Senior Pet Care
in Fort Lauderdale, FL

The Park Veterinary Hospital team believes that regular wellness exams are important for pets of every age. Pets aged 7 and older are considered senior pets which means they may be at an increased risk for developing serious illness or disease. With more frequent exams, we can provide proper senior pet care for all pets in Oakland Park, FL and the surrounding communities.

or give us a call at (954) 561-8387.

Dog Years vs. Human Years

7 dog years = 44 – 56 years
10 dog years = 56 – 78 years
15 dog years = 76 – 115 years
20 dog years = 96 – 120 years

Cat Years vs. Human Years

7 cat years = 54 years
10 cat years = 63 years
15 cat years = 78 years
20 cat years = 97 years

How Can I Maintain My Senior Pet’s Golden Years?

Scheduling periodic wellness appointments for your older pet helps our team maintain their quality of life and stay up to date on any changes in their health. As they age, dogs and cats become more vulnerable to age-related diseases such as cat or dog arthritis and diabetes. However, there are several ways you can help preserve your senior pet’s well-being between appointments at our animal hospital:

  • MOBILITY AIDS – You may notice your pet slowing down as they age, but rest assured this is normal for senior pets. We recommend providing aids such as ramps or rugs around the house to make moving from place to place a little easier.
  • ROUTINE EXERCISE – Taking walks around the neighborhood can help enhance your pet’s overall mobility, improve their mood, and inhibit weight gain.
  • COZY BEDDING – Consider supplying your senior pet with a comfy bed to provide a designated spot for sleeping and resting.
  • HEALTHY DIET – To better ensure ideal digestion and caloric consumption, a senior pet’s diet should be formulated for their specific age range.
  • CAREFUL OBSERVATION – Make sure to note any variations in your pet’s usual routine, as these can possibly signal a change in their overall health. Be sure to let your veterinarian know of any changes as soon as possible.
Senior Dog Care

Taking The Physiological Changes Of Aging Dogs Into Consideration

At Park Veterinary Hospital, we love providing senior dogs with the care and support they need to age gracefully and comfortably. We understand that the experience of caring for older dogs can be a tremendously rewarding one that enhances and enriches the lives of dogs themselves, as well as their human caretakers. We truly are dog people at heart. We love to lend insight and guidance into caring for older dogs.

It is important to remember that many physiological changes occur during the aging process your canine companion is experiencing. These include:

  • Reduced hearing
  • Changes in eyesight
  • Arthritis and muscle mass loss
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Cardiac and kidney disease
  • And more

Some or all of these symptoms may not become noticeable until your dog is very old. Our veterinarians are skilled at detecting subtle changes in a dog’s body that can easily go unnoticed by its owner. Early detection of these changes can help prevent the progression of disease and minimize the suffering of a senior dog.

Schedule Regular Veterinarian Visits For Senior Dogs

Because many of these conditions will develop gradually, it can be difficult for an owner to notice the changes occurring. During the senior wellness exam, our doctors and staff will ask you questions that specifically target medical issues common to senior dogs. Working together with you, we will develop a great plan to ensure optimal health for your dog.

It is important to remember that the aging process is accelerated in dogs. Therefore, we recommend seeing all senior dogs at least twice a year.

Senior dog care visits provide an opportunity to discuss the well-being of your canine companion as he or she ages. This includes:

  • Behavior
  • Daily schedule
  • Sleep patterns
  • Family interactions
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise and changes in movement

In addition, during a full physical examination for aging dogs we can look at:

  • Weight and Body Condition
  • Skin and Coat Quality
  • Mouth, Gums and Teeth
  • Ears and Eyes
  • Thyroid Gland
  • Heart and Circulatory System
  • Lungs and Nose
  • Abdomen
  • Joints and Muscles
  • Bloodwork
  • Any condition changes since the last visit

Body Condition Evaluations For Senior Dogs

Body condition evaluations are important parts of a senior dog care program. They can be crucial in determining whether your senior dog is overweight, underweight, or at an ideal body weight. Carrying extra weight is especially difficult for a senior dog and will impact the quality of its life. Any reduction in weight may be a sign of illness. We can also show you how to monitor your dog’s body condition at home which may aid in assessing its condition between visits.

Making Good Food Choices For Senior Dogs

Canine nutrition is extremely important throughout the entirety of a dog’s life. However, making sound senior dog food choices is an especially important facet of senior dog care. Because of decreased physical activity and slowed metabolism, aging dogs may need 20% fewer total calories than middle-aged adult dogs. However, some older dogs may not be able to assimilate proteins as well and may require additions in protein or change in the type of protein. Generally, aging dogs tend to gain weight, and as they do, senior dogs become at risk for possible health complications that did not plague them in adolescence. For example, it may take obese dogs longer for their blood glucose concentrations to return to normal. This disrupted carbohydrate metabolism can lead to diabetes.

