The significant advances in veterinary medicine in recent decades have contributed much to the overall understanding of how aging affects our pets. Veterinarians are not only able to catch conditions and diseases related to aging sooner and provide better and more treatment options, we are also able to educate and inform pet owners on how to properly care for their aging pets.
Thanks to these advances, recent generations of senior pets have been able to enjoy many more comfortable and happy years than their predecessors.
What Is A Senior Pet?
Most pets begin to “show their age” between 8 and 10 years old (with some variation present among dog breeds, as larger dogs tend to age faster than their smaller counterparts). Senior pets often experience many of the same trials and tribulations as elderly humans such as hearing and vision difficulties, tiring more quickly after physical activity, and trouble getting up and down stairs.
As pets age, their immune systems will naturally weaken over time, which could aid in the development of any of the following common senior diseases or conditions:
- Heart disease
- Dental disease
- Intestinal difficulties
- Cognitive problems
How Do I Care For My Senior Pet?
Weight Watcher – Older dogs and cats tend to gain weight more readily than their younger counterparts, probably due to decreased activity. Many older pets can benefit from food that is lower in calories, but not in protein. Call us for recommendations.
Climate Control – Senior pets are more susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity, so take precautions to protect your pet from heatstroke. In wet or colder weather, keep pets dry and indoors as often as possible. Consider purchasing warm, waterproof outerwear to keep shorthaired dogs warm and dry on winter walks.
Getting Around – Older animals often end up experiencing some difficulty with getting around, whether they are slower to get up off the floor than they used to be or they can no longer use the stairs or jump up to the bed. There are a variety of products on the market aimed at supporting an aging pet’s comfort and dignity; pet ramps and stairs, raised beds, and orthopedic beds are just a few examples.
Even otherwise healthy seniors need some special care taken to ensure that their health and quality of life is as good as possible. Elderly pets may benefit from certain nutritional supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, and the antioxidants vitamin E and beta-carotene. Proper dental care is essential for older pets; regular tooth brushing (with specially formulated pet toothpaste) keeps teeth healthy in between dental cleanings.
Keeping An Eye On Your Senior
We recommend that senior pets come in for regular wellness checkups and lab work more frequently than younger animals, starting around age 8. Keep a close eye on your pet in between appointments, if you notice any unusual or disturbing symptoms such as incontinence, lumps or bumps, shortness of breath or coughing, changes in weight or appetite, call us right away.