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Caring For Older Pets

Posted May 10, 2016


One of the things I love most about my day-to-day practice is seeing geriatric patients. With their sweet eyes, and deep bond with their owners, it is hard not to love what I do. Senior pets generally present to my practice for acupuncture, supplements, and diet recommendations. Other senior animals come for regular well checks, and unfortunately some come in because they are ill.

Senior dogs and cats have different care requirements than those of a younger dog or cat. Cats are seniors when they hit 7-8 years old, and with dogs it depends on the breed. Giant breed dogs age faster than smaller breed dogs. For instance, a mastiff is considered to be a senior at 5-6 years old, and a silky terrier is considered to be a senior at 10-11 years old. A Labrador retriever is considered a senior at 8-10 years old.

Senior pets have different needs than younger dogs and cats. Their diet, supplements, monitoring of specific medical problems and general veterinary care are all different than healthy young dogs and cats. In general, I recommend more frequent visits and special diets especially if there is an underlying disease. In addition I recommend extra supplements, and alternative therapies when warranted. Biannual lab work and thorough exams are highly recommended. These will help rule out common diseases that senior pets are prone to (such as dental disease, underlying metabolic diseases like kidney and liver disease, endocrine diseases such as diabetes or thyroid, heart disease, arthritis, ocular diseases, dementia, and even cancer are all more common in senior dogs and cats, and can be detected early by your veterinarian.

Common general supplement for healthy older pets that I recommend are high levels of fish oils (try NHV PetOmega-3 for a human and medical grade product), glucosamine and chondroitin, antioxidants and turmeric (try NHV Turmeric, which has black pepper to increase the bioavailability of the herb). Acupuncture and herbal therapy is recommended for general health or commonly arthritis. A homemade diet is recommended with digestive enzymes, and probiotics.

Special bedding is recommended for seniors. Many older cats prefer a heated soft bed, and some dogs prefer a cool area or cool bed as compared to a heated bed.  It is important to keep seniors moving on a regular basis. I recommend regular, consistent exercise. It is also important to keep them stimulated with toys and interactions with their human family.

NHV provides an Aging Kit, which contains a variety of supplements to help with pain, help fill nutritional voids, and boost your pet’s immune system –click here.

My goal is to help my patients grow old gracefully, be free of pain, and have a good quality of life. Veterinarians are a crucial part of your aging pet’s health and can provide early detection of problems, good supplements, therapies, and nutrition for your friend’s final years.

For further information please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me for an on-line consultation.

Dr. Hillary Cook is a graduate of Virginia Maryland Regional Veterinary Medical school. She has been practicing holistic and integrative veterinary medicine for fifteen years. She certified in Veterinary acupuncture and is fully qualified in Western and Chinese herbalism. She is the owner of Animal Wellness Center, an integrative veterinary clinic in Crozet, VA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats and chickens. When time allows, you can find her in the garden or on the tennis court!

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