Did you know that pets age at a different rate than humans? Calculating exactly when a pet enters their senior years can be tricky. In general, experts consider the age of 7 as the threshold into the senior years. However, large dog breeds age faster (and live less) so some dogs might be considered senior dogs by the age of 6. In small breeds, the senior years might not arrive until the age of 10 or so.
At Harmony Animal Hospital, we’ve compiled a quick list of things to consider as your pet reaches their golden years. Here are five things you can give your pets during their golden years to help them stay healthy and live longer.
1. The Importance of Veterinarian Care
Senior pets are more likely to suffer from a number of health problems. Among those issues, cancer and liver disease are two fairly common ones. Older pets are also more likely to develop:
Joint and bone problems (as well as
Some of these issues are treatable, while others (like senility) can be managed but not cured. In either case, though, as your pet gets older and has to deal with more of these issues, your visits to the vet are likely to increase.
The earlier you catch these problems, the easier they will be to treat — which is why it’s important that you take your senior pet in for regular visits. A blood test twice a year can help rule out underlying problems or help detect them early so your pet can be treated immediately.
2. Preventive Exams and Check Ups
Because the risk of cancer increases with age, it’s important that you keep an eye on your pet. Some forms of cancer, like those affecting internal organs, might cause changes in the way your pet eats or behaves but offer no visual clue.
Lumps, however, should always be considered a warning sign and require a visit to the vet. Some lumps can turn out to be just benign growths, while others might be an indication that cancer is present in the body. Appropriate checkups and testing is the only way to confirm the cause of the lump.
3. A Helping Hand
As pets get older, grooming might not be a priority anymore. Cats that completely stop grooming might be telling you something is seriously wrong, as cats are fastidious groomers. However, senior cats might groom less than they used to or do a poor job of it. Check with your vet to make sure there’s no underlying medical issue, and then invest in a nice brush so you can help your senior pet remain clean and looking his best.
4. Weight and Nutrition Management
Here’s a scary statistic: more than 50% of pets are overweight or obese. The two major contributors to pet obesity? Overfeeding and aging.
The reason is simple: as pets get older, they move less so they don’t burn as many calories as they used to. Because many pet owners continue to feed the same type and amount of food anyway, senior pets end up carrying excess weight.
This in turn can increase the risk of developing diabetes, and can worsen joint pain or mobility problems.
One simple thing you can do for your senior dog or cat is to switch to a type of food specially designed for older animals. These foods are usually lower in calories and fat and often have added glucosamine or other nutrients an older pet needs. You should also discuss with your vet whether adjusting the amount of food your pet eats is a good idea.
5. Preparing for Golden Years
Senior pets are more sensitive to changes in temperature and might need help staying warm (or cool, depending on the season). A nice coat for winter walks and a well-ventilated/air-conditioned place to sleep in the summer are essential. For pets with arthritis, consider investing in an orthopedic bed. It will help reduce pain and make resting a lot more comfortable.
If you need help with helping your older pet, see your veterinarian.
They have an array of options to help.
Dr. Reed is with Harmony Animal Hospital in Apex.