Your pet is part of the family. Every pet owner and animal lover knows this because they are such a massive part of your life. They bring you comfort, joy, and unconditional love. They are with you in times of happiness, in times of sadness, and in times of stress; they come to you and offer you extra love (somehow animals just know when you need some extra comfort!). It’s not enough to say they are just your pet when really you care for them the same way you would care for your child or other loved one.
It can be hard to imagine your furry friend growing old and not being their same energetic self, but of course, it’s inevitable. Their lifespans aren’t as long as yours, and although it can be difficult to watch your pet getting older, it will happen, and you will have to face the health issues that come with senior pets. While you do your best to maintain your pet’s health, like giving them plenty of exercises and fresh air, feeding them high-quality food and having them on a proper, healthy diet, taking care of their teeth, and maintaining their weight, getting older does mean there are health issues that can arise or hereditary conditions that begin to appear as they age.
Dogs and cats age differently, as do different breeds within each species. It’s important to understand the health needs of your aging pet so you can continue to provide the best care for them and help them live their best and fullest lives. Ignoring health conditions can make them much worse and can rapidly deteriorate their health, and of course, you want what’s best for them and for them to live as long as possible so you can spend the most amount of time together as you possibly can.
Nobody wants to think of the day their pet is no longer with them, because it truly is heartbreaking to lose a pet, just as it is to lose a member of the family or a close friend. However, it’s better to prepare and be aware of potential health issues so you can look out for signs of aging in your pets and continue to offer them the best quality of life you can until their final days.
Dogs all age different, especially across different breeds and sizes. Smaller dogs tend to age slower than large dogs, but all sizes of dogs can be affected by age-related illnesses and issues. Nevertheless, you still love your senior dog just as much as you did when they were a spritely, energetic puppy because you have established a long-term friendship and bond that will never be broken.
While the general rule of thumb is that one dog year equals seven human years, the size and weight of your pup will actually determine how practical that guideline is. Typically, a dog can be thought of as a senior from anywhere between 5 and 10 years old, according to PetMD.com. There is also a difference in a “senior” dog and a “geriatric” dog because a senior dog can still be perfectly healthy, just getting on in years. A geriatric dog is closer to the end of their lifespan and is more likely to experience more or severe health-related problems.
One of the most notable changes in your senior dog is their behaviors will start to change. While they were a puppy or a younger pooch, they may have always greeted you enthusiastically at the door whenever you came home, jumping up on you or running to you from wherever they were in the house. They may start to be slower to greet you, or may not even get up to say hello at all anymore.
Remember that doesn’t mean they have stopped loving you!
They just may not have the same energy or enthusiasm in their older age as they did before. They also might not be as excited to go on walks, won’t want to go on long walks, or could seem more cautious about exploring new places, whereas a puppy might be running all over the path, sniffing around in bushes, and pulling at the leash constantly.
Furthermore, they could be suffering from cognitive dysfunction and may seem confusing at times. You can help your dog combat the effects of senility with healthy aging supplements, but unfortunately, you can’t eradicate the effects altogether. Be on the lookout for behavioral patterns like staring at walls, total unwillingness to go outside, or slow reaction or response times, as this warrants a trip to the vet.
Some physical signs of aging in dogs can include joint pain, stiffness, tooth decay, and gum disease, and weight loss or gain. It can be hard to spot some of these, because dogs will naturally try and hide any pain they are in, but be sure to keep an eye out for signs that your dog is becoming less mobile. Regularly check their teeth and help them maintain proper dental hygiene with dental sticks and brushes. Adjust their walk schedule and exercise routine to reduce soreness and inflammation. Consider supplements and different kinds of food as well for added benefits and weight control.
While cats do live longer than dogs, senior cats do come with their own set of age-related issues. Cats can generally be considered senior between the ages of 7 and 10, and their health requirements will begin to change after 7 years of age. The most apparent change is your cat’s drop in appetite, as senior cats don’t require as much food or as many calories as younger cats. Their tastes may also fluctuate, so the brand or flavor of food you have been feeding them consistently may suddenly become unappealing, and the flavors they never would touch are now all they want. If you’re unsure of how much food your kitty needs, it’s always a good idea to double check their diet with your vet. As well, you want to make sure they are getting the right nutrients for their age, so switching to senior cat food is necessary.
Another noticeable change could be their mobility and activity levels. Young kittens and cats will most likely want to play a lot and will run around the house, seemingly (or literally) bouncing off the walls. Older cats slow down and sleep much more, but are certainly up for more cuddling and downtime with you. Senior cats can also develop arthritis and joint pain, and you can help combat the effects and mediate the pain with glucosamine for cats to get them moving pain-free.
Their behavior will start to change as well, and as a cat owner, you will notice when your cat just isn’t acting the same. A serious change in behavior, whether it’s rapid or gradual, probably warrants a trip to the vet to make sure it isn’t a more serious health issue.
Both cats and dogs
It’s important to have your senior pet checked at the vet more regularly to spot early signs of illness or age-related health problems. Rather than an annual vet visit, consider taking your pet to the vet semi-annually and getting blood work done once a year. Ask your vet about other ways you can ensure your pet lives a long and healthy life, and what kind of steps you can take if they show signs of distress.