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Your Senior Pet

Spot the signs of age

Pets age faster than people do. Generally speaking, a dog 5- 7 years (giant dogs - 5 years) or older qualifies as a senior. Typically, the larger the breed of dog, the shorter the expected life span. Cats are considered a senior when they reach 8 to 10 years of age.

What are the signs of illness in a senior pet?

Behavior changes

Metabolic changes

Physical changes

  • Decreased activity
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Disorientation
  • Less responsive to you/family members
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Changes in hair coat
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in drinking habits
  • Loss of housetraining
  • Increased urination
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Limping or stiffness
  • Bad breath
  • Red gums
  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Masses (lumps) on skin

Age, by itself, is not a disease. However, there are many age related conditions that affect dogs and cats. Just like with people, the earlier a disease is detected, the more that can be done to manage the condition. Here is a list of some signs of age related disease in senior pets:

What can I do for my senior pet?

A lot can change within a year! Your pet ages 5-7 years for every human year. Senior pets should visit their veterinarian every 6 months, sooner if they are exhibiting some of the above signs.

Some procedures are valuable at detecting problems early and are commonly recommended for senior pets. These may include:

Physical examination: A thorough examination done by the veterinarian. This includes listening to the heart and lungs, feeling the lymph nodes and the abdomen, looking at the mouth, eyes, ears, and skin, examining the legs and back for pain.

Blood, urine and fecal tests: These are helpful in evaluating organ function (for example, the kidneys and liver), detecting infection and sometimes helps in the early diagnosis of cancer.

Dental cleaning: Dental care can prevent tooth loss and sore gums, decrease bad breath, detect masses (growths) in the mouth, reduce infection in the mouth, and prevent the migration of bacteria from the mouth to organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys.

Radiographs (Xrays), ultrasound, blood pressure, and biopsies may be recommended as additional procedures.

What do I feed my senior pet?

Your senior pet needs a good diet now more than ever! Older pets tend to be at risk for obesity due to decreased activity and reduced daily caloric needs. Talk to your veterinarian about what senior diet would be most appropriate for your pet.

Together we can help your pet live longer and healthier.