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Comprehensive Senior Wellness Checks: Ensuring the Health and Happiness of Senior Cats and Dogs

A senior dog undergoing wellness checks at a veterinary clinic

Veterinary professionals play a vital role in ensuring the health and well-being of senior cats and dogs. As our beloved companions age, their healthcare needs evolve, requiring a nuanced approach to diagnosis, treatment, and preventive care. Senior wellness checks are instrumental in detecting age-related conditions early, optimising management strategies, and ultimately enhancing the quality of life for senior pets. 

In this article, we delve into the importance of comprehensive senior wellness checks for cats and dogs, offering detailed insights and practical recommendations for veterinary professionals to provide exceptional care for their senior patients.

In This Blog:

Understanding Senior Health Needs

Senior pets face unique health challenges influenced by factors such as climate, environmental pollutants, dietary habits, and lifestyle factors. Veterinary professionals must be attuned to these nuances when assessing and managing senior pets' health. Common age-related conditions in senior pets include osteoarthritis, dental disease, obesity, cognitive dysfunction, renal insufficiency, and neoplasia. 

Additionally, regional variations in disease prevalence and environmental factors may impact the presentation and management of age-related conditions. Veterinary professionals should stay informed about current research and guidelines to deliver evidence-based care tailored to the specific needs of senior pets.

Comprehensive Wellness Check in the UK

Medical History Review:

  • Obtain a comprehensive medical history, including previous illnesses, surgeries, vaccinations, and medications, with particular attention to lifestyle factors and environmental exposures relevant to their local area.

  • Enquire about changes in behaviour, appetite, water consumption, urination, and defecation patterns, noting any subtle signs indicative of underlying health issues commonly encountered in senior pets, such as urinary tract disease or cognitive dysfunction.

Physical Examination:

  • Conduct a thorough physical examination, assessing body condition score, and any changes in weight and muscle mass, joint mobility, dental health, skin, coat quality, and vital signs, while also evaluating for signs of parasitic infestations and environmental allergies. Include a retinal examination, particularly in cats, to look for any signs of retinal haemorrhage or detachment. 

  • Palpate for lumps, bumps, or abnormalities in the abdomen, lymph nodes, and mammary glands, considering the increased prevalence of certain cancers in the senior population. Fine needle aspirates can be undertaken quickly and almost always without the need for sedation, to help provide reassurance or early diagnosis of disease.

  • Blood pressure measurement is a valuable tool in older pets- hypertension can be an indicator of many diseases, and left untreated can cause damage to many organs Laboratory Testing:

  • Consider performing baseline blood tests, including complete blood count (CBC), serum biochemistry, thyroid tests and urinalysis. Doing this will help to assess organ function, detect metabolic abnormalities, and screen for underlying diseases common in senior pets such as renal disease, Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism), diabetes, and hypo or hyperthyroidism in dogs and cats respectively. Nutritional Assessment:

  • Evaluate the pet's diet and nutritional status, recommending appropriate dietary adjustments to address age-related changes, weight management, and specific health conditions prevalent in the older population, such as dental disease or issues such as obesity associated with sedentary indoor lifestyles. 

  • Discuss the importance of maintaining ideal body weight, proper hydration, and providing adequate nutrients to support senior pets' overall health and vitality, considering the availability of veterinary therapeutic diets and nutritional supplements tailored to the unique needs of senior pets. Dental Evaluation:

  • Perform a comprehensive oral examination, including dental prophylaxis if necessary, to address dental disease, which is prevalent in senior pets

  • Advocate for regular dental care at home for senior pets, where appropriate or after cleaning under anaesthetic, as professional dental care is essential for managing periodontal disease and preventing systemic complications such as endocarditis or kidney damage. Behavioural Assessment:

  • Assess changes in behaviour and cognitive function, including signs of anxiety, confusion, disorientation, and altered sleep patterns, indicative of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), while considering environmental factors such as seasonal changes and indoor confinement that may impact senior pets' mental health.

  • Implement behavioural enrichment strategies and pharmacological interventions when appropriate to improve cognitive function and quality of life, while also considering alternative therapies such as hydrotherapy or physiotherapy, increasingly popular among  pet owners seeking holistic approaches to senior pet care.

Preventive Care and Management Strategies in the UK

  • Vaccination: Tailor vaccination protocols based on individual risk factors, lifestyle, and regional disease prevalence, ensuring senior pets receive necessary immunisations to prevent infectious diseases, such as leptospirosis or kennel cough.

  • Parasite Control: Implement year-round parasite prevention protocols to protect senior pets from internal and external parasites endemic to your local area, including fleas, ticks, lungworm, and gastrointestinal parasites such as roundworms or tapeworms, while also considering emerging threats such as exotic tick species, especially in travelling pets

  • Pain Management: Address chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions prevalent in senior pets  through multimodal pain management strategies, including analgesics, nutraceuticals, physical therapy, and acupuncture, while also considering the limited availability of certain medications or therapies in different regions.

  • Environmental Modifications: Make adjustments to the home environment to accommodate senior pets' changing needs, such as providing orthopaedic bedding, ramps or steps for easier access, and enhanced lighting to aid vision, while also considering the impact of seasonal factors such as cold weather or allergens on senior pets' comfort and mobility.

  • Regular Monitoring: Schedule periodic follow-up visits to monitor senior pets' health status, reassess treatment plans, and address emerging issues promptly, fostering a proactive approach to senior pet care tailored to the unique needs and challenges of the senior pet population.

Veterinary professionals in the UK are committed to providing comprehensive care for senior cats and dogs, ensuring they enjoy their golden years to the fullest. 

By conducting thorough wellness checks, staying informed about regional health trends and disease prevalence, and tailoring preventive and management strategies to the unique needs of senior pets, veterinary professionals can optimise the health and happiness of their senior patients. 

Through collaboration, continuing education, and a commitment to excellence in senior pet care, veterinary professionals play a vital role in enhancing the well-being of senior pets and strengthening the human-animal bond across communities in the United Kingdom.

Are you looking to improve your knowledge of end-of-life care for your patients? Join our Partner Practice CPD course today, and start your journey to helping both pets and the families who love them to experience the best end-of-life care possible.


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