Senior Pets and Healthcare

80% of Pet owners were unaware of important medical problems with their senior pets.  Here are some things for pet owners to know.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice, researchers set out to test the value of senior wellness exams.1 They recruited 45 senior dogs/pet owners who were not coming in for senior wellness exams.  They performed the senior wellness exams and compared the results to what the pet owners already knew about their dogs.  Eighty percent of dogs had an important medical problem of which the owner was unaware.  The medical problems included ear infections, respiratory distress, arthritis, abdominal masses, heart murmurs, and lung cancer.

The owners reported being aware of a number of changes in their pets.  Some of these changes were normal signs of aging, but some were signs that an important medical problem could be developing. 

Some of the top warning signs that pet owners in this study did not heed:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination, especially new onset of inappropriate elimination
  • Decreased mobility that seems to stem from pain or stiffness
  • Bad breath, yellowed teeth
  • Increased labor for breathing while at rest
  • Weight loss accompanied by decrease in body condition (i.e. less muscle mass over the spine, etc.)
  • Changes in appetite

As dogs and cats live longer because they are receiving better care, it is important to remember they need extra care and attention. Senior pets may develop age-related problems, but regular veterinarian exams can help detect and treat problems before they become serious or life-threatening.


  1. Davies M. Geriatric screening in first opinion practice – results from 45 dogs. J Small Anim Pract.; 53 (9): 507-13.
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