Thanks to medical advancements, pets, like people, are living longer than ever. But unlike people, a pet’s species and size play factors in determining how they age, and when “senior pet care” is appropriate.
A cat can be considered a senior between the ages of seven to 11 years old. With dogs, size and breed are a factor: Small dogs can live as long as 20 years, while giant dogs can be considered seniors after only five or six years. Medium-to-large-sized dogs can be regarded as seniors by ages seven to eight.
Health Issues in Senior Pets
A senior pet can come down with specific health-related issues as they age. These conditions can require medical treatments – along with a lot of love and care from their owner – to return to a better quality of life.
- Vision Loss. Just like humans, pets can suffer a vision decrease from aging due to cataracts or glaucoma. Cataracts can be addressed through a surgical procedure.
- Hearing Loss. If hearing becomes an issue, your pet might need to be screened for ear canal inflammation.
- Dental Health. Issues with the teeth and gums can lead to bigger health problems involving the liver, heart, and respiratory system. Dental issues can also complicate a pet’s ability to eat. Regular brushing and cleanings at your annual wellness exam will help to avoid this scenario.
- Arthritis. Large dogs are more prone to develop this degenerative joint disease, but it can strike older pets of any size. They’ll display difficulty going up and down steps, jumping up onto the couch or bed, and climbing into your car. Anti-inflammatory medications, moderate exercise, and weight control are all ways to cope with arthritis.
- Cancer. Both dogs and cats are susceptible to developing Lymphoma in their later years. Dogs tend to be more at risk for breast, bone, and skin cancer. Cancer can be detected at your regular wellness exam, and we recommend semiannual visits for senior pets so that any developing growths are quickly caught and treated.
- Kidney Disease. Kidney failure is common in older cats. As with any health issue, the earlier the condition is detected, the better your pet’s prognosis. Medications, fluid therapy, and a special diet are all treatments used to combat it.
How to Help Your Senior Pet Age Well
Some pets will develop medical conditions such as the ones listed above. Others will simply require lifestyle changes that result from the aging process. Here are some age-related changes that you’ll have to help your senior pet manage:
- Weight Control. Older dogs can put on unhealthy weight as they age and become less active. That weight can lead to health issues caused by excess pressure on their joints. The opposite is true with older cats; they are more at risk of weight loss. Talk to your vet about strategies for helping your pet maintain a healthy weight.
- Living Environment. Older pets might need adjustments to their daily activities. If stairs become a problem, their sleeping area might need to be relocated. If your pet is disabled, discuss home environment changes with your vet. Supplements can also help with the joint discomfort that restricts their movement.
- Immune System. An older pet’s immune system won’t be as strong as younger pets. So they won’t be able to fight off health issues such as parasites or other diseases as well. Make sure your pet is up-to-date with preventative pest and disease control.
- Mobility. The aging process will naturally slow your pet down. It can also affect their ability to walk, run, and jump. Helping them maintain an exercise regimen will keep them healthy and mobile. You can do this with interactive toys and feeding toys that require a little more movement for great reward.
- Diet and Nutrition. Senior pets can have digestive issues as they age. Their daily calorie requirements might change too. Talk to your vet about dietary changes with regards to caloric intake and food ingredients. With less mobility and exercise, their portions need to be carefully controlled to avoid weight gain.
- Mental Health. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is a form of mental health decline in pets, similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. Like Alzheimer’s there is no cure for CCD. Stimulate their brains with interactive toys and activities to keep them mentally sharp. And feed them foods rich in antioxidants along with fruits and veggies.
We recommend regular vet checkups every six months for senior pets. The frequency increase allows for earlier detection and treatment of health issues that arise. Senior pets need more thorough exams, blood work, and dental care than younger pets to detect pending health issues.
Make an appointment with one of our vets to discuss the best possible health plan for your pet. We are here to help!