There are many factors that affect how our pets age. Size, breed, health status, and genetics all play a role as our dogs and cats get older.
● Giant breeds such as Great Danes are considered seniors around 5 years old.
● Medium and smaller breeds, such as Labs and Jack Russell terriers, are considered senior between the ages of 7-10.
● Generally, cats are considered to be seniors when they reach the ages of 8-10.
As with humans, aging brings many changes to your pet’s body and needs. Older pets are likely to develop arthritis and other degenerative diseases that slow them down, necessitating different lifestyle changes. They will begin to tire more easily, have trouble getting up or struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position. We can help you recognize these changes in your pet and make modifications to their home, exercise routine and diet to keep their quality of life where it should be.
Another common issue with our older pets is dental disease. Often, we will find evidence of dental disease in pets as early as two to three years old. If this disease is not treated early on, by the time your pets are a senior they are dealing with mobile, infected, and often painful and broken teeth.
Weight management is another crucial part of keeping your senior pet healthy. While some older animals develop medical conditions that cause weight gain or loss, a decrease in metabolism can cause our senior pets to struggle in this area. Older pets benefit from a senior labeled diet, as it adjusts the ingredients for the different requirements of an older dog or cat.
There are several steps that you as an owner can take to ensure that your senior pet is comfortable and happy:
● Schedule regular visits with your veterinarian. We recommend twice yearly exams for older pets even if they appear healthy. Many diseases can remain hidden, and we are better able to treat illness when it is detected early.
● Maintain your pet’s oral health. Brushing your pet’s teeth can help prevent diseases of the mouth and keep your pet healthy. Your pet’s dental condition can be evaluated during your visit and at-home maintenance can be discussed.
● Feed your pets a high-quality diet. Keep in mind that cats are obligate carnivores and require a diet high in protein. This fact remains true even as your cat ages. Additionally, learn to read your pet’s food labels so you know what you are feeding your animal, and consult your vet if you have any questions about what to feed your senior pet.
● Feed your pet to maintain their ideal body weight. Obesity in pets can cause diabetes, skin and liver disease and other issues. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate diet for your senior animal, taking into account their age and energy level.
● Ask for a body condition evaluation during your visit. This is crucial to determining whether your pet is overweight, underweight, or at the ideal body weight. Your vet can teach you how to assess your pet’s body condition at home following simple guidelines.
● Exercise your pets. With age comes decreased energy. However, this does not negate the need for regular exercise, though it should be less intense than the exercise required for younger animals. Take your dog for short walks to help keep their joints loose and maintain muscle. Keep interactive toys available for your senior cat, and perhaps give them access to the outdoors with a kitty enclosure or short walks on a leash.
● Provide accommodations for your senior pet. Whether this is placing shorter boxes in areas that your cat can easily access or ramps for your dog to get up and down the stairs more easily, adding some accommodation for your pet can help keep them happy, safe, and comfortable, as they grow older.