Senior Pet Care Q&A with Dr. Aty Puentes

Dr. Aty Puentes joined the Heart + Paw team in fall 2022. Throughout her 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine, she has developed a love and passion for senior pets and palliative care. 

Senior Pet Care

Senior Pet Care Tips from Dr. Aty Puentes

In this Q&A, Dr. Puentes shares her tips and advice for senior pet care.

1. Do you have any pets?

Yes, a terrier mix named Keyka Maria de Socorro! 

2. What drew you to senior pets and palliative care?

Companion animals are living a lot longer than they used to because we have taken better care of them. As they age, we are finding new problems that can be managed so pets can have a good life without pain and discomfort.  If a pet is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the objective is to manage symptoms and decrease pain. Our goal is always to provide a better quality of life (QOL). 

3. What ages are dogs and cats considered seniors?

For Cats, 8 to 10. For Dogs, 7 to 10  

4. What is the biggest piece of advice you’d give to senior pet owners?

Weight management. Keeping a healthy weight increases the life expectancy and the QOL significantly.  

5. Is there something simple pet owners can do while their pets are younger to ensure their senior years are more comfortable?

Exercise, good diet, and keeping a body score condition of 5 (on a 9-point scale).   

6. What are a few warning signs to look out for to know your dog or cat is uncomfortable and you should see the veterinarian?

Changes in behavior, (lethargic, unwilling to play, overgrooming), lack of use of a part of the body, like a leg. It is rare for a pet to vocalize unless the pain is severe (like a fracture or a urinary blockage). 

7. How much sleep is normal for a senior dog or cat? Will pets become more lethargic or sleep more with age?

Senior pets do need to rest a little more, it varies a lot between breeds and exercise.  

8. Are joint supplements helpful for older dogs and cats?

Yes, I recommend Dasuquin, or Glycoflexx. 

9. For senior dogs, how much activity is appropriate? Can they continue walking up and down stairs or jumping on the bed/couch?

Keeping a good exercise routine is important, it also is very breed related. Some dogs must be more active (working breeds like German shepherds, Labradors, and Jack Russels). It is important to know the type of dog we need for our lifestyle. Some other dogs are calmer therefore they need less exercise.  

10. What physical changes may be considered normal, and what may be cause for concern?

Lumps and bumps, joints, dental changes, bad breath, and cloudy eyes can all be of concern. While it’s important to take any pet to the veterinarian once a year, it is critical that your senior pet visits the veterinarian at least twice a year. 

11. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Any decision is better if it is an informed one. It’s important to seek a second or a third opinion when needed and be open-minded about options.

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About Us

Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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