What Does ‘Senior’ Really Mean?
A 9-year old dog could be a senior pet, but the 9 year old pooch across the street may not be. Same goes for the 5 year old dog who used to run around regularly and now seems to have slowed down a bit but another 5 year old dog is active and acts like a child. How do you know when your pet reaches the esteemed ‘senior’ label? Longevity can’t tell us exactly why. However, breeding, genetics, nutrition and environment – all of these play a role in how fast your pet ages. Many times what breed they are and estimating life expectancy are good ways to find out when your pet becomes ‘senior’.
Rule of thumb is the longer a pet is expected to live, their reaching ‘senior’ status will happen later in their lives than their fellow four-legged buddy whose life expectancy is not as long. Some breeds simply live longer than others. A Shih Tzu may pass his 15th birthday and live another 5 years although a Great Pyrenees may be fortunate to reach their 8th birthday. Many cats live well into their late teens while other, larger breed cats may be senior by the time they are 10 years old.
Many pet parents struggle with seeing their pet become older. Recognizing the signs of aging and taking the proper preventative measures so quality of life doesn’t change begins with visiting our veterinarians for twice-yearly senior wellness exams.
What Can I Expect as My Pet Ages?
Many of your pet’s basic needs will begin to change as they become older. They may slow down and not be as active, sleep more or may not be able to see or hear as well as they once did. And because of their aging immune system, they can become more susceptible to illness and disease. One thing for sure – they are very adept at hiding health issues they have and they can become less able to cope with changes and stressors, both physically and environmentally. Keeping a vigilant eye on your senior can help you adjust their routine to keep up with their physical changes. Signs of changes in their health can be addressed early and possible issues with potential diseases prevented to help them stay comfortable and healthy as they age.
With our help senior health issues that come up can be addressed early on – some of these may be:
- Vision problems
- Cognitive disorders
- Intestinal problems
- Kidney & liver disease
What Can I Do For My Senior?
Preventative care for your senior or geriatric pet is the most important thing you can do to keep them comfortable and healthy. Twice-yearly wellness exams, bloodwork, fecals and urinalysis are the best measures of preventative care to help senior pets.
As your pet ages, both behavioral and physical changes can happen. Provide plenty of toys to keep your senior pet occupied and keep their mind engaged. If you have concerns about behavior changes happening in your pet, schedule a visit with us so we can do a thorough examination and give you options to help.
Engaging in physical activity is good for your senior pet and will help keep them lean and able to maintain healthy joints and muscles. Adjusting the duration and intensity to fit your pet’s individual needs is important before engaging in physical activity.
Good nutrition is important for every pet’s lifetime, but their needs can change dramatically as they age – their metabolic rate slows up to 30 percent so they don’t need as much food as they used to. Keeping your pet at a healthy and ideal body weight and feeding them quality food that can also address a specific condition they may have is key to keeping them healthy at any age.
Pets who suffer from arthritis or degenerative diseases can benefit greatly from pain management options and supplements, such as glucosamine to help keep their joints in good condition.
Provide your senior pet with special accommodations to ensure their comfort as they age. Soft bedding with blankets or a dog bed in a warm corner of the house free from drafts helps keep your senior safe and comfortable. Ramps on stairs makes them easier to navigate as well as putting non-slip rugs on hard-surface flooring helps ensure safe footing and easier for them to get around.
Dental care is an important part of your senior pet’s healthy lifestyle. Dental disease can affect other organs in the body. Rotting teeth or bacteria in their mouth can get into the blood stream causing serious organ health issues such as kidney infections, liver disease, lung disease, and heart valve disease. Oral disease also disease process is occurring elsewhere in a pet’s body.