Can you guess what the oldest cat on history is? The oldest cat lived to be 34 years of age, and that is human years, not cat years! As for Dogs, the oldest recorded dog on history lived to be 29 years of age! Wow!
Growing up, we were lucky if our pets made it to 10-12 years of age. We took good care of them, but pets didn’t live that long when I was younger. Today, there have been so many medical advances, and it is just crazy what we can do for pets. Cancer treatments, advanced lifesaving surgeries, and advanced diagnostic procedures such as MRI’s are now becoming options for pets. The medical advancements are crazy if you think about it, considering that some people are lucky enough never to have to deal with any of those kinds of procedures in their life. Thanks to advances in research and medical care for pets, we see pets living a lot longer than they were even 5-10 years ago.
Some may be wondering, at what age is my pet considered a senior pet? The answer is, it depends. Pets age much quicker than humans, so veterinarians tell us that one human year is equivalent to numerous years for pets. In dogs, larger breeds tend to age faster than smaller breeds. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats and small dogs are “seniors” around seven years of age, depending on the size of the dog. Larger breed dogs tend to age much quicker than small breeds and are considered “seniors” around six years of age.
What does this mean for your pet? Thanks to advances in medical care nowadays, it doesn’t have to mean a whole lot! The general advice from veterinarians is to pay attention to your pet as they get older, you know them better than anyone. As your pet ages, their overall health needs can change. Let’s review several items to observe as our pets are aging. Furthermore, we can discuss how to make our pets comfortable during some of the best years of their life.
Pay attention to any physical changes in your pet
Like humans, as your pet ages, their bodies can go through the aging process as well. Here are a few things to watch for as your pet is aging:
- Be aware of changes in the general behavior of your pet. Is your pet all the sudden more irritable? Have there been changes in their bathroom habits?
- Watch for changes in mobility or activity levels. Is your pet all the sudden laying around more? Or hesitant to climb the stairs? Has your cat stopped climbing their favorite cat tree?
- Monitor any changes in your pet’s eating/drinking habits. Is your pet suddenly drinking a lot more water? Or eating less? Are they starting to look a little chunkier?
All the changes discussed above could indicate your pet is aging and may have changing health needs. It is essential to know what is “normal” for your pet so you can take notice if something starts to change.
Health Needs in Senior Pets
Here are some things to consider for your older pets when it comes to their health needs:
- Change in diet– Your pet may need to have their food switched from an adult formula to a “senior” formula. Senior diets in dogs and cats are formulated to have reduced calories, as senior pets generally become less active, and their bodies could experience some metabolic changes, causing their body to burn fewer calories. On the opposite spectrum, some pets tend to get skinnier in their old age, so it’s essential to keep an overall eye on your pet’s body condition. We’ll talk more about this in a minute.
- Regular vet checkups become essential as your pet gets older. Some veterinarians even recommend coming in for wellness checkups every six months, depending on what size and breed of dog or cat you have.
- Weight control is always essential in a pet, but it becomes increasingly important as pets age. Excess weight can put more pressure on your pet’s bones and joints, causing more aches and pains. The general rule is you want to be able to feel your pet’s ribs, but not see them when looking at your pet’s body.
- Parasite control is still as crucial as pets get older. The American Veterinary Medical Association explains that as pets get older, their immune systems are not as healthy as when they were younger and may have a harder time fighting off parasites and disease.
- Vaccinations– talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s vaccine schedule. As they get older, they may not need as many vaccinations as when they were younger, as their lifestyle and risk factors may have changed.
- Reproductive issues– studies show that male and female dogs and cats that have not been neutered or spayed have a higher risk of getting cancers. There are also reproductive related health concerns such as pyometra, an infection in the uterus of an unspayed female dog or cat that is life-threatening.
- Watch the teeth! Veterinarians suggest
that we should be brushing our pet’s teeth regularly. As silly as that may
sound, think about humans for a minute.
- Can you imagine if we never brushed our teeth, how quickly we would be prone to infections in our mouth?
- Studies in humans and pets show that poor dental health can lead to other health issues such as heart and organ problems due to the bacteria from the mouth traveling in the bloodstream.
- Although regular teeth brushing in your pets (especially a cat!) can be a challenge, many products on the market can help with tartar control for pets. Chew toys, dental treats, water additives, and even special foods can help with tartar accumulation on the teeth.
- Even if you are not regularly keeping up on your pet’s dental routine, at least pay attention to their eating habits. If they are suddenly eating less, taking longer to eat, or chewing their food differently, this could be a sign of a dental problem such as an infected tooth.
Things we can do to show our senior pets some love
With the changes in the aging process, pets (like humans) can get achy and tired. Here are some things we can do to keep them comfortable as they are getting older:
- A cozy pet bed is a great way to help your pet with achy joints. It’s much better than lying on the hard floor, and your pet will appreciate it. There are even orthopedic pet beds available now for a reasonable price.
- Pet ramps are a great way to get your older dog into your vehicle. If your pup is having trouble jumping in and out of your car, a ramp may be just the thing they need. Pet ramps will also fold up and will fit nicely in your vehicle so that you can take it with you.
- A raised pet feeder is helpful for larger dogs that may have some discomfort with bending over to eat. Older pups with back or hip pain would benefit from a feeder that you can place their food bowl in, so their food is now at their height.
- Like with puppies, toys become essential as your pet ages as well, as they may not be as active as they once were. Toys will help ease boredom and keep your pet mentally stimulated. There are many different types of food puzzles, chew toys, and other interactive toys that can keep your active dog busy and happy!
- Keep em’ moving! Just because your older dog might not be able to hike up the side of the mountain with you anymore, that doesn’t mean that they can’t still stay busy with you! Take your pup for shorter walks and hikes as it is crucial to keep them moving, so they have excellent mobility as they age. If they don’t continue to use their muscles, it will become harder for them to get around! If you are noticing that a walk or hike may be too much for them, try swimming! Swimming is a great exercise that is easy on the joints but still effective at keeping them active. In fact, with some dogs that have bad cases of arthritis, some veterinarians have recommended regular swimming routines to help keep them moving and have a good range of motion in their limbs.
Senior pets make some of the best pets
Overall, senior pets are great companions for any age of person! With a puppy or kitten, they are younger and have so many life experiences to encounter. Sometimes their experiences shape their personalities. A happy puppy or kitten can turn into a cranky adult or vise-versa. Typically, with a senior pet, you won’t get much change in behaviors and personality, so what you see in their character generally is what you get. However, if they do have some undesirable habits, unlike what the old saying says, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, and it can be quite comical!
Usually, senior pets have made it past the anxious, hyper years of adolescents and adults, and therefore they make great companions for people who are less active. Depending on what breed of senior pet you have, you can still get an active dog or cat as some breeds never know what “rest” means! Like people, every pet has a different personality. By keeping an eye on your pet’s behaviors and habits, tending to their changing health needs, and showing them a little love, you can still get many great and memorable years with your senior pet!