2023 AAHA Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

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Empower your team to be champions for senior pets!

Senior dogs and cats represent 44% of the pet population, and they deserve the best care we can offer in their senior years. The AAHA Senior Care Guidelines help your team create a practice that doesn’t just accommodate senior pets, but actively welcomes them.

Here are just a few of the ways you and your team can become champions for senior pets.

Recognize that senior care is multifaceted and includes:

  • Medical and interventional therapies
  • Behavioral management
  • Awareness of comorbidities
  • Environmental modification

Plan ahead for senior pet appointments:

  • Schedule extra time
  • Discuss expectations and progression with clients
  • Offer handouts/resources to support and educate clients

Let your clients and the public know you care about seniors:

  • Have an end-of-life care section on your website
  • Make sure senior pets are at least 30% of the visual content on your website
  • Show videos of the senior-friendly changes your practice has made

Watch this summary of the 2023 AAHA Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

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Guidelines at a Glance poster

Senior Care Guidelines at a Glance

Meet Harvey and Gladys!

Harvey and Gladys

Harvey and Gladys are our mascots for the 2023 AAHA Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, designed by artist Lili Chin. As seniors, Harvey and Gladys may be set in their ways, but they have a lot of love left to give. When your team becomes senior pet champions, you can help pets like Gladys and Harvey live out their golden years happy, healthy, and supported. And this means happy clients, too!

Senior Care Guidelines Summary

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Veterinary professionals are taught to recognize that “old age is not a disease.” However, clients may have the perception that older dogs and cats undergo an unavoidable physical, mental, and behavioral decline attributable simply to old age. The veterinary team’s role includes providing medical care and support to senior pets to maintain their quality of life, as well as supporting and educating clients on proper senior animal care and addressing any misconceptions about the aging process. These Guidelines describe a systematic approach to the healthcare of the senior pet that is based on an evidence-guided assessment of both healthy and unhealthy canine and feline patients. By using evidence-guided medicine, which may include conventional and integrative approaches as well as environmental management for the senior pet, the patient’s quality of life can be enhanced and potentially extended during this vulnerable life stage. Developing a senior program for the veterinary practice requires appropriate training of the entire healthcare team and includes a robust client education program that focuses on the wellbeing of the senior pet. Palliative and hospice care should be included in the education and information provided for both the veterinary team and the families of senior pets. (J AmAnimHosp Assoc 2023; 59:. DOI 10.5326/JAAHA-MS-7343)

Key resources (PDFs)

Table 1 Diagnostic Tests and Recommended Frequencies for Senior Dogs and Cats

Table 1 Senior Care Guidelines


Table 2 Diagnostic Approaches by Body System for Senior Dogs and Cats

Table 2 Senior Care Guidelines

The 2023 AAHA Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats are generously supported by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, CareCredit, IDEXX, and Zoetis.

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