A full clinical history should be obtained from the previous medical records and the owner. It is important to ascertain whether the presenting signs are sudden in onset, a predictable sequel to a problem earlier in life or the manifestation of an insidious, chronic disease process.

Older animals frequently have a complex history and inexperienced clinicians often find it difficult to assess the significance of specific findings from the history in relation to current presenting signs. The temptation is to assume that clinical signs associated with a single organ system must be related, when in fact they usually are not. It is important that the previous medical record is examined in some detail in case there is a trend to

suggest an on-going chronic disease process, and this is facilitated by the use of:

(1) a comprehensive recording system for clinical information
(2) standardisation of clinical record keeping by clinical members of staff
(3) the use of computers to store clinical records - because the records are less likely to be lost or damaged and are easy to retrieve in chronorder and in a standard format.

Owners may have difficulty in recalling the full history of geriatric patients, and often they are not as forthcoming about signs of illness which they consider to be 'normal' for an old animal. A decreasing response to visual stimuli is commonly reported and yet poor vision may be caused by a plethora of disease processes and is not necessarily just part of the ageing process.