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Pets are the definition of selfless. They love you, and they love your children. You and your family are their world.
In exchange for their unconditional love, though, they need you to take care of their needs: food, shelter, a warm bed. Your care and devotion are critical to them as they age.
But how do you know when your pet is considered “old”? What types of health care issues might they encounter? And will they need extra care as they age? We discuss these things so that your pet can age gracefully with special attention to their health needs.
Pets are just like people in that they are living longer than ever thanks to medical improvements. But pets are also different when it comes to defining if they are a “senior.” A pet’s species and size play factors in determining how they age.
A cat can be considered a senior between the ages of seven to 11 years old. In terms of people years, a seven-year-old cat is equivalent to a 54-year old human. A 15-year old cat is equivalent to a 78-year old human.
Small dogs can live as long as 20 years. Giant dogs can be considered seniors after only five or six years. Medium and large dogs can be regarded as seniors by ages seven to eight.
A dog’s size has a lot to do with how they age.
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.
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.
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. Additionally, weight loss can be an issue for older dogs as well. Older cats are more at risk of weight loss. Monitor your pet’s weight at home and talk to your vet about strategies for helping your pet maintain a healthy weight.
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.
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 parasite and disease control.
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.
Senior pets can have digestive issues as they age. Their daily calorie requirements might change too. Talk to your vet about dietary changes with regard to caloric intake and food ingredients. With less mobility and exercise, their portions need to be carefully controlled to avoid weight gain.
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. Although, be sure to avoid giving them grapes or raisins as both fruits can be toxic to dogs.
Senior pets should start to have regular vet checkups every six months as opposed to an annual visit. The frequency increase allows for earlier detection and treatment of health issues that arise. Senior pets need more thorough exams than younger pets to detect pending health issues. Senior pet exams should include bloodwork and dental care too.
We recognize that your pet is more than just a pet. Your pet is your four-legged family member. There’s nothing we want more than to help your pet have a long, fulfilling life with you. But taking care of an aging pet can come with some special needs. Make an appointment with one of our vets to discuss the best possible health plan for your pet. We are here to help!