Unfortunately, your pet can’t live forever, but you can take steps to support your four-legged friend as they reach their golden years. Our Companion Veterinary Clinic team knows you want to reward your furry pal for their many years of love and loyalty, and we provide do’s and don’ts to support your senior pet.
DO recognize when your pet reaches their senior years
Pets age much more quickly than humans, and you may be surprised to learn how soon your four-legged friend is eligible for the senior discount. Cats typically are considered senior after 10 years of age, but determining when your dog reaches their golden years isn’t so simple. Experts suggest that dogs in the last 25% of their estimated life span should be considered senior. This translates as follows:
- Small or toy breeds — Dogs weighing less than 20 pounds are considered senior at 8 to 11 years of age.
- Medium-size breeds — Dogs weighing between 20 and 50 pounds are considered senior at 8 to 10 years of age.
- Large breeds — Dogs weighing 50 to 90 pounds are considered senior at 8 to 9 years of age.
- Giant breeds — Dogs weighing more than 90 pounds are considered senior at 6 to 7 years of age.
DON’T neglect your senior pet’s wellness care
Regular wellness examinations are important for all pets to detect health complications in the early stages when they are easier to treat, but these visits are especially important for senior pets because they are at higher risk for conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer. Our Companion Veterinary Clinic team recommends twice yearly wellness visits for senior pets so we can start any needed treatment as soon as possible to improve their longevity and quality of life. A senior wellness exam includes:
- Physical examination — Our team thoroughly evaluates your pet from nose to tail to detect age-related issues such as cataracts, heart murmurs and arrhythmias, and abdominal organ changes.
- Blood work — Screening blood work, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile, helps our team detect conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and liver dysfunction.
- Thyroid panel — Senior pets are at increased risk for thyroid disease, and we may recommend testing your four-legged friend’s thyroid levels.
- Urinalysis — Evaluating your senior pet’s urine can tell us a lot about their overall health and helps us identify conditions such as diabetes, urinary tract infection, urinary calculi, and kidney disease.
- Fecal check — Senior pets are at increased risk for complications caused by parasite infections, and we perform a fecal check to ensure they are parasite free.
In addition to scheduling biannual wellness examinations for your senior pet, ensure their vaccinations and parasite prevention remain up to date.
DO keep your senior pet at a healthy weight
Your senior pet’s metabolism may slow as they age, and excess weight can increase their risk for health issues such as cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, and arthritis. Ensuring your pet remains at a healthy weight is the best way to keep them by your side for as long as possible. Tips include:
- Consider your senior pet’s age, body condition score (BCS), weight, activity level, and spay or neuter status to accurately calculate their daily caloric needs.
- Use a measuring cup or kitchen scale to precisely measure your senior pet’s meal portion.
- Limit your senior pet’s treats to no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake, and choose healthy options such as cut-up vegetables and fruit and lean meat slices.
- Ensure your senior pet gets adequate, daily exercise.
- Monitor your senior pet’s weight so you can detect increases or decreases that may signal a problem or the need to start a weight-loss plan.
DON’T neglect your senior pet’s dental health
Most pets have some degree of dental disease by the age of 3, making senior pets extremely susceptible. Dental disease can lead to serious issues such as sore, bleeding gums, loose or missing teeth, tooth root abscesses, openings between the nose and mouth (i.e., oronasal fistulas), and fractured jawbones. In addition, if the harmful bacteria that cause dental disease enter your pet’s bloodstream, the infection can damage your pet’s organs. Tips to promote your senior pet’s oral health include:
- Professional veterinary dental cleanings — Regular professional veterinary dental cleanings are necessary to remove plaque and tartar from under the gumline where the most damage occurs.
- Daily toothbrushing — Daily toothbrushing is important to keep your pet’s teeth as clean as possible between professional cleanings. Ensure you use pet-friendly products since human dental products are often toxic to pets.
- Dental treats — Veterinary Oral Health Council-approved dental treats also can help promote your senior pet’s dental health.
DO ensure your senior pet remains mentally engaged
Cognitive dysfunction is a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease that commonly affects pets. Keeping your pet mentally engaged can help prevent or slow disease progression. Recommendations include:
- Schedule time daily to engage and play with your pet.
- Use a food-puzzle toy to feed your pet so they have to use brain work to get to their meal.
- Play games with your pet, such as hide-and-seek or which hand the treat is in, to help stimulate their mind.
- Take your dog on new routes when walking around your neighborhood.
- Rotate the toys your pet plays with to prevent boredom.
DO let your senior pet know how much you love them, and DON’T hesitate to contact our Companion Veterinary Clinic team to schedule your four-legged friend’s biannual senior wellness exam.