Townsgate Pet Hospital

Is Your Pet a Senior Citizen Dog or Cat?

By Dr. Ahmed mutalib
Post Date: 05/25/2012

Is Your Pet a Senior Citizen Dog or Cat?

Do you ever wish that your pet could live as long as you live? I do. Regular health-checks of your senior pet seven years or older are essential. The purpose is to detect age related diseases early enough to intervene and help your pet live longer and more comfortably. Advances in veterinary medicine and technology help many dogs stay healthy a decade or more, and small dogs sometimes double that age gracefully well into their twenties. Here are some of the common diseases and signs to look for in your aging pet.


This is perhaps the most common problem seen in aging dogs. Affected dogs have difficulty getting up after lying down, difficulty going upstairs, an unwillingness to exercise or walk and possible limping from achy joints. Although signs of advanced arthritis are obvious on physical examination, x-rays are needed to assess the severity of arthritis and to rule out other causes of limping such as bone cancer. Arthritis pain can be managed primarily by weight loss, pain medication, and supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin and omega fatty acid. Other measures that can help include short walks and swimming, steps to the sofa or car, a well-padded soft bed, a heating pad placed under the dog’s bed as needed, and gentle massage. Never give your dog acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), or Aleve (Naproxen) as these can cause fatal kidney failure and profound gastrointestinal ulceration.


Dogs develop aging cataracts more than any other species but impaired vision or even loss of vision never slows them down. They compensate by relying more on sense of smell and hearing. Cataracts appear as opaque film covering both eyes. Laser surgery is available to correct cataracts.


Hearing naturally fades with age. You may use vibration and hand signals instead of verbal commands to communicate with your dog. Switch a flashlight on and off to get their attention. Vibrating collars also work well.

Periodontal disease:

Dental disease is not just about bad breath. Gum disease can be very serious and often result in seeding the vital organs with bacteria in both dogs and cats. This can lead to major organ failure if not corrected. Infected teeth and gums are painful. Dental disease can be diagnosed on physical examination and is easily treatable with regular dental cleanings by your veterinarian. Regular dental home care can add years to your pet’s life. Daily brushing with pet toothpaste and if this is not possible one can use Greenies brand dental treats, dental wipes, or CET enzymatic chews, and barrier sealants gel for plaque prevention.

Urinary Incontinence:

This mostly affects older spayed dogs due to the loss of bladder tone. Affected dogs leave a wet spot where they sleep. Medication is available and works well. Letting her out more often especially before nighttime would help. Doggy diapers can be used to contain urine.


Carrying additional weight can increase your pet’s chances of heart disease and can make arthritis worse. Aging dogs exercise less but eat the same amount. Senior diets are appropriate for the older pet as these diets typically offer increased fiber, decreased fat, and easily digestible protein sources for the aging kidney and liver to handle with ease. Some clients feed senior diets but offer more treats which negates the goal.

Kidney Disease:

the ability of the kidney to function as a filtering and elimination organ slowly begins to fail in aging pets and especially in cats. Dogs and cats can have a 75% loss of kidney function but appear normal on routine physical examination. Therefore, kidney function can only be assessed with blood and urine tests. If kidney insufficiency is detected early, your pet can benefit greatly from a prescription kidney diet, medication and fluid therapy. Their quality of life would be improved substantially and their lifespan would be increased.

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism:

Hypothyroidism is common in dogs. Most common signs include reduction in activity level and weight gain. Hyperthyroidism is very common in older cats. The most noticeable sign is weight loss in spite of increased appetite. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can be diagnosed with a simple blood test and treated easily.

Heart Disease:

Dogs are prone to several different types of heart problems. The most common include leaky heart valves (valvular insufficiency) and enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy). Dogs with heart problems may cough especially at night, have labored breathing, and tire more easily on walks. Abnormal heart sounds can be detected through listening to heart sounds and the problem is further confirmed by x-ray and ultrasound. Treating an affected dog improves the animal’s quality of life and may help him/her live longer.


Dogs and cats can get cancer too. Depending on type of cancer more treatment options are available than ever before including the combinations of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The key to success in cancer treatment is early detection of disease.Skin tumors are very common in dogs and cats at various ages. Anything from small warty type growths which are usually benign to aggressive, malignant skin tumors can be observed. Even fatty lumps can have a center of malignant (cancerous) cells. It is always good to have lumps biopsied initially and frequently monitored so that changes on them can be noted.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (Senility):

Older dogs can experience some of the same changes in their brain as humans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Signs include dog’s not recognizing their owners, loss of house training, circling, and barking at seemingly nothing when previously this was not a usual habit. Antioxidants and a medication called Anipryl can help temporarily reverse these signs or slow down progression of the disease.

Familiarizing yourself with the above diseases is important as you can watch for the signs of their development in your older pet. A good senior wellness program includes regular physical examinations, blood and urine tests, and blood pressure measurement.

At Townsgate Pet Hospital we have an in-house full blood testing laboratory and diagnostic equipment including x-ray imaging for fast test results while you are waiting. We care for pets of all ages and we have low cost vaccination clinic every day with no appointment required. We also offer low cost dental cleaning, spay and neuter every day.

Dr. Mutalib
Townsgate Pet Hospital
2806 Townsgate Road, Suite C,
Westlake Village. CA 91361
Phone: (805) 230-1999.

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