Information To Guide You

The Elderly Pet

Helpful Information

Elderly Pets Are Unique

My focus the last few years has been dealing specifically with the geriatric and elderly pet and the problems that are unique to them. I have found that not only are pet caretakers confused by the aging process of their pets, but veterinarians are as well. I know that I was for the greater part of my career. In these posts, I will try to help you navigate the unique challenges that elderly and end of life pets present. Over the next few months, I will try to give you a different perspective and ideas that, hopefully, will help your understanding of the process of aging in dogs and cats. 

Bone Cancer In Dogs

Osteosarcoma is cancer of the bone. It is seen more commonly in large or giant breed dogs and occasionally in cats. It is so common in Irish Wolfhounds that any lameness should be investigated as soon as possible. It can affect any bone in the body, but usually is seen in the long bones of either the front or rear limbs.

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How Our Pets Age

In general terms, the geriatric period for dogs starts around 7 to 9 years of age, and for cats at around 10 years, but these parameters vary depending on species and size. The time frames listed here are certainly not exact and are only used as reference points for discussion.

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Injection Site Sarcomas In Cats

Feline Injection Site Sarcomas (FISS) are extremely aggressive cancers that may be related to an injection or vaccination. The specific cause is unknown. They can develop from 3 months to 4 years post vaccination, or injection, and some don’t show up for five or more years.

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Cardiac Disease In Older Pets

Check-ups are important as the dog or cat ages and signs of heart disease can often be diagnosed or suggested when the veterinarian listens to the heart via a stethoscope. If a murmur or heart beat arrhythmia is auscultated (heard), the doctor may recommend a visit to a veterinary cardiologist for a more detailed and complete diagnosis to see if treatment is necessary.

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Litter Box Problems In Older Cats

Litter boxes are not made for cats, they are made to make things easier for people. The same is true of litters. In most situations, the younger cat will adapt to both the litter used as well as the box, but the older, or elderly, cat may have problems that can result in them soiling outside the box.

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Do You Have To Choose Euthanasia?

It’s also a truism that the general consensus on the internet is that it’s “not humane” to allow a pet to die naturally. This is frustrating to me because it’s based on incorrect information.

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Abdominal Masses In Dogs

Since I just deal with geriatric, elderly and terminal pets, I see masses (tumors, growths) within the abdomen fairly frequently. Certain breeds are represented more often: Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Pit Bulls are among the most commonly affected.

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Pain And Arthritis In Cats

Different studies have shown that a large percentage, (90% by age 12 in one study) of cats have some degree of degenerative joint disease or arthritis. A significant percentage (45%) of these cats show clinical signs. Arthritis can be seen in cats as young as 2 years and the percentage goes up above 90% when cats reach the elderly stage (17 years and over).

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Pet Grief Cold Noses

Books On Pet Loss

List compiled by Belinda McLeod for Cake Blog

Some of these books offer suggestions on how to grieve the loss of a pet. Others are stories that celebrate animals. Choose the book carefully, especially if you are using it as a gift. You don’t want to open old wounds in your attempt to offer solace.

Even if you are purchasing a book for adults, it is encouraged that you check out the second part of the list. Children’s books can be more accessible, and easier to manage, in a difficult period.

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Gray Tabby Green Eyes

Feline IBD vs Intestinal Lymphoma

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is relatively common in older cats, but can be seen in younger cats, as well. It is characterized by frequent vomiting and/or diarrhea, although frequent vomiting seems to be more common. Vomiting cats can also have intestinal lymphoma, and IBD, along with intestinal lymphoma, account for around 90% of cases with chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea as the main presenting symptom.

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Pet Suffering And Euthanasia

I receive many phone calls in regard to pet “suffering” and “quality of life” issues. In my opinion, these specific terms are related to our “human” viewpoint and not the pet’s.

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Tramadol Warning

This is a synthetic opiate that is often prescribed for analgesia (pain control) in the dog. The FDA has classified this drug as a “controlled” substance. In my experience, this medication creates more problems than it helps.

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Vestibular Disease In Dogs and Cats

Vestibular disease is related to a problem in the middle ear whereby the normal orientation of the body related to earth is not normal. It causes dizziness and is similar to motion sickness. In dogs, it is called Old Dog Vestibular Disease and in cats, it is called Feline Idiopathic Vestibular Disease.

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Kidney Insufficiency

It is important to know that once the cat or dog develops symptoms of kidney disease, or kidney insufficiency is found by way of blood tests, a significant amount of the kidney tissue has been depleted and cannot be regenerated.

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Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

This, like neuropathy, is common in the aging pet and is seen in both cats and dogs. It is almost a mirror image of what is seen in people and the signs can be similar.

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Hyperthyroidism In Cats

Unfortunately, this one of the most common problems seen in geriatric and older cats. The average age of onset is 13. It’s an insidious disease that results in many other related afflictions due to the increased level of thyroid hormone, T4, released from the paired glands located in the laryngeal area of the neck.

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Kitten Black Cute

In Home Visits For Cats

Taking cats to the veterinary office can be a frustrating and traumatic ordeal, as many owners have experienced. Because of the perceived emotional “trauma,” it seems like a much better alternative to have a veterinarian come into the home for the examination. In fact, this may not be the best approach after all. 

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Geriatric Neuropathy In The Dog

One of the most common reasons people call me is because their dog is having difficulty getting up or lying down. The perception is that it’s “horrible” arthritis or “hip dysplasia.”

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