AAHA releases new guidelines on care of senior dogs, cats

Senior pets represent a large proportion of animals seen in veterinary practice, and these treasured elder pets often require specialized care and monitoring to ensure the senior years are comfortable and enjoyable, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. Differences in species, breed, size, and life span mean that senior plans cannot be one size fits all.

On Jan. 3, AAHA released the 2023 AAHA Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats to support veterinary teams in their care for each unique senior patient.

“At the core of these guidelines is the understanding that aging is not a disease, but that family members can embrace, love, and enjoy their senior pets,” said Dr. Ravinder Dhaliwal, chair of the task force that prepared the guidelines, in an AAHA announcement.

Artist Lili Chin designed Harvey and Gladys for the American Animal Hospital Association as mascots for the 2023 AAHA Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. (Courtesy of AAHA)

According to the guidelines, “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.”

The guidelines cover evaluating and managing the healthy senior pet; evaluating and managing the unhealthy senior pet, including providing end-of-life care; and developing education for veterinary teams and for clients that emphasizes the care and well-being of the senior pet. The document offers a table of diagnostic tests and recommended frequencies for senior dogs and cats and a table of diagnostic approaches by body system for senior dogs and cats.

Additional resources are a poster and graphic that summarize the guidelines (PDF) at a glance.

“A focus on senior pet care has many benefits for veterinary practices and their clients,” according to the guidelines. “These include strengthening the human-animal bond, enhancing and extending the patient’s quality and duration of life, and deepening the veterinary/client/patient relationship.”