The Geriatric Patient 

"I don't want him to suffer"
"Am I doing the right thing keeping her going?"
"Is he just old?"

All ages can have the misfortune to get ill or injure themselves.  But the Geriatric patient brings a particular problem and managing old and very dear pets needs careful consideration and good communication between owner and vet.

The problem centres around the fact that Old Age also causes its own problems - a gradual decline and loss of physical and mental health. How do you tell one from another? How do you tell "Old Age" from the "Diseases of Old Age"?

Well, you start with a consultation where the patient's problems are discussed between vet and owner and the patient is examined.  We have the expertise to see between "Old Age" and the diseases that can come with it. Laboratory tests  are often helpful, but these need to be carefully targeted, and costs need to be looked at, since animals are often not insured at this stage of their life.

I often explain to owners that there are two traps you can fall into with Geriatric patients; trying too hard, and not trying  hard enough.
The point of what we are doing is to try and make sure that our pet enjoys all the happy/content days that it can. We are not here as vet and owner to keep animals 'going' if the animal is not enjoying the experience of living.

Bare in mind that most of the diseases of old age are chronic- they creep up on you, often unnoticed. Particularly since we often say to ourselves

"Well, I guess she's just getting old"

It is the gradual changes that you need to look out for.Most of the conditions of old age are not cured, they are managed. And that means that early diagnosis is vital to catch the problem at a manageable stage!  It's no good later on, sadly. This often means that we would be best to catch the problem WHEN YOU HAVE NOTICED IT, BUT BEFORE THE PET IS SUFFERING WITH IT.

Of particular importance are the following;

  • Gradual loss of mobililty -in cats often seen as an inability to jump up onto areas they previously enjoyed . With dogs, often seen that they start to "pay" for their walks. Beware that dogs may be very keen still to go for walks and will charge around, but will be stiff after rest after exercise.
  • Polydipsia - fancy medic term for drinking excessively, or perhaps just drinking more than before
  • Weight loss or weight change that is attracting attention from people who perhaps don't see the pet all that often
  • Disinterest in food.
  • Persistent halitosis (smelly breath) - dental disease is a common issue in geriatric patients and causes a lot of low level pain but particularly chronic infection which is damaging to the othyer organs of the body.
  • Periuria (inappropriate toiletting - often in their basket or in the house) Quite often, wetting or messing in the house is a sign of disease, rather than a sign of "old age".

If you are worried, then do call the surgery. We can give good advice as to whether a problem needs attention. And remember that we treat your pets as we would treat our own.

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