1.2 THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF GERIATRIC CATS AND DOGS 1.2 THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF GERIATRIC CATS AND DOGS

In human medicine a large amount of actuarial information has been collected over many years by the insurance companies, and their increasing need to identify risk factors for disease is greatly improving the application of early screening and interpretation of results. The overall effect of these measures is to increase mean longevity by helping people to recognise and avoid risk factors such as obesity, high cholesterol intake, smoking, drugs and alcohol abuse.

In 1988 approximately 5% of the human population living in western civilisation were estimated to be over retirement age. In the UK 17% of people were over retirement age and this is anticipated to rise to above 20% by the year 2000 (Harrington 1988). In the USA it was estimated that 17% of dogs and cats were 'geriatric' (i.e. dogs over 10 years, cats over 12 years of age) (Mosier 1988).

A 'Market Facts Study' conducted in the USA in 1984 produced the following figures for animals presenting to veterinary surgeries:



Dogs
1 year old or less 16%
2-5 years 41%
6 years or more 43%


Cats
1 year old or less 25%
2-5 years 44%
6 years or more 31%


In the UK a survey of 6417 cats and 20786 dogs presented to the Small Animal Practice Teaching Unit (SAPTU) at Edinburgh University (1991) revealed the following figures for animals presented to them for first and second opinion services:



Dogs
Less than 1 year of age 19.4%
1-6 years 45.7%
7 years or more 34.9%


Cats
Less than 1 year of age 32.1%
1-6 years 40%
7 years or more 27.9%


Hence a significant number of animals presented to a veterinary surgery are in the 'old age' category.

The age distributions of dogs and cats from the SAPTU survey are shown in Figure 1.1 and Figure 1.2 respectively.