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From 2013 to 2018, Veterinary Team Brief delivered tools and solutions for the veterinary practice. You are viewing content from the Veterinary Team Brief archive. Find more Veterinary Team Brief content here.

Getting Geriatric Pets to the Practice

Mary Gardner, DVM, Lap of Love, Yorba Linda, California

May 2018

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Clients often leave fragile geriatric pets struggling at home instead of taking them to the practice.



Educate clients about the challenges they may face when trying to manage an elderly pet’s health at home. Providing tips and advice on safe, noninvasive, and affordable care for common concerns (eg, pain and anxiety management) is invaluable. Clients may be afraid no realistic options are available, fear being told nothing can be done for their old pet, or afraid they will be forced into expensive diagnostics. Education can change that.


Segment the practice’s patient database and target market. Run reports to capture pets over the age of 10, certain breeds, and pets with particular ailments. Create relatable content for clients that speaks directly to the problems they could be facing. For example, dogs older than 10 are more susceptible to cognitive dysfunction, so create a newsletter with information and tips on that topic. Many clients are not aware of the issues for geriatric pets and the solutions the veterinary team can provide.


Cater to the practice’s grey muzzles and show clients you care about their fragile pets. For dogs that struggle with tile floors, create a runway of yoga mats to the examination rooms to help them grip. For stressed cats, spray pheromones to help calm them. Consider providing a dedicated parking spot close to the entrance. Developing geriatric-friendly features throughout the practice can make both clients and pets comfortable and more likely to return.

Geriatric Pets1

  • Geriatric = Dogs older than 10 (depending on size); cats older than 14
  • Senior = Dogs older than 7 (depending on size); cats older than 9
  • Problems specific to geriatric patients include: 
    • Cognition
    • Decreased hearing
    • Decreased vision
    • Dry, flaky skin
    • Incontinence (urinary and fecal)
    • Laryngeal paralysis
    • Reduced mobility
    • Weakness


Geriatric pets do not have the same issues as senior pets and need to be treated differently. Educating clients and providing useful tips helps the pet and family members, who usually are frustrated and scared of what lies ahead.

Like the complicated cases in your practice, some challenges may need a different approach or original solutions. For more ideas and direction, consider looking for an individual consultant or someone with a specific area of expertise at


For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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