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Geriatric patients can represent major challenges to the owner as well as the veterinarian. Within the past decade, the improved knowledge base, newer technologies, and additional therapeutic options have allowed today’s veterinarians to meet the medical and behavioural challenges of age-related disease better.
Whether you call these patients geriatric or “mature,” special considerations are required in evaluating, examining, hospitalizing, and generally caring for older pets. However, owners and veterinarians must understand that old age is not a disease, it is a stage of life.
The objectives of a managed program of pet geriatric health care include recognizing and controlling health risk factors, detecting preclinical disease, correcting or delaying the progression of existing disorders, and improving or restoring residual function.
At present, most progressive practitioners recognize that yearly revaccination recommendations are not based on good science. We must be selective about which vaccines are really necessary for each particular patient. Just because a vaccine is available does not mean that it should be used in every patient, regardless of age, health status, and environment.
Older animals (like older humans) tend to get less exercise. This is particularly true of cats, which generally have a more sedentary lifestyle than dogs have. Diminished exercise reduces muscle tone and bone and joint strength increasing the risk of musculoskeletal disease and a tendency toward obesity.
Musculoskeletal disease (degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis) can have different grade of severity in animals; however, it is surprising how often degenerative joint disease is discovered as an incidental finding on x-ray evaluation made to study something else. Sometimes, degenerative joint disease may be a cause of the animal’s “slowing down with age.” In these cases, herbal treatments integrated with conventional drugs or passive movement of the joint combined with a muscle massage may markedly improve the mobility and general well being.
Geriatric animals also have a decreased thirst response. This could lead to dehydration that can obviously compromise already marginally functioning body organs and compound deficiencies in renal function. So it could be very important to prefer a wet diet rather then dry food.