The term geriatric depends on the individual animal, and is dependent on the different breeds and sizes of the animal. For large and giant breed dogs it ranges between 7-10 years of age while for smaller breeds it might only be between 12-14 years of age. Cats might only be falling into the geriatric category once they reach 10 years of age.
To determine if your animal is geriatric – look for physical signs of ageing:
- Presence of grey or white hair around the muzzle
- Does your dog seem less playful, appears to be deaf or blind
With age, it is important to go to your vet for yearly check-ups. This enables the vet to pick up any problems that may be present and timeously treat your animal.
Below are a few conditions commonly found in the older patient:
1) Renal Problems
Generally renal problems are only noticed when there is already 75% loss of kidney function. This means that by the time clinical symptoms of renal failure are seen, the animal is already in the terminal stages of kidney failure.
Chronic renal failure can be diagnosed much earlier via certain tests carried out by your vet.
Treatment at an early stage will not prevent renal failure, but will improve and support renal function which will prolong your pet’s life.
NB! If you are worried, please ask your vet about the new SDMA test available.
2) Cardio-Vascular Problems
Valvular disease (leaking heart valves) is often found in older animals and could lead to congestive heart failure. Early detection will improve your pet’s quality of life and correct treatment will improve cardiac function and prolong life expectancy.
This is a disease affecting mainly older animals above 6 years of age or fat animals. It results in an inability to utilise energy sources in the body due to an insulin deficiency. If not recognized early enough, your pet could go into a ‘ketoacidotic state’, which is the body’s response to ‘starvation’. This is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary treatment. A simple urine analysis and blood glucose determination can also be used to detect this disease early on.
4) Joint Disease
Many large breeds are predisposed to problems such as hip or elbow dysplasia, but even small breeds can get arthritis. Arthritis is a very painful disease. Diagnosis is usually confirmed using radiographs and focusing on joint supportive treatment will greatly enhance your pet’s quality of life.