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How to nurse the geriatric patient

02 April 2020
12 mins read
Volume 11 · Issue 3
Figure 1. Geriatric patients require regular assessments of their daily requirements to maximise their comfort and ensure their ’needs’ are being fulfilled.


Veterinary nurses should have a good understanding of the geriatric years and ageing process for the many patients seen in practice on a day-to-day basis. With this understanding, it is also important to provide advice and support to those owners with a geriatric pet, guiding and monitoring the patient throughout their older years. Ageing is a normal, progressive but irreversible process within the body, and bodily functions and systems will begin slowing down. Implementing care plans for the geriatric patient can improve the quality of their care, as nurses can assess and address the many systems and potential disease processes that may be affecting the patient.

Veterinary nurses (RVNs) will come into contact with a vast range of patients during their daily working lives, ranging in size, species, and age. It is important, therefore, that they are aware of the best way to provide nursing care for their geriatric patients, and that they understand the difference in nursing care requirements of these patients and how ageing can affect the nursing process for older feline and canine companions. The age at which a patient is considered ‘geriatric’ varies from breed to breed in dogs, whereas all cats tend to follow a similar species life-ageing process. The larger the dog the shorter the life span, for example, a Great Dane or Bernese Mountain Dog would be classified as geriatric around the age of 7–8 years old; whereas smaller breeds, such as a Jack Russell Terrier or Border Terrier would be classed as geriatric at around the age of 9–10 years old (Mansourian, 2019). The average domestic feline patient is considered mature at around 7–10 years old, and then progresses into their senior years from 11 years onwards, finally entering the geriatric life stage at over 15 years old (ISFM, 2019).

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