These days, advances in veterinary medicine have made it so pets can live much longer than ever before. While this means that we are able to enjoy the sweet company of senior dogs and cats that much longer, it also means that we must attend to a new set of needs as our pets age. If you have a furry friend in your home, it’s important to understand how aging will impact their care so you can help them live happily and healthily in their twilight years.
Q: How old are pets when they are considered “senior”?
A:Generally, cats and smaller dogs are seniors after age 7. Large dogs usually have shorter life span, and so are considered seniors after age 6.
Q: What kinds of health issues can affect older pets?
A: The health issues dogs and cats face as they age are the same as the ones humans face, like:
- Heart disease
- Kidney/urinary tract disease
- Liver disease
- Joint or bone disease
Q: How can I keep my pet healthy and happy for as long as possible?
A: Every pet will have unique needs, which is why it is important to regularly bring them to the vet. Your veterinarian should be able to give you advice on how to best care for your aging pet. This may include changes to the home environment, diet, frequency of vet visits, and how much time you spend with them.
In general, you can anticipate that your pet will have greater mobility issues when they’re older, meaning that you may have to adapt the home environment to make it easier for them to move around. In addition, you may have to adapt their diet to accommodate their need for more easily digestible food, and food that meets specific nutritional needs. In general, geriatric pets need to see the vet at least twice a year, and exams should become more in-depth. Older pets often begin to become senile has they get older, so interacting with them more can help them stay mentally sharp for longer.
Q: My senior pet is acting differently. What’s going on?
A: It’s important to pay attention to any behavioral changes in your senior pets. These changes may be due to medical reasons that need to be addressed by your vet. Your observations are critical to your pet’s health, as you’re the one who sees them the most and are familiar with how they usually behave. If you notice any changes in your pet, contact your vet promptly. Some behavioral changes that are common in senior pets include:
- Increased reaction to sounds
- Increased vocalization
- Decreased interaction with humans
- Increased irritability
- Decreased response to commands
- Increased aggressive/protective behavior
- Increased anxiety
- House soiling
- Decreased self-hygiene/grooming
- Repetitive activity
- Increased wandering
- Changes in sleep patterns
Q: Is my pet becoming senile?
A: If your vet has ruled out other health concerns, it’s possible that your pet is becoming senile. There is more and more research being conducted about dog and cat brains to understand what happens during the aging process, but these studies have not yet identified the genetic reason some pets experience cognitive decline, while others do not. However, there are certain drugs and diets available to manage these symptoms. If you’re concerned that your pet is becoming senile, contact your vet.
Senior pets have unique needs, but that doesn’t make them any less lovable. An older dog or cat can be a joyful addition to your home. If you’re interested in learning what dogs and cats are in our animal sanctuary in Groton, contact us to schedule a visit.