All companion animal practices should ascribe special status to the senior patient because these clients usually have a very strong, longterm relationship with their pets. Many families of senior pets place an intrinsic value on their animals as personal companions and family members. Senior pet care presents an opportunity for a practice to implement optimum and individualized healthcare for its geriatric patient population.
The onset of the senior life stage differs somewhat for dogs and cats and within breeds for both species. A thorough diagnostic assessment as described in the Guidelines will help the practitioner determine the specific needs of the senior pet. The senior pet’s healthcare plan can then be differentiated into evidence-guided protocols for the healthy and unhealthy patient. Using this approach, senior pet care becomes a carefully staged healthcare plan designed to preserve and extend the patient’s QOL and maintain a strong, active relationship between the pet and family. Practices that adopt a proactive senior pet health care philosophy can educate clients that the aging process is not an inevitable physical, mental, and behavioral decline that warrants minimal medical intervention.
Practices that successfully emphasize senior pet wellness should focus on two aspects of the practice’s culture—team training to promote senior pet care and client education to explain the practice’s healthcare recommendations for the senior pet. When both the practice team and the practice’s clients understand the goals for senior pet care, successfully implementing an effective healthcare program for older pets is all but ensured.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Mark Dana of Kanara Consulting Group, LLC, in the preparation of the guidelines manuscript and Yee Lok To, HBSc, DVM, for assistance during the task force meetings.