Health Care for Older Pets

Trish Consunji: 916-649-0599 (California Veterinary Medical Association)


Health Care for Older Pets

Pet owners consider the pet to be part of the family, and 59 percent of American households include a pet. Dogs and cats have a shorter lifespan than humans, yet they now live longer than ever before. This means that millions of people have older pets and they wish to have them around as long as they can. Longevity brings risk for things that never used to be a problem—heart disease, kidney disease, and some kinds of cancer.

It is critical to have regular checkups for an older animal. Thorough check ups allow veterinarians to identify and treat problems and discuss preventive measures, which keep animals alive and healthy as long as possible.

Many tools are available today for monitoring an aging pet’s health, including blood analysis, urinalysis, and EKG. Animals can’t tell us how they feel, but your veterinarian, along with these tools, tells a great deal.

What type of preventive health care is available?

Dental: Dental exams are a part of your pet’s routine exam. Your pet’s teeth should be cleaned when it is needed. Plaque unchecked can lead to inflamed gums and infection around the root of the tooth, which causes severe pain and possible tooth loss. Infections can also spread to the lungs, heart, liver, or kidneys. Brushing your pet’s teeth is a habit that when started early will be easier on both pet and owner. Good dental hygiene can add three to five years to a dog or cat’s life. Be sure to use products approved for use in animals.

Geriatric testing: As pets age, their organs will slowly deteriorate and lose their ability to function. Aging animals are prone to many of the same diseases older humans experience—diabetes, renal disease, heart disease, cancer, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism. Geriatric testing helps establish healthy baseline values and identify problems early, rather than waiting for obvious signs of tragic illness.

Weight maintenance: Improve the quality of life for your pet by not allowing them to become overweight through regular exercise, proper nutrition, and not providing table scraps. Being overweight can make your pet sluggish, prone to heart disease, and prone to problems in the joints and muscles.

Vaccinations: Keep vaccinations current. Deadly infectious or viral diseases such as canine distemper and feline leukemia can be controlled with vaccinations.

Allergies: Some people are allergic to their pets, but they don’t realize that their pets may have allergies to dust, pollen, fleas, feathers, foods, and even other pets. Animal allergies typically cause itchy skin.

Mental Activity: Keep pets mentally active by teaching new tricks and playing with them a great deal. Sometimes, older pets will even take responsibility for a new household pet by showing them the household ropes.

Visit the California Veterinary Medical Association’s website,, which is the home for an abundance of accurate and pertinent information on animal- and veterinary-related issues, including locating a CVMA-member veterinarian through “Find a Veterinarian.”

© 2020 California Veterinary Medical Association

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