As our pets grow older, their needs change. There are several changes that can occur to their body as well. Here are answers to a few common questions about senior pets.
Who is considered “senior”?
Pets are usually considered senior once they are over 7 years of age. Large dogs age faster and are usually considered seniors around 5-6 years of age.
Do their diet needs change?
Yes. Senior pets are usually less active. This means they can gain weight faster. They may need to go on a “Less Active” diet. There are several diets formulated for senior dogs and cats. Speak with your veterinarian to determine which is right for your pet.
Do they need supplements?
Yes and No. If your pet is healthy and on a high quality senior diet, he or she may not need any type of supplementation. Larger breeds are prone to joint issues and may need a glucosamine supplement. There are several types of supplements that are sold over the counter and that can be purchased only though veterinarians. Speak with your vet and see if there is a supplement your pet might need.
Do they still need exercise?
Yes. Senior pets still need to go for walks. They may be stiff and arthritic, but moving is good for them. It will help loosen their joints. If your pet is severely arthritic there are anti-inflammatories that your veterinarian may prescribe. Heat and massage is also good for old joints. Your pet may not play like a puppy or kitten, but exercise is still necessary.
Do they still need annual visits?
Yes. Dogs and cats bodies age on average 7 years to each calendar year. Senior pets should get a check up every 6 months. That would be like us getting a check up every 3 1/2 years. Yearly lab work is strongly recommended since it is equivalent to us having lab work every 7 years. If there is anything abnormal with your pet’s lab work we can catch it early and hopefully provide treatment. You can discuss with your veterinarian what vaccines your pet needs.
How does their body change?
The liver, kidneys and thyroid are areas we keep a close eye on as pets grow older. Liver and kidney functions can decline as pets age. If abnormalities are detected early there are things that can help prolong the life of your pet.
Arthritic changes occur within joints. Larger dogs are prone to arthritis and may occur before they are seniors. Glucosamine supplementation can help hinder the progress of arthritis. All joints, especially hips and knees can become painful with arthritis. If the joints are used less, muscles can become weaker and atrophy. Strengthening exercises can help your pet have strong muscles to support their joints.
Vision and hearing may deteriorate as your pet ages. Having a consistent environment for your pet will help them adapt to limited vision. They learn to rely on their other senses to get them around their familiar area. Low light areas are more difficult for your pet to see properly. Early dawn and dusk make seeing more difficult as well, so make sure your pet is on a leash when being walked, especially if their hearing is also diminishing.
Cognitive function starts to deteriorate. Older pets may stare at walls or look off into space. They may show signs of confusion. Keeping a stable environment is best for your pet. Try not to rearrange furniture or take your pet to unfamiliar areas.
Older pets can be more sensitive to extreme cold and heat. Colder weather is harsh on arthritic joints. Seniors are more prone to heat stroke than youngsters.
What if they become aggressive?
Senior pets usually want to be left along because they are old and can be painful. It is probably best to keep small children and younger pets away from older pets because their first response to pain is usually to bite. If your pet suddenly becomes aggressive, there may be an underlying medical condition. It’s best to schedule an exam with your veterinarian.
If you have a question or concern about your senior pet, please contact ECAC. We will be more than happy to help with their care!