Geriatric patients can represent major challenges to the owner as well as the veterinarian. Within the past decade, the improved knowledge base, newer technologies, and additional therapeutic options have allowed today’s veterinarians to meet the medical and behavioural challenges of age-related disease better.
Whether you call these patients geriatric or “mature,” special considerations are required in evaluating, examining, hospitalizing, and generally caring for older pets. However, owners and veterinarians must understand that old age is not a disease, it is a stage of life.
The objectives of a managed program of pet geriatric health care include recognizing and controlling health risk factors, detecting preclinical disease, correcting or delaying the progression of existing disorders, and improving or restoring residual function.
“ Still very active and rarely seen apart you’re teenage geriatrics modern and young at heart”
-John Walter Bratton-
At present, most progressive practitioners recognize that yearly revaccination recommendations are not based on good science. We must be selective about which vaccines are really necessary for each particular patient. Just because a vaccine is available does not mean that it should be used in every patient, regardless of age, health status, and environment.
Older animals (like older humans) tend to get less exercise. This is particularly true of cats, which generally have a more sedentary lifestyle than dogs have. Diminished exercise reduces muscle tone and bone and joint strength increasing the risk of musculoskeletal disease and a tendency toward obesity.
Musculoskeletal disease (degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis) can have different grade of severity in animals; however, it is surprising how often degenerative joint disease is discovered as an incidental finding on x-ray evaluation made to study something else. Sometimes, degenerative joint disease may be a cause of the animal’s “slowing down with age.” In these cases, herbal treatments integrated with conventional drugs or passive movement of the joint combined with a muscle massage may markedly improve the mobility and general well being.
Geriatric animals also have a decreased thirst response. This could lead to dehydration that can obviously compromise already marginally functioning body organs and compound deficiencies in renal function. So it could be very important to prefer a wet diet rather then dry food.
Taste sensation could be reduced in older pets. This could lead to anorexia, so feeding highly aromatic diets and warming food to body temperature before serving improves palatability. Some people routinely feed older pets restricted-protein diets (for example specific commercial diet designed for animals with renal insufficiency) in the belief that these diets will prevent or slow the development of renal failure. Recent studies suggest, however, that lower-protein diets do not protect the kidneys and are not beneficial until renal insufficiency has developed.
Changes in body mass affect drug distribution. As an animal ages, the percentage of body fat tends to increase and lean body mass tends to decrease. Consequently, dose adjustments may be required if a drug dose is based on lean body mass. Reductions in liver mass and function can decrease the rate of metabolic conversion of a drug to either active or inactive metabolites as an alterations in renal blood flow and glomerular filtration rate can reduce the rate of clearance of unmodified drug or metabolites from the body. The hepatic and renal changes generally result in a decrease in first-pass drug metabolism and tend to result in higher drug levels in the body. So it could be very useful integrate conventional drug therapy with natural supplements that could help that reduce drug dosage and side effects. Finally, because older patients are likely to have more than one problem as they age, we need to be aware of the effects of poly-pharmacy and the potential for adverse drug interactions.