What About Senior Pets?

Senior pet, arthritis, aging, gray face,What exactly is a senior pet? Is my pet a senior pet? These are common questions that we hear in the veterinary profession on a daily basis. Most people know the old rule: 1 dog year is equal to 7 human years. This is mostly true but you do need to take into account the breed of the dog.

Most dogs go through puberty in the first year of life and that technically equals about 13 for most humans. Large breed dogs don’t tend to live as long as small breeds and so they reach seniority at an “earlier” age.

Large breed pets such as Great Danes, Wolfhounds, etc. tend to reach senior status at about 6 years of age while small breeds such as Yorkies, Jack Russells, etc. tend to be more along the ages of 8-10 years of age.

Senior pets tend to exhibit signs that can be attributed to the aging process. These signs are such things as:

  • Less energy
  • Stiffness
  • Cloudiness in the eyes (aka nuclear sclerosis)
  • Hearing loss
  • More lumps/bumps
  • Increase in water consumption

Even though these signs may be part of aging, you should never take it for granted that it is “normal”. Always have your pet checked by your local veterinarian because there are things that can be done to help your pet.

Things like increase water consumption could be due to diabetes, liver or kidney disease and could be a hormonal problem. Any lump or bump should be seen because cancer is found in our pets and we wouldn’t want to miss something for not looking.

Plus a decrease in energy or an increase in stiffness could be due to pain so adding in medication along with exercise could make a world of difference to your pet.

Exercise is needed no matter what your age – make sure the exercise is within your pet’s ability and be reasonable about it. Talk with your veterinarian about how much and how often your pet should exercise.

Dental disease is a big problem in our older pets because it can lead to such things as heart and kidney disease. Your pet should have his teeth examined and cleaned by a professional on a regular basis to help avoid those issues.

Best case scenario for your senior pet would be twice a year examinations along with blood work. This allows your veterinarian to track changes and monitor any progress of problems.

Pain should always be dealt with in our senior pets especially since they have correlated longevity of life with pain. Pain can be subtle as not wanting to go on their walks or not spending as much time with the family so be very aware of how your pet acts. Make it a point to discuss pain with your veterinarian at every appointment.

Diet in our senior pets needs to change also because their metabolism is not as fast as previously so fewer calories are needed to maintain health. The amount of food on the market is overwhelming but talk with your veterinarian about which diet should your pet be fed.

Senior pets are a joy but they have some issues that need to be addressed as they age. Age is not a disease but unfortunately, we do see more diseases as we age – keeping a close watch on our pets and having an open dialogue with your veterinarian is the best way to help them through their senior years.

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