As we well know, all animals are different. There are however some general guidlines to determine when they become 'seniors.' For cats we usually call them mature from around 7-10 years, senior from 11-14 years and geriatric once they reach the 15 year mark.
For dogs their senior status is much for breed related. For example, large breed dogs like Great Danes are considered senior at around 6 or 7 years where as a 7 year old Chihuahua is really only middle aged.
Ultimately, your pet's genetics, nutrition and environment will play a huge role in determining when they become seniors.
We recommend that dogs from 7 years for large breeds and 10 years for small breeds start to have bi-annual check ups. This is to ensure we are keeping on top of their health and can catch any issues that pop up before they develop into serious problems. Age related diseases can be subtle and symptoms can be easily missed. Through regular check ups and blood tests we can establish what is a normal base line for your pet which can help alert you if something unusual starts occuring.
If you notice anything out of the ordinary, lack of energy, lack of appetite or toileting unusually please always give us a call! We are always happy to answer questions and give advice.
Please always remember, that the older your pet gets the less active they become. This means they will be burning fewer calories so you will need to watch their portion sizes and consider changing to a senior food.
Feeding fresh vegetables or high quality commercial treats can also help to avoid weight gain as obesity contributes to many diseases and puts more stress on your pet’s joints.
Exercise is a vital part of a senior pets day, with dogs the walks may only need to be short but it is important to get them out and get them moving. In saying this however, make sure you listen to your dog, don't push them further than they can go. Always have water near by and avoid walking on days that are too warm or humid.
Cats also need and love exercise, even our senior friends! Ignite their playful side with a spray of catnip or a toy that imitates prey.
Remember the old saying, “Be true to your teeth, or they’ll be false to you”? Well, dental care is just as important for pets as it is for us. Dental disease is painful and may make it difficult for your senior pet to eat. Ideally, you should start brushing your pet’s teeth early, but if you haven’t, don’t despair; you can still take action. The first step is a veterinary exam and professional dental cleaning. Then, schedule regular follow-ups and brush daily at home. If your pet won’t tolerate you brushing its teeth, consider dental treats, dental diets or dental toys designed to help keep the teeth clean and healthy.
Senior dogs and cats may experience loss of sight and/or hearing. If this is the case, you need to take extra care to keep them out of harm’s way. Remove dangerous objects from their path, and use pet gates to create a safe space for your pet when you are not able to supervise. Use hand signals to communicate with a pet with hearing loss. And, if your senior dog or cat has vision loss from cataracts, check with your veterinarian to see if surgery might reverse the problem.
Older dogs and cats may develop arthritis or other joint problems, which can make it harder for them to get around. You can help by providing ramps to help them navigate around the house, get up on the bed, or get outside. Make sure litter boxes are easily accessible. Orthopedic pet beds, with or without heating elements, may help keep your pet comfortable and relieve pressure on the joints. Hydrotherapy and therapeutic massage are also effective therapies for dogs with joint pain. Give us a buzz for the latest treatments and therapies.
Nothing tells your dog that you love him like a good belly rub. As your pet ages, physical contact is more important than ever. Therapeutic massage is great for animals with joint pain, and equally enjoyable for those without. Pets that have a difficult time grooming themselves may benefit from extra brushing. Every moment you have together is precious, and increasing the physical connection between you will strengthen your bond immeasurably. Maximize every opportunity for bonding with your pet – you will both be glad you did.