This is why it is important to consult our veterinarian about the best senior dog food option for your canine companion. Specially formulated senior dog food is easier to digest, might also address liver, kidney or urinary issues, as well as the general nutritional needs specific to senior dogs.

Dental Care For Senior Dogs

Dental disease is especially common in senior dogs because it progresses gradually and can easily go unnoticed. Senior dogs simply adapt to living with discomfort. However, adapting to discomfort doesn’t mean that they are not in pain. Just as in humans, dental issues can be very painful for dogs. Unfortunately for your dog, they are not able to express themselves to you in a way that will help you understand.

It is our goal to diagnose and treat all dental disease in senior pets and allow them to live comfortably in their senior years. Some senior pets will have other illnesses that will affect the recommended course of treatment. Therefore, we will work together with you to determine the safest and best outcome for your dog.

How Much Exercise Should A Senior Dog Get?

Although your senior dog cannot jump as high or run as fast as he or she could in their prime, exercise is still an essential component of any senior dog care regimen. Dogs tend to age better both physically and mentally when daily exercise, such as a short walk is a part of their routine. However, an important rule of thumb is to keep their exercise both regular and moderate. Keep up with daily or every other day walks and limit the duration according to the dog’s level of fitness and fatigue. Just as in humans, exercise can also:

  • Help maintain a healthy body weight
  • Slow the progression of old-age arthritis
  • Stimulate cognitive capacity
  • Heighten motor skills and coordination faculties

Of course, the physical condition of your senior dog will ultimately determine exercise duration and frequency, and we recommend consulting our veterinarian about the most appropriate and effective exercise routine for your canine companion.

Vaccines For Senior Dogs

In general, senior dogs tolerate vaccinations the same as younger dogs. Nonetheless, we evaluate each dog individually when deciding upon a vaccine protocol. Because vaccination schedules are unique to every dog, we recommend discussing vaccinations with our veterinarian to choose the options that are right for your elderly canine companion.

Controlling Parasites In Senior Dogs

Senior pets are as vulnerable to parasites as younger dogs and in some cases even more so. Unfortunately, they may not be able to groom and care for themselves as well as they once could and therefore may not show clear signs of distress when infected by fleas and ticks. Therefore, it is very important to maintain consistency with flea/tick and intestinal parasite control programs for aging dogs. Our veterinarian can help determine if any changes should be made to an existing senior dog care parasite control program, as well as if a program should be implemented or terminated altogether.

Senior Cat Care

Understanding The Changing Health Needs Of Mature, Senior And Geriatric Cats

If you have lived with your cat since it was young then you have a good understanding of what is normal for your cat in the way of behavior and habits. Any changes in their behavior or habits can be a sign of illness. Because signs of illness in cats can be so subtle, even the most astute owner may miss some of these changes especially when the onset is so gradual. For this reason, it is extremely important to bring your cat to our veterinarian annually until 8 years of age and then semi-annually after 8.

During the visit with our veterinarian and staff, you will review habits and behavior that may signal changes in health. This review will prompt you to think about what is going on with your cat and have a different perspective which may help in identifying signs of illness. In addition, our veterinarian will perform a physical exam which will play a significant role in determining where your cat is in the aging process and what can be done to keep it as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Our focus of senior cat veterinary appointments is to identify illnesses which may be in an early stage and set up a plan for treatment and management of any symptoms that may be causing discomfort. There are many illnesses which can be managed with diet and sometimes medications may significantly improve the wellbeing of your cat. It is through the partnership of cat owner and our veterinary team that we can best address and manage senior cat issues for the best outcome.

Specific Age Related Issues For Senior Cats

Changes in the cat’s body that are common as a cat ages include:

  • Altered sleep-wake cycle
  • Changes in thyroid function
  • Decrease in kidney function
  • Changes in vision
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Brittle/ingrown nails
  • Heart or circulatory problems
  • Decreased digestion and ability to absorb nutrients
  • Reduced ability to handle stress
  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in mobility/arthritis

Your Role As The Caretaker Of An Elderly Cat

The most important role when caring for your elderly cat is being aware of their behavior and habits. Their needs may change subtly over the years but they still require the basics of cat care including social interaction and an enriched environment. While older cats may sleep more, they still need interaction and a stimulating environment to keep their bodies active and their minds engaged. Cats of all ages need a stimulating environment to keep healthy. Especially for indoor cats, the need for engagement is very important. All cats need to hunt and play and interact.

