many hours a day. They struggle to walk very far may have developed soiling issues in the house. Due to failing vision and hearing, they may become anxious; with panting, whining and pacing behaviours all common. For this group, life is a little less rosy, but the good days outweigh the bad and for the most part life seems good enough. The crucial word in the past sentence is “seems”. These pets can be challenging to live with and can cost much in terms of money, time and emotional input.
We tend to think of small dogs and cat over the age of 12 years as being geriatric. For larger breed dogs the age limit might be 10 or 11 years.
Why is this difference important?
The reason we separate these two life stages is because each group has dramatically different needs and places different burdens on the caregiver.
Senior animals are generally still quite healthy and require very little additional care.
Dental disease is the biggest threat to wellness for these cats and dogs. The important things are to make minor adjustments to food choice and portion size. Weight management is going to be a central pillar of health as pet’s get older. Arthritis, diabetes and cancers are all more likely for fat pets.
The changes we need to make are relatively minor and are mostly about monitoring health so we pick up problems early.
Geriatric animals require an altogether different approach because these pets have more advanced problems.
Pain management is crucial for this group of pets because pain levels can be very high as diseases are starting to enter a more advanced stage. Large breed dogs in this age range will almost all have very painful arthritis that is affecting their ability to walk and happiness. This may show up as sleeping more, bed wetting or self-soothing behaviours like licking the sire joints, pacing or whining.
Geriatric pets are also far more likely to be struggling with multiple health issues. It is not uncommon for a pet to present with arthritis, heart and dental issues. Each of which is taking its toll on health and vitality.
Fore more information please Contact us.