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Geriatric Diseases: What Are They?

Like us, our furry-friends experience changes to their health as they get older. As animals age, organ systems experience wear and tear, their function decreases. This blog looks into common geriatric diseases to look out for in your pet.

What Are Geriatric Diseases?

Geriatric diseases refer to illnesses and diseases which happen as a result of ageing.

So what are the most common geriatric diseases we see in pets?


One of the most common age-related diseases we see is arthritis. Arthritis is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint(s).

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Showing signs of slowness/stiffness upon rising

  • Being unable to walk without assistance

  • Urinary accidents

  • Decreased grooming (particularly in cats)

  • Reduced social interactions

  • Missing the litter tray (cats)

Caring for your pet with arthritis:

Treatment to help with arthritis may include physical therapy, acupuncture, supplements, as well as anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications. Alternate therapies such as hypnotherapy can also be beneficial for arthritic patients. However, it's important to discuss any alternative therapies with your vet first, as not all patients are suitable.

For dogs, avoiding long walks and high impact activities can help them feel more comfortable. However, arthritic dogs still benefit from moving. Controlled exercise, such as gentle regular walks and scent work around the home can ensure your dog is getting regular low impact exercise and can help battle boredom. Offering your dog a comfortable or memory foam bed can also help reduce joint pain. We also suggest using anti-slip mats and adding more rugs to wooden or tiled floors to help with their traction on slippery surfaces.

As for cats, using higher sided litter trays with easy access and a softer litter for their paws can ease their comfort. If your cat is used to toileting outside, getting a litter tray for the house can help avoid accidents if they are in pain.

For all pets, we suggest putting beds, food and water bowls at a low level so your pet does not need to climb. Using ramps and small stairs up to spaces, such as going up to the sofa can also be effective to reduce inflammation. Lastly, it is important to monitor and maintain the weight of your pet as this will also help with their symptoms.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Another common geriatric disease is Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). CDS is a condition associated with the ageing of the brain and presents much like dementia or Alzheimer disease in humans.

Signs to be aware of are:

  • Incontinence: Having accidents indoors or wanting to go to the toilet more regularly is common for pets with CDS.

  • Disruptions in sleep patterns: It's common for CDS patients to sleep a lot during the day and remain more awake at night.

  • Change in personality: The onset of CDS can affect the personality of your pet. Pets with CDS can appear withdrawn, or in contrast, can become more clingy.

  • Confusion or disorientation: You may notice your dog or cat getting lost in familiar places, on walks, or even inside the home.

  • Memory loss: Often pets with CDS stop responding to familiar commands, and can forget learnt behaviour. It's not unusual for them to forget family members and other species in the home.

  • Reduced or restless activity: You may notice your pet stop being as active as they used to and sleeping more. It is also common for patients with CDS to pace around restlessly.

  • Change in appetite: For animals with CDS, their appetite will likely change. You may notice your pet stops eating as much or eating far more. It's not uncommon for them to have forgotten they have eaten.

Caring for your pet with CDS:

Although there is no 'cure' for CDP, effective management such as behavioural interventions, dietary modifications and nutritional supplements, medications, and complementary therapies can help them feel at ease. At Roundwood, we are able to talk through what options are best suited to your pet.

Due to patients with CDS suffering from memory loss, it is important to ensure your pet has up to date microchip details and identification on them such as a name tag or named collar, in case they get lost. For dogs, keeping them on a lead whilst walking can help avoid them wandering off.

Patients with CDS can also become less tolerant of environmental changes and appear more anxious. Keeping the space in your home as familiar as possible can help avoid confusion. Similarly, designating a safe resting area that is always accessible to them to retreat to can help ease anxiety. Our nurse clinics are on hand to help advise on environmental changes which can be made to help your companion feel safe and secure.

Ensuring resources such as food and water bowls are easily accessible and providing litter boxes in additional locations can also help remind your pet to use them.

Whilst it can be devastating to see your pet deteriorate, it is important to keep having positive interactions with them, provide brain training games and retrain them when possible. Most importantly be patient with them and avoid getting frustrated with them if they forget commands or become incompetent.


Cancer not only affects humans but our pets also. Cancer can come in a variety of forms.

Some Common Cancers Are:

  • Lymphoma

  • Mast cell tumours

  • Osteosarcoma

  • Melanoma

  • Mammy gland tumours

To determine what sort of cancer your pet has, investigations are carried out through blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound and biopsies, all of which we offer at Roundwood vets.

Signs of Cancer May Include:

  • Loss of weight

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lesions on the skin that do not go away

  • An abnormal or rapidly growing swelling or lump

  • Bleeding or discharge from body openings

  • Lethargy

  • Difficulty urinating or defecating

Cancer presents itself in pets in very subtle ways. If your pet has any of the above symptoms or is acting differently it is important to contact your vet. Being mindful of the health of your pet and well being can be an important step in the early detection and treatment of illnesses and diseases.

Caring For Pet With Cancer:

Treatment for cancer may include surgery, radiation, immunotherapy and chemotherapy. In some cases, palliative care (ensuring they are pain and stress-free) is also required.

