Do I have a senior pet?
Most pets are considered to be seniors at seven years of age. Many people hold to the "one pet year equals 7 human years" to calculate how old their pet is in human years. This makes for a good estimate. Generally larger breed dogs age faster than smaller breeds and cats are different than dogs.
a 10 year old small breed dog would be about 56 years old in people years
a 10 year old large breed dog would be about 66 years old in people years
a 10 year old cat would be about 58 years old in people years
What can I expect as my pet gets older?
For the most part, we can expect many of the same things in our pets as we do with ourselves as we age. Pets can have problems with kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, senility, liver disease, and cancer. Cats may also have trouble with their thyroid (generally hyperthyroidism). Recognizing symptoms of these conditions can be difficult in the early stages; this is one reason why senior wellness bloodwork is recommended for senior pets.
What are the symptoms I should look for?
Keep a watchful eye for changes in weight, drinking more, urinating more or less, weakness, favoring one or more legs, difficulty with stairs, difficulty getting up from sitting or lying down, decreased or increased appetite, coughing, difficulty breathing, and anything that is not normal for your pet.
Many changes in behavior can be due to health conditions. These can include: decreased interaction with the family or other pets, sleeping more, seeming confused or disoriented, standing in corners, wandering, anxiety, irritability, increased vocalization, increased aggression, decrease in self grooming, and house soiling.
How can I help my senior pet stay as healthy as possible?
There are several steps you can take to keep your senior pet healthy. Most seniors need a diet formulated specifically for older pets. A diet lower in calories and made with a different ratio of nutrients can help your pet maintain an optimal weight. Some diets are now made with glucosamine added to help aging pets' joints.
Another way to keep seniors healthy is to visit your veterinarian twice a year. Just as we tend to have more doctor visits as we get older, our pets can benefit from an additional trip to their doctors. Your veterinarian can help you pinpoint symptoms of disease, run senior wellness bloodwork to look for trends indicating disease, and advise you on options for care and maintenance for your senior pet.
As changes occur, you may need to alter your pet's environment and lifestyle to make things a little easier. If your pet has difficulty climbing stairs, you can relocate bedding or water bowls to the first floor. If jumping on the bed or couch is troublesome, you could buy or build steps for your pet to climb to reach the furniture. Perhaps your pet can't exercise for as long as before; exercise is still important and it may mean taking several smaller walks a day or having shorter, but more frequent, play sessions.
Learning all you can about senior pet care can help you offer your pet the best during the golden years.