Even though we are reluctant to face this but our lovable puppy or kitten will eventually grow old. The term “senior” has been chosen to describe the aging and older pet. The number of years considered to be “senior” may vary, and one must keep in mind that organ systems, species, and breeds of dogs age at different rates.
In humans, 56 to 60 years of age is considered to be the start of the senior years. Middle age begins at 42 to 45 and is the time when senior wellness screening generally starts. Middle age would equate to approximately 7 to 8 years of age for most dogs and cats (except for large-breed dogs that may reach middle age a year or two earlier). As the pet enters its senior years, more frequent testing and more extensive examinations are recommended than for younger pets.
Geriatric pets can develop many of the same problems seen in older people, such as
Kidney/urinary tract disease
Joint or bone disease
Talk to your veterinarian about how to care for your older pet and be prepared for possible age-related health issues. Senior pets require increased attention, including more frequent visits to the veterinarian, changes in diet, more dietary supplements, and in some cases alterations to their home environment. Here are some basic considerations when caring for older pets:
Older Pet Care Considerations:
Increased veterinary care - Geriatric pets should have semi-annual veterinary visits instead of annual visits so signs of illness or other problems can be detected early and treated. Senior pet exams are similar to those for younger pets, but are more in depth, and may include dental care, bloodwork, urinalysis and specific checks for physical signs of diseases that are more likey in older pets.
Diet and nutrition - Geriatric pets often need foods that are more readily digested, and have different calorie levels and ingredients, and anti-aging nutrients.
Weight control - Weight gain in geriatric dogs increases the risk of health problems, whereas weight loss is a bigger concern for geriatric cats.
Parasite control - Older pets' immune systems are not as healthy as those of younger animals; as a result, they can't fight off diseases or heal as fast as younger pets.
Maintaining mobility - As with older people, keeping older pets mobile through appropriate exercise helps keep them healthier and more mobile.
Vaccination - Your pet's vaccination needs may change with age. Talk to your veterinarian about a vaccination program for your geriatric pet.
Mental health - Pets can show signs of senility. Stimulating them through interactions can help keep them mentally active. If any changes in your pet's behavior are noticed, please consult your veterinarian.
Environmental considerations - Older pets may need changes in their lifestyle, such as sleeping areas to avoid stairs, more time indoors, etc. Disabled pets have special needs which can be discussed with your veterinarian.
Reproductive diseases - Non-neutered/non-spayed geriatric pets are at higher risk of mammary, testicular, and prostate cancers.