senior pet dog under a blanket

Caring for a Senior Pet

As pets can now live much longer with modern veterinary care, we recognize that senior pets have special needs, just like we do in our golden years. And, as November is National Senior Pet month, we would like to share some tips with you on caring for senior pets. 

When Is My Pet Considered a Senior Pet?

How a pet ages depends on its species, breed, and environmental factors. But below is a rough rule of thumb to consider if you have a senior pet:

Cats and small dogs are considered seniors by the age of 7.

Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans and are considered senior when they are about 6 years of age.

If you are curious how your pet’s years compare to human years, you can check out the AVMA charts below:

Cat yearsHuman years
 754
1063
1578
2097
Dog yearsHuman years (*dog size lbs)
7Small – Medium: 44-47
 Large – Very large: 50-56
10Small – Medium: 56-60
 Large – Very large: 66-78
15Small – Medium: 76-83
 Large – Very large: 93-115
20Small – Medium: 96-105
 Large: 120

*Small: 0-20 lbs.; Medium: 21-50 lbs.; Large: 51-90 lbs.; Very large: >90 lbs.
The oldest recorded age of a cat is 34 years. The oldest recorded age of a dog is 29 years.

Diseases That Can Develop as Your Pet Ages

As your pet ages, they go through physical changes just like you see in older people such as, some loss of sight, hearing, some incontinence, and not being able to get around like they used to. Senior pets are more prone to develop diseases such as:

  1. cancer
  2. heart disease
  3. kidney/urinary tract disease
  4. liver disease
  5. diabetes
  6. arthritis
  7. senility

Seven Tips for Helping Your Pet as They Age

1.         More Frequent Vet Visits. Yearly checkups are essential to keep your pet healthy. However, as pets age, they become more susceptible to diseases and other medical conditions. Consult your veterinarian about how often you need to bring your pet in for a wellness check.

2.         Monitor Your Pet’s Weight.   According to the AVMA, weight can tremendously affect an older pet’s health. Obesity in older pets increases the risk of arthritis, difficulty breathing, insulin resistance or diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, skin problems, cancer, and other conditions.

Sudden weight loss in an older pet is also a concern, especially for cats. An overactive thyroid gland, diabetes, and kidney disease are common causes of weight loss in senior cats. Contact us if you notice any sudden changes in your older pet’s weight

3.         Keep Them Mobile. Whatever physical activity they can manage, keep them at it. Ensure you adjust their exercise to their abilities. They may have once been able to go on runs with you but now may only be able to tolerate a slower or shorter walk.

4.         Get Them Cold Laser Therapy at Our Clinic

dog receiving laser therapy

Cold Laser Therapy is a drug-free and surgery-free solution. Nokomis Veterinary Service offers Class IV Laser therapy that delivers specific red and near-infrared wavelengths of laser light to induce a therapeutic effect within the body. These include increased circulation, decreased swelling, reduction of pain, and enhanced tissue repair. For more information, please read our blog Cold Laser Therapy for Pets.

5.         Keep their Teeth and Gums Healthy.  Dental disease is the number one problem in dogs and cats. While we don’t expect your pet’s mouth to smell minty fresh, neither should it be foul-smelling. Foul-smelling breath and discolored teeth are signs of dental disease. Dental disease can become very painful for your pet and contribute to heart and respiratory disease and affect other organs.

6.         Help Them with Grooming.  As pets age it can become difficult for them to groom themselves properly, so you may need to help them with their grooming more frequently.

7.         Adjust Their Environment as Needed. You may need to make some environmental adjustments as your pet ages and they cannot see, hear, or move as well as they use to. Here are some possibilities:

  • Get them a pet stair or ramp. If your pet is used to getting up on your bed or couch to snuggle, a pet stair or ramp can help them manage. A stair or ramp can also help dogs get in and out of your car.
  • Make Their Environment Safe. Always keep dogs on a leash when they are outdoors. Keep your cat in a secured patio (catio), porch, or indoors. There are also cat fences, such as The Purrfect Fence, available to keep them safe in your yard.
  • Provide them with a comfortable bed. An orthopedic or heated bed could make a big difference in their sleeping comfortably and relieving arthritic pain.

Final Words

We have covered symptoms for you to be aware of as your pet ages. Many of them apply to farm animals and equine too. However, do not try to diagnose your pet, horse, or farm animal yourself. There can be more than one cause for any one of these symptoms.  But you can help your pet by observing what is going on with them and giving this data to us so we can accurately diagnose your pet. We are here to help you keep your pet healthy through its golden years. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need to schedule a visit.

Sincerely,

Dr. Stacey Funderburk

Nokomis Veterinary Services

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