Geriatric Care for Your Pet

Join the Cicero Animal Clinic Family

adorable dog

Geriatric Care for Your Pet

Age is not a disease, but there are a number of things we start to worry about with our aging pets. Of course the best way to head off these issues is by scheduling regular biannual (and perhaps more often as issues arise) checkups right here at Cicero Animal Clinic. Here are a list of things to look out for and some potential solutions worth discussing with our vets:


Arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD), is a degenerative, progressive, and irreversible condition of the joints. It is characterized by the progressive loss of joint cartilage, bony spurs/growths, and the thickening and scarring of connective tissue around the joint, usually as a result of injury or wear and tear. Approximately 25 percent of dogs are diagnosed with arthritis in their lifetime, and as many as 60 percent of dogs have x-ray evidence of it. Degenerative joint disorders are probably as common in cats as in dogs but are less likely to be associated with obvious clinical signs, such as lameness. In one study, 90 percent of cats over 12 years of age had radiographic signs of osteoarthritis. Arthritis can affect any age, sex, and breed of dog and cat.

Potential Treatments:
  • Weight loss: Pets in overweight or obese body condition have increased stress on the joints. Reducing your pet’s weight to an ideal body condition will result in overall better comfort and mobility. The goal should be easily palpable ribs with an obvious waist as seen from the side and above. 
  • Diet: Essential fatty acids have been shown to increase joint and cartilage health and reduce joint inflammation. Hill’s j/d is a diet with included fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid and fish oil supplements can also be given separately with food.
  • Joint supplements: Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin may increase cartilage strength. One example is “Dasuquin”. Another is “Cosequin”. Movoflex is a supplement containing multiple ingredients that aid in joint structure and flexibility. 
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These drugs reduce inflammation in the joint and are a mainstay in the treatment of arthritis. One example is deracoxib, often known by its brand name “Deramaxx”. NSAIDs are generally well-tolerated in dogs, but side-effects can include gastrointestinal upset, and very rarely kidney or liver dysfunction. These medications should always be given with food. Regular screening bloodwork will be necessary to monitor pets receiving these medications daily. 
  • Adequan: Adequan is an injection of a medication that is a major component of the joint cartilage that improves cartilage health, joint fluid production and reduces inflammation.
  • Solensia: Solensia is a monthly injection administered to a cat at vet offices that can help control the pain your cat experiences from arthritis. Its active ingredient binds growth factors involved in the recognition of pain, preventing these signals from reaching the brain.
  • Laser Therapy: Also known as photo biomodulation therapy, laser therapy has been shown to alter the inflammatory response and cellular signals that contribute to signs of arthritis. Potential benefits include pain reduction, reduced swelling, increased joint mobility/function, and decreased dosage or frequency of drugs needed in patients with chronic arthritic disease. 
  • Physical Therapy: A consultation with a physical therapist may include discussion of such modalities such as acupuncture, specific exercises, hydrotherapy (pool or water treadmill), joint supplements, and more. 
  • Chiropractic Care: Just like with people, there are actually animal chiropractors as well! These are veterinarians that have gone through additional training and certification in chiropractic care. The organization responsible for this certification is the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, or the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association. Dr. Gilbraith is certified in chiropractic care.
  • And More! Other drugs or supplements, including acetaminophen/codeine, gabapentin, amantidine, etc. could also be considered based on recommendations from your pet’s veterinarian.   


Dementia in dogs is called canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). It is similar to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in people. About 14-35% of dogs over 8-years-old are affected, a percentage that increases significantly as dogs continue to age. Dogs with CCD have a slow progression of behavioral signs, such as aimless wandering/pacing, staring into space and more. There is currently no cure for CCD but early diagnosis and treatment can improve your dog’s condition and slow progression. There are also some prescription diets available and medications that can help slow the progression of disease. (Adapted from VIN Veterinary Partner)

Dental Disease

Because dental disease is so common in our senior pets, we recommend keeping a close eye out for things like bad breath, plaque and tartar buildup, loose or broken teeth, or reluctance to chew, play, or eat. The gold standard treatment for dental disease is a dental cleaning at the vet followed by daily brushing at home, but short of this there are plenty of other options including water additives and dental chews. The Veterinary Oral Health Council ( has a list of approved products, several of which can be obtained from us here at Cicero Animal Clinic.

Metabolic Disease

Some of the most common metabolic diseases we see in our older pets are liver and kidney disease, the latter being especially common in our aging cats. It is also common for us to see conditions like hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and diabetes mellitus. The best way to catch these early is to bring your pet in for regular vet visits, including annual screening bloodwork. This allows us to intervene early, whether it be through medications, prescription diets, or even lifestyle changes like encouraging our cats to drink more water by using a continuous fountain, or feeding more canned food.


Just like humans, aging pets are at risk of developing cancer. Cancer can affect any organ in the body, so can present in a variety of different ways. Some cancers can be identified on a physical exam, like skin tumors, oral tumors, and some abdominal tumors. Others require advanced imaging like x-rays or ultrasound to diagnose. If we have a suspicion of cancer based on your pet’s history, our physical exam or abnormal lab test results, we may recommend additional testing for more information.

And More

This is only scratching the surface on the types of issues we can see in our older / aging pets but should give you a general idea of the kinds of things to look out for and the options out there should problems arise. As always, please feel free to call us at Cicero Animal Clinic to make an appointment should you have any questions or concerns about any of the things listed in this handout, or otherwise!

Compassionate Care for Your Furry Friends

Cicero Animal Clinic, P.C. offers pet wellness and vaccination, surgery, chiropractic care, cold laser therapy, and more for dogs, cats, exotic pets, pocket pets, avians, and rabbits in Cicero, Brewerton, Clay, and North Syracuse, New York, and the surrounding areas.

Hours of Operation

Mon to Thur: 7am – 8pm
Fri: 7am – 5pm
Sat and Sun: Closed
*Closed Wednesday from 12-2pm.
View Our After Hours Emergency Care