Geriatric disease can be classified (Harrington 1988) as:

  1. diseases proper to old age
  2. diseases that persist into old age
  3. diseases with a changing incidence in old age.

In many cases of frank clinical disease in older animals there will be concurrent problems affecting other body systems (Mosier 1988). No two clinical cases in geriatric animals are exactly the same (Mosier 1988).

Many of the diseases that appear in old age are chronic and insidious, often being present for many months or even years before the owner notices signs. Subclinical disease may present serious difficulties in managing a case.

Advancing age is, in itself, a risk factor for the development of certain diseases, e.g. neoplasia, acute renal failure, endocardiosis.

The objectives of management of a geriatric animal are:

  1. prevent or delay the onset of disease
  2. identify and ameliorate existing problems as early as possible
  3. maintain body weight and condition
  4. maintain quality of life.

Prolongation of life is not, in itself, a valid clinical objective if the animal will suffer as a result of intervention and its quality of life is poor.