Senior Pets Need Special Care

Learn about diseases, treatments, therapies and care for older pets

Elderly man in a wheelchair with his golden retriever

We encourage you to learn about care for older pets before it is needed. Contrary to popular belief, old age is not a disease.  Unfortunately, age related influences on the body do take place and the incidence of health issues does become more common as we proceed into senior years.  However, in the case of pets it is common for veterinarians to be apprehensive and refuse specific care solely related to age.

One of the more common apprehensions is related to cardiac issues.  The development of different types of heart changes do occur in as many as 70% of our senior pets.  The most common physical finding is the development of a heart murmur.  A murmur is essentially a different sound that becomes apparent when listening to the heart.  It generally indicates the integrity of a heart valve has become compromised and a small volume of blood, following the closure of the valve, escapes back into a heart chamber and generates a sound.  In the early stages of this development the efficiency of the heart (pump) is unlikely to be affected.  Over time, inefficiencies may develop and the need for supportive management and medications arise.  However, in most cases, even in fairly advanced cardiac disease, anesthesia is not taboo.  With a full understanding of the degree of heart problem and an evaluation of the patient combined with thorough and experienced monitoring, and an experienced surgical team, prolonged anesthesia is not contraindicated.

For instance, a very high percentage of pets develop serious dental disease and gum infection, significantly impacting quality of life.  It is common to deny such patients dental care because of age and/or a detectable heart murmur.  This reluctance is in most cases unwarranted, given the criteria listed above.  More serious disease such as lung disease, including lung cancer, liver disease, etc. could be treated much more effectively if, for instance, biopsies were obtained, but, sadly in many cases pets do not get their needs addressed.

It is not uncommon for us to attend the surgical needs of pets of advanced years, 17-19 years of age, many with differing levels of cardiac disease and expecting a normal, uneventful recovery and improved quality of life.

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Evaluation of senior pets BEFORE clinical signs appear is VERY important!

Heart Disease


One of the most important signs that problems may be around the corner, is the development of a heart murmur. The term murmur describes a different sound to the heart beat that can be heard with a stethoscope. A murmur in a older pet means that 1 or more heart valves are not working as efficiently as they should. This means the pump is not as efficient. This, in turn, usually means the heart becomes increasingly stressed and eventually evidence of it failing becomes apparent around the body.

Once a murmur is detected, establishing a baseline of heart size and electric activity is done through the use of:

  • ECG
  • iChest X-Ray
  • Blood Pressure
  • Ultrasound

Daily medication and management changes may then be considered to help the heart to cope, and “heart failure” may be avoided or delayed for years.

Occasionally, electrical activity that creates the heart muscle to contract (beat) fails so that the heart tries to develop its own muscle beat. Usually this is an abnormal, and very slow beat. This can go as slow as 26 – 30 beats per minute. Under these circumstances, pets can and do pass out and actually collapse. Implantation of a human pacemaker can return the heart to normal function and recreate a normal quality of life.

Dr. Leadbeater works with one of the largest human pacemaker distributors in the world. He has performed numerous pacemaker implantations in pets throughout the state of Hawaii. Following implantation, periodic check-ups are arranged. If pacemaker implantation has been recommended for your pet or you desire further information, our office is more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Kidney Disease

At Kahala Pet Hospital, every effort is made to understand and correct kidney deterioration. Each case of kidney disease is somewhat different, and each must be considered seperately.

Unfortunately, rarely is there a surgical solution. Renal transplantation is possible and has been performed at Kahala Pet Hospital. However, the circumstances that must be overcome, and the ongoing care, are considerable , as is the expense. By no means are all renal failure cases considered candidates. Kahala Pet Hospital coordinates potential cases with a team at the California Veterinary College at Davis.

a pet's kidneys


Many of the types of cancer that occur in people also occur in pets. Methods of diagnosis may range from C.T Scan, X-Ray, and ultrasound. This is usually followed by a biopsy.

Cancer treatment options we provide include:

  • Surgical Intervention
  • Chemotherapy
  • Pain Management
  • Oral Medications
  • Intralegional Therapy
  • Intravenous Therapy

Kahala Pet Hospital sees cancer related cases almost every day, and is particularly knowledgable and experienced with cancer surgery.