Senior Pets: Keeping Them Happy & Healthy
For most parents of a senior aged dog, it often seems just yesterday our pet was a young, active puppy. As pets grow older, it’s important to understand the different care and needs they require. Here are some helpful tips and information to ensure your pet remains happy and healthy during their senior years.
Signs of Aging
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “Cats and small dogs are generally considered “senior” at seven years of age. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans compared to smaller breeds and are often considered senior when they are 5 to 6 years of age.” Aside from many of the outward signs of aging - walking slower or greying fur, it’s important to remember our pets can experience ailments like arthritis, cancer, heart, kidney, or liver disease, along with vision, hearing, and digestive issues.
Some behavioral signs* of old age include:
- easily disturbed by loud sounds
- unusually aggressive behavior
- increased barking/meowing
- anxiety or nervousness
- confused or disoriented behavior
- increased wandering
- house soiling (“accidents”)
- changes in sleep patterns
- less interest in playing
- not responding to voice commands
- more grouchy or irritable than usual
*2020 American Veterinary Medical Association
Keeping Them Healthy
While you may notice outward signs of aging, regular checkups with your veterinarian will also ensure your pet is seen by a doctor who is trained to recognize, diagnose, and treat animals of all ages.
With your Vet’s expertise, treating age-related illnesses early can provide your pet with years of good health. It’s important to remember that options are available and may include:
- Diet changes
- Physical therapy
- Cold laser therapy
- Prescription medication
Important Reminders When Caring for Senior Pets
Aside from the help and care your pet receives at AVAC, there are several things you can do to provide your pet the best care in their senior years.
- Keep them cool and hydrated in the summer. Heatstroke is a common problem with older pets.
- Regular exercise is important to maintain weight control and overall health. They can’t run and play as they did as a puppy, but even a slow walk can be beneficial.
- Dental cleanings are valuable to their overall health. Older pets are at greater risk of serious illnesses and disease due to poor dental care. Annual cleanings will help keep them healthy.
- Provide soft, ergonomic bedding to help reduce arthritic pain and pressure.
- Avoid stairs and climbing when possible.
- If your pet is losing their sight, don’t move furniture. This will help them navigate the home as they get older.
Even though senior pets may show signs of aging, it doesn’t mean they can’t live long, happy, healthy lives into their older years. If you suspect your pet is having difficulty as they age, call us for an appointment. We can provide a thorough exam and treatment options based on individual needs.
As pet owners, we understand the signs and conditions of aging pets and treat your best furry friend as we do our own.
Julie Grimes, DVM