In addition to a stimulating environment, owners of elderly cats can expect to be responsible for things like:

  • Make sure sleeping and eating areas are easily accessible
  • Adjust physically challenging areas for easy access
  • More frequent veterinary visits
  • Administering medication
  • Lifestyle accommodations (i.e. changes in food or litter availability)

Understanding your expanded role in the life of your elderly cat is essential to helping them age gracefully. At your next appointment, one of our veterinarians would be happy to give you some insight and guidance on how to ensure your cat enjoys a smooth transition into its elderly years.

Wellness Visits For Senior Cats

The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that senior cats be seen by a veterinarian every six months. Because cats age faster than people, that means almost two (kitty) years will pass between visits. It is important to monitor elderly cats in between visits, because cats are very good at hiding symptoms of disease or illness. As cats age, illnesses become increasingly common. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that mature cats, senior cats, and geriatric cats will likely begin to develop one or more conditions that will significantly affect their quality of life.

A typical wellness visit for senior cats includes checking:

  • Thorough review of habits and behaviors
  • Weight and Body Condition
  • Skin and Coat Quality
  • Mouth, Gums and Teeth
  • Ears and Eyes
  • Thyroid Gland
  • Heart and Circulatory System
  • Lungs and Nose
  • Abdomen
  • Joints and Muscles
  • Any condition changes since the last visit

Additionally, wellness visits for senior cats can also include vaccinations, parasite prevention, and treatment for any specific conditions that your senior cat may be developing.

Senior Cat Food

Feline nutrition is extremely important throughout the entirety of a cat’s life. However, it is an especially important facet of senior cat care. Feeding a mature, senior or geriatric cat an age specific diet can help:

  • Manage Weight
  • Increase Lifespan
  • Reduce or eliminate pain
  • Maintain healthy skin, coat and bodily functions

Senior cat food is formulated specifically for the nutritional requirements of aging cats. It can be served in dry or wet (usually canned) form. Because aging cats require increased daily water intake, serving canned food and/or leaving multiple water dishes around the house is always a good idea when possible. Feeding small, frequent meals 3-4 times a day will help senior cats digest food easier than serving fewer, larger meals.

Dental Care In Senior Cats

As cats enter their senior years, those who have addressed dental care with regular dental checkups throughout their life, have a significant advantage over cats who have ignored their dental issues. Regardless of whether dental care has been a mainstay of your cat’s preventative program, it will be extremely important as it ages. Dental disease is a gradual but painful degenerative condition. Living with chronic pain is very stressful and will significantly impact your cat’s well being. Of course your cat won’t let you know that they are in pain, however the fact is that all cats over 4 years of age have some level of oral health issues, and these conditions do cause significant pain. If your cat has not had a dental checkup in over a year, they are definitely due. Schedule an appointment today.

Managing Disease In Elderly Cats

As your cat ages, he or she becomes more susceptible to the myriad of diseases commonly found to plague elderly cats. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Kidney Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid Disease
  • Hypertension
  • Gastrointestinal Issues
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Memory/Comprehension Challenges

Managing disease, whether this means preventing or treating one or more at a time, requires a knowledge of the ailment, and also spotting symptoms in elderly cats before they become full-blown emergencies. This is why it is essential to monitor your cat’s behavior and routine, and note any changes, including:

  • Weight Loss
  • Increase in thirst and urination
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Appetite
  • Litter Box Habits
  • Lethargy

If you witness or suspect any changes in behavior or routine for your mature, senior or geriatric cat, we recommend making a veterinary appointment immediately.

Considering Quality Of Life For Senior And Geriatric Cats

Partnering with your veterinarian is the best way to enjoy your cat’s senior years and allow your cat to age gracefully and comfortably. During your regular visits, quality of life issues will be addressed. Along the way, you will make health decisions for your cat with the help and guidance of your veterinarian. At some point, you may be confronted with serious health issues and may need to address the need for diagnostic testing and possible procedures for your geriatric cat.

Some important health assessment questions you and your vet will review include:

  • Is your cat experiencing any pain and if so is the pain well managed?
  • Is your cat’s appetite normal and it is able to eat normally?
  • Is your cat interacting with other pets and family members as usual?
  • Does your cat have more good days than bad days?
  • Does your cat follow predictable routines for sleeping, resting, grooming, eating, playing and socializing?

If you are having trouble discerning the answers to any of these questions, our veterinarians are here to help.

End Of Life Decisions For Your Cat

Partnering with our veterinarian through your cat’s senior years will make the final decisions more gradual and gentle. End of life decisions are always difficult but when you feel supported by our veterinary team, you will feel more comfortable and accepting of your choices.

At Park Veterinary Hospital, our compassionate and supportive veterinary team is here to help you in any way that is in the best interests of you and of your feline companion. We understand this is a very difficult time regardless of the situation. You have lived with your cat for a long time, you have a strong bond with your cat and the grief process is real and should be taken seriously. Please contact us for information about end of life services including grief support.

Get the best care for your best friend.

Request an appointment online.