When it comes to anesthesia, pet owners and their veterinarians sometimes see age as an obstacle to necessary health maintenance for older pets. It reminds Dr Ralph Harvey of the way people maintain older cars. “Owners are reluctant to care for the engine because they assume the body will go bad, and they fail to care for the body because they think the engine will go,” Harvey says. “If nothing is being cared for, it will surely fall apart.”
In a VPN article, Contributing Editor Jessica Tremayne-Farkas spoke with leading veterinary anesthesiologists about meeting the anesthetic challenges we face with geriatric patients.
While customized monitoring and drugs are provided for every patient, those falling into the geriatric category—in the last 25% of their life expectancy—require extra precaution because underlying health conditions are more likely to be present.
“Older patients are more likely to have concurrent disease or mild to moderate organ dysfunction that would require the routine anesthesia protocol be adjusted,” says Dr Khursheed Mama. “A thorough pre-operative physical examination and blood work should help identify most of these and allow the veterinarian to provide appropriate care.”
Some of these conditions lie beyond the reach of routine tests. “In addition to testing,” says Dr. Harvey, “a veterinarian must be in tune with an older patient’s psycho-social issues. Sometimes an older animal doesn’t do as well at the veterinary practice, away from its family and home. Considerations should be made to make the stay less stressful.”
Not all elderly patients require additional or unique care, but identifying this ahead of time and planning for it when necessary is appropriate. Dr Mama explains that “there is a need to educate the general veterinarian on options available to them to manage these patients.”
“Clients will expect their primary care practitioner to be able to meet the needs of their senior pet,” Dr Bednarski says. “Because of this demand, there is a lot of continuing education available on senior pets for veterinarians and their staffs.
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