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2005 AAHA Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

The term “senior” has been chosen to describe the aging and older pet. The number of years considered to be “senior” may vary, and one must keep in mind that organ systems, species, and breeds of dogs age at different rates.

Approach to the apparently healthy senior pet

The purposes of clinical screening of healthy pets are to establish a baseline assessment for future comparison and to detect subclinical abnormalities at a time when preventive and therapeutic intervention may have the most benefit.

Anesthesia and surgery

The importance of complete and accurate historical information cannot be overstated, including current medications (e.g., over-the-counter, prescription, alternative, supplements) with regard to their potential impact on anesthesia and recovery.

Pain and distress

Identify, prevent, and minimize pain. Use pain assessment as the fourth vital sign, using scales such as the University of Melbourne Pain Scale or the Glasgow Composites Measures Pain Scale.

End-is-near issues

Veterinary hospice care is defined as “giving clients time to make decisions regarding a terminal companion animal and to prepare for [its] pending death. The comfort of the animal must always be considered.

End-of-life and euthanasia

During the euthanasia decision-making process and after the decision is made, provide the client with resources about the process and impact of euthanasia on the family and other pets.


2005 AAHA Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats references


Veterinarians must base their decisions and actions on their own expertise, experience, and knowledge. Veterinary practitioners are also charged with making decisions for each individual animal based on the best available scientific evidence, in conjunction with clinical experience.

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