When is a pet considered a senior? Generally, smaller breeds of dogs live longer than larger breeds, and cats live longer than dogs. Keep in mind that some small dog breeds may be considered senior at 10-13 years, while giant breeds are classified as seniors at ages as young as five.
Scheduling regular veterinary examinations is one of the most important steps pet owners can take to keep their pets in tip-top shape. When dogs and cats enter the senior years, these health examinations are more important than ever.
Senior care, which starts with the regular veterinary exam, is needed to catch and delay the onset or progress of disease and for the early detection of problems such as organ failure and osteoarthritis.
It is recommended that healthy senior dogs and cats visit the veterinarian every six months for a complete exam and laboratory testing. Keep in mind that every year for a dog or cat is equivalent to 5–7 human years.
In order stay current with your senior pet’s health care, twice-a-year exams are a must. During the senior health exam, we frequently ask you a series of questions regarding any changes in your pet’s activity and behavior. We also conduct a complete examination of all of your pet’s body systems including laboratory testing. We love to educate our clients on proper senior care.
Download our senior care checklist; keep track of these signs and call us immediately, before they become serious – Click Here To Download. Also download Common Medical Conditions in Senior Pets to learn more.
One of the first changes you may notice as your dog begins to age is to his hair and coat. The muzzle hairs begin to gray in some dogs as young as five years old, which is roughly equivalent to middle age in humans. Just as we begin to see gray hairs around our temples, the dog will begin to show his silver as he enters middle age. The dog’s coat may begin to become dry and brittle, and his skin may become dry. As this happens, you may want to consider fatty acid supplements to bring back some of his former luster. Fish oils, known as omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, may benefit your dog by relieving itchy skin.
Signs of canine aging
- Skin changes as the dog ages
- Metabolism slows down
- Arthritis is very common
- Heart and lung function will decline
Senior Cat Wellness
The rate of ageing varies with individual cats and is usually slower in females. Technically, the ageing process begins at birth and continues through life. But ageing is also a gradual process, with no visible signs until the stage of later life, or old age, is reached. Although the point at which a cat reaches old age varies in individual cats, veterinary gerontologists have fixed an arbitrary period at which a cat may be regarded as passing into active old age. Generally speaking, this age is considered to be from 8 to 10 years. Old cat have much in common with old people their eyesight fails, their sense of hearing diminishes or is lost altogether and they are plagues with various and possibly progressive disease. Both in old cats and people memory lapses, intellectual abilities decline and orientation is sometimes confused. Senile people develop paralysis or other evidences of heart and nerve impairment. Old cats rarely become paralyzed, but many do develop weakness in the hind quarters. Ageing also brings on behavioral changes in both man and cat.
Download our senior cat wellness form and learn how to help maintain the hightest quality of life for your senior cat – Click Here To Download.
- Graying of the hair around the nose or muzzle
- Skin tumors
- The teeth start decaying
- Cataracts in the eyes
- Ear infections or deafness
Tips for Your Aging Pet
Dental Disease- Dental disease of the gums is more common in pets than disease of the teeth such as cavities. A combination of serum oozing from inflamed gums, saliva and particles of food form plaque on your pet’s teeth that cause its gums to recede. This is a spiraling phenomenon as the gums recede, they produce more plaque and the plaque causes more gum recession. Eventually the dentins covering the roots of the teeth are exposed and the teeth become loose in their sockets. Several things can be done to slow this process. We clean and brush the teeth and then apply antibiotic oral rinse. Also, we apply the new ORA VET tooth protection gel.
Ways to clean your pet’s teeth:
- Feed chew-toys
- Brush your pet’s teeth daily
- Professionally cleaned your pets teeth here at Alta View
- Finger Brushing
Joints- Arthritis is common in the larger breeds of older dogs. But it also occurs in cats and smaller dogs. Joint problems late in life probably have their origins in puppy and kitten hood. Overly fast growth do too rich and abundant a diet when these pets are young places stresses on bone and cartilage that often do not appear until the pet is much older. When pups grow too rapidly, their muscle mass soon outstrips the power of their joints and ligaments to function normally. Loose, arthritis-prone joints result. But in other pets, the tendency to arthritis seems to be primarily genetic. Some signs of joint pain in older dogs and cats are slowness and reluctance to get up. Thick calluses develop on the elbows of heavy dogs.
Diet- The main objectives in the feeding an older dog should be to maintain health and optimum body weight, slow or prevent the development of chronic disease, and minimize or improve clinical signs of diseases that may already be present. Older dogs have been shown to progressively put on body fat in spite of consuming fewer calories. This change in body composition is inevitable and may be aggravated by either reduced energy expenditure or a change in metabolic rate. Either way, it is important to feed a diet with a lower caloric density to avoid weight gain, but with a normal protein level to help maintain muscle mass.
Kidneys- kidney failure is one of most common problems in all pets is an increase in the amount of water they drinks and a corresponding increase in the amount they urinate. Kidneys are composed of tiny filters called glomeruli. Some glomeruli cease working as time goes by and the pet’s body adjusts by drinking more water and making the glomeruli that still remain, work all the harder. As the kidneys loose glomeruli they become smaller, firmer, and lumpier. Weakened kidneys are the most common old age-related problem in cats and one of the most common in dogs. Here at Alta View Animal Hospital we can ascertain the condition of your pet’s kidneys by running tests on the blood and urine
Behavior- Large dogs, having difficulty rising, unsteady gait and loss of house training, often suffer from age-related, spinal cord degeneration. In some of these cases, a ruptured inter vertebral disc, cervical spine instability or severe arthritis of the spine is found to be the cause, but often no cause, other than time and aging, can be found.
Eyes & Vision- Cataract formation in the lenses of the eye occurs steadily throughout the life of dogs and cats the age of a pet can be guessed quite accurately by the degree of cloudiness of its lenses. Cataracts occur more rapidly in pets with diabetes. Very heavily clouded lenses block your pet’s vision. When place your pet in a dark room and shine a light into its eyes, both pupils should contract fully and in equal amounts. I become most worried when there is a marked difference in the response of one eye over the other.