The twilight years of one pet will look completely different from another. Just like people, one 11-year-old “senior cat” might have miles more energy and appetite than a cat of the same age down the road.
The same goes for dogs. At what age is a dog considered a senior? It’s more complicated than simply giving a number: small dogs are often considered seniors by age seven, and large dogs around seven. Certain breeds age less gracefully than others, and beginning-of-life care can have a big impact.
The most common signs that your pet has entered its golden years are:
- Poor vision
- Changes in lifelong habits, including diet and temperament
- Anxiety, such as separation anxiety when the owner leaves home or during vet visits
- The slow movement, low energy, and decreased mobility
Feeding and Caring for an Aging Pet
A proper diet is extremely important. An overweight pet might develop hip dysplasia and arthritis. An underweight pet will have a low body temperature and risk developing heart problems.
As a result, choosing appropriate senior cat food and senior dog food should be first on your aging pet checklist.
Considerations vary from cat to dog. For your feline friends, questions for your vet might include the following:
- How many calories does a senior cat need? Weight loss is common in cats as their metabolisms switch with age. Where is that happy medium?
- Should we offer dry food, wet food, or both? We recommend wet food to prevent your cat from dehydrating, but your cat’s preferences should also be considered.
Dogs also require fewer calories as they age and struggle more with portion control. Understanding that an older dog will be less active, a pet owner should know any food brand’s serving sizes and ingredients.
Common Ailments and Treatments
- Arthritis is rampant in aging cats and dogs. Prevention is the best defense, but it is not guaranteed to prevent it from developing during your pet’s senior years. Unfortunately, the only cure is comfort by managing their pain and slowing the disease’s progression.
- Kidney disease is most common in aging cats but can plague either species. The most common sign of a pet with kidney disease is excessive thirst and urination often. It can be managed with medication but not cured–prevention is very important.
- Dogs are more often afflicted with cancer than cats. Check your pet’s skin often for lumps, redness, or swollen lymph nodes. Bring any concerns to your vet, who can help you develop a treatment plan if your pet has cancer.
- Gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth infection are most common in senior pets, particularly those without regular dental care. Treatment can range from cleaning to the more stressful senior dog tooth extraction. Adequate dental care will allow your pet to live a longer, more comfortable life, so start now!
Tips for Keeping Your Aging Pet Happy
Aging dogs and cats are different, but they are some similarities in a good retirement home for either:
- Become familiar with their new needs and routines. Adjust portion sizes, offer softer foods, and encourage gentler exercise activities.
- Place more litter boxes and water stations for your older cats throughout the home. This makes it easier for them to stay hydrated and will result in fewer messes for you.
- Making the home more accessible. Older pets struggle with hardwood floors, tile, and linoleum. Runners and area rugs can help them navigate their homes more easily.
- Understand that some things just won’t be possible for your pet anymore. Long hikes, car rides, and out-of-town visits tax some aging pets. It may be time to find a reliable pet sitter.
We recommend increasing your senior pet’s annual vet visits to twice yearly. Your vet might decide your pet can go longer without a wellness check. They may instead suggest a more aggressive schedule. This is likely if your pet takes certain medications requiring frequent blood tests.
Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists can help you keep your senior pet happy, healthy, and hopping around your home for years to come, offering specialized care in various fields, including dermatology, to ensure their overall well-being. If you’re in the Tulsa, OK, area, we’d be honored to be the ones to provide care for your furry family.