Pets are living longer than ever thanks in part to advances in veterinary medicine and great care by their pet parents. This is wonderful news since it means more time together with our furry family members. Knowing how to care for your senior pet can help them live as long as possible.
You may be surprised to learn that there's no one age when a pet becomes "senior." That's because the aging process varies for individual pets based on factors including their species, size, and environment.
Generally speaking, cats might be considered senior anywhere from 7 to 11 years old. Giant breed dogs are often seniors by age 5 or 6. Large and medium-sized dogs may be seen as senior at about 7 or 8 years old. Small dogs like Chihuahuas can live to be 20 years old, so 6 or 7 may only be middle age for them.
As pets get older, they may be more prone to certain health issues. Some of the most common conditions for senior pets include:
Senior pets should visit the veterinarian at least twice a year for routine check-ups. This can help your veterinarian detect health issues in the early stages when they’re easier to treat. It also allows them to stay on top of existing health issues and recommend changes in your pet's care as needed.
Nutritional needs change as pets get older. For instance, they won't need to take in as many calories if their activity levels decrease. They may also benefit from foods that are easier to digest or geared to help manage specific disorders. Ask your veterinarian for help determining the healthiest diet for your senior pet.
Consider supplementing your senior pet's diet with safe fruits and vegetables as lower calorie treat options.
Your senior pet may be slowing down and seem less interested or downright resistant to activities like going for walks or playing games. However, senior dogs and cats need exercise to help maintain a healthy body weight, maintain muscle mass, and keep them from getting bored, which can lead to unwanted behaviors. Talk to your veterinarian about options for exercise, including swimming and physical therapy exercises.
If your senior cat doesn't want to play, sprinkle a bit of catnip on their toy. They may start acting like a kitten again!
Senior pets need mental as well as physical exercise. Some ways to do this include teaching them new tricks and providing them with treat-filled puzzle toys. This kind of stimulation can help keep your senior pet mentally sharp and reduce anxiety.
There are alterations you can make around your home to help improve your senior pet's quality of life. For instance:
Safety is also an important concern for senior pets. While you may have pet-proofed your home at one time, you should take another look around to see if you need to make any changes, especially if your pet has mobility, vision, or hearing issues. Make sure your home is free of hazards that could harm your pet.
If you’re thinking about adopting a pet, give some thought to welcoming a senior cat or dog into your home. They're already trained, but they can still learn new tricks. They may also be calmer and quieter, which can be a better fit for households with older adults or small children.
Plus, you could save a life. Senior pets tend to be overlooked for puppies and kittens, which can put them at risk of being euthanized at overcrowded shelters. And just because they're older, it doesn't mean they have health or behavioral problems. They may be just the sort of loveable companion you're looking for.
Pet insurance is a great way to get help manage the costs of veterinary care for a senior pet. It can cover accidents as well as common ailments, such as arthritis, cancer, and thyroid problems. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance doesn't have an upper age limit, so you can enroll your senior pet at any age. Get a personalized quote now.
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.
title: How to Care for Senior Pets
author: Dr. Wendy Hauser