Similarly to Arthritis and CPD care, making sure your pet with cancer is comfortable and happy are the main priority. Aforementioned, ramps, comfortable beds, accessible safe spaces and regular toileting can all help your pet live a happier, more comfortable life.

Caring for a pet with cancer can be overwhelming, at Roundwood we offer nurse clinics where nurses can assist you in the management of treatment. To read more on our nurse clinic click here.

We also offer a remote hospice service (Roundwood Pet Hospice) to help your pet through their final chapter ensuring they are pain and stress-free. This consultation service is normally carried out over video calls such as Google Meets and allows you to discuss your pets needs in the comfort of your own home. Our hospice vet, Dr Emma can also see your pet and carry out quality of life assessments, guiding them gently through their final months or days.

Renal Disease

Any condition which affects the kidneys functioning properly is referred to as kidney or renal disease. Kidneys act as a filter for the body, filtering to keep good substances in the blood and removing bad toxins and waste products. Renal disease can affect pets both acutely and chronically. Whilst acute renal disease has a severe and onset rapidly, it can often be treated. However, chronic renal disease is a long term illness that has progressed over time and is irreversible.

Signs To Look Out For Include:

  • Urinating more frequently

  • Drinking excessively

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhoea

  • Lethargic

Caring For Your Pet With Renal:

Although chronic renal disease can't be cured, it can be managed and early intervention can slow down the progression of the disease.

One way to help manage kidney disease is through diet. Specially formulated diets that are low in protein, phosphorus, calcium and sodium are recommended. Making sure your pet is well hydrated, and adding water to the food can also help increase their water intake.

Medication and supplements can also be prescribed by your vet depending on the stage of the kidney disease. Supplements such as phosphorus binders can help balance the vitamins that have been lost.

To read our full blog on renal disease, click here.


Systemic hypertension is the clinical term for high blood pressure. When blood pressure is particularly high, it can lead to several serious health concerns.

Signs of hypertension include:

  • Increased drinking and urinating with the progression of chronic kidney disease

  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)

  • Bleeding in the nose and nasal passages

  • Heart murmurs or abnormal heart rhythms

  • Sudden blindness and persistently dilated pupils

  • Detached retinas

  • Nervous system signs like depression, head tilt, seizures, disorientation, weakness or partial paralysis, or short, rapid eye movements


The cause of primary hypertension is often unknown. Secondary hypertension, however, accounts for the majority of hypertension in cats and dogs and can be attributed due to common diseases linked to aging, such as kidney disease, adrenal gland disease, hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus. As your animal ages, they are more likely to suffer from hypertension as a result of another underlying issue.

Caring For Your Pet With Hypertension:

As underlying health issues are the likely cause of hypertension, regular routine checks at your vets to monitor pre-existing issues are highly recommended.

Along with routine checks to monitor; medical management is also available for hypertension. As hypertension is a secondary issue to an underlying condition, treatment of the underlying condition can help improve hypertension and any effects it may have.


Hyperthyroidism is caused by the overproduction of thyroid hormone in the thyroid glands. Hyperthyroidism is most common in older cats above the age of 12-13 years. The thyroid hormone affects the function of the majority of organs in the body, so the signs can be quite variable.

Signs of Hyperthyroidism Can Include:

  • Weight loss

  • Increased appetite/ increased drinking

  • Increased activity and restlessness

  • Aggressive or irritable behaviour

  • A poor quality coat/ loss of hair

  • An increased heart rate

  • Increased urination/ increased stool production

  • Vomiting

  • Occasionally difficulty breathing

  • Occasionally can cause weakness

Caring For Your Pet With Hyperthyroidism:

There are different options for treatment options for hyperthyroidism, including:

  • Oral anti-thyroid medications

  • Surgical removal of affected thyroid glands

  • Treatment with radioactive iodine

Each one of these has benefits and drawbacks that should be considered and discussed with your veterinarian to decide what would be best for your and your pets' circumstances.

Alongside medical treatment, placing your pet on a low phosphorus diet and providing calcium supplements can also help.

Roundwood Pet Hospice is also available to help you and your pet live well through their last chapter, pain and stress-free.

Our hospice service is a remote assessment via google meets, which allows you to discuss your pets needs and issues with our hospice vet, Dr Emma, in the comfort of your home without the need to bring your pet to the surgery. Dr Emma will carry out quality of life assessments, suggest changes that may help within the home and assess medications that may help them during this final chapter. Regular follow up consultations can also be arranged so that we can help you and your pet every step of the way, allowing them to live well right to the end.

When the time comes to say goodbye, Roundwood Pet Hospice also offers home visits for euthanasia. We find that pets are more relaxed in their home and all family members, including other pets, can be with them in their last moments, making it less stressful for you and for them. For more information on our home service please visit our hospice website by clicking here

Should you wish to enquire about Roundwood Pet Hospice please contact 0800 049 59 44 or visit our website

If you have any concerns about your elderly pet and would like to book an appointment for an assessment or to discuss your concerns please do not hesitate to contact us.


Order Dr Hannah Parkin's Amazing Guide To Caring For Your New Puppy.
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