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FAQ: When Is My Pet Considered To Be 'Old'?

If we had a choice most of us would want our pets to live forever, so it’s not surprising that we’re often asked, “When does a pet become 'old’?”

Lifespans vary—especially between different breeds of dogs, however cats and small dogs are generally considered geriatric at the age of 7. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans and are considered geriatric when they are approximately 6 years of age.

Factors Affecting the Lifespan of Cats and Dogs

With such a diversity of physical characteristics between different breeds of cats and dogs it’s difficult to predict exactly how long we can expect to keep our precious furbabies with us, however, the following contributing factors can affect longevity:

  1. Size. In both cats and dogs, larger breeds tend to have shorter lifespans than smaller breeds. Larger animals often have a higher metabolic rate, which means they may age more quickly and experience more wear and tear on their organs over time. Larger breeds may also be more prone to certain health conditions such as hip dysplasia, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.

  2. Genetics. Certain breeds are predisposed to certain health problems which can shorten their lifespans. For example Golden Retrievers are prone to cancers, Dalmatians may get bladder stones and Ragdoll Cats are susceptible to a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).

  3. Activity level. Cats and dogs that are more active tend to live longer than those who are sedentary. This is because they are less likely to become overweight or develop health problems associated with a lack of exercise.

  4. Diet. Cats and dogs that are fed a high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs are likely to live longer than those that are fed a lower-quality diet.

  5. Environment. Cats and dogs that live in clean, stress-free environments with plenty of social interaction and mental stimulation tend to live longer than those that live in dirty or stressful environments.

  6. Access to veterinary care. Cats and dogs that receive regular veterinary care, including preventative care such as vaccinations and parasite control, are more likely to live longer than those that do not receive regular veterinary care.

Dog Breeds—Average Lifespan

Here are some average lifespan indicators for common dog breeds:

Jack Russell Terrier 12.7 years

Yorkshire Terrier 12.54 years

Border Collie 12.1 years

Labrador Retriever 11.77 years

Staffordshire Bull Terrier 11.33 years

Cocker Spaniel 11.31 years

Shih-tzu 11.05 years

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 10.45 years

German Shepherd Dog 10.16 years

Boxer 10.04 years

Beagle 9.85 years

Husky 9.53 years

Chihuahua 7.91 years

Pug 7.65 years

French Bulldog 4.53 years

(Source: Royal Veterinary College, UK. 2022)

Cat Breeds—Average Lifespan

Overall, crossbred cats have a longer average lifespan of 14 years compared with 12.5 years for purebred cats. It’s also interesting to note that on average, a cat’s lifespan is reduced by 6 months for every 1 kg increase in adult bodyweight, so it’s important to watch those calories!

Birman 16.1 years

Burmese 14.3 years

Siamese 14.2 years

Persian 14.1 years

Crossbred 14 years

British Shorthair 11.8 years

Maine Coon 11 years

Ragdoll 10.1 years

Abyssinian 10 years

Bengal 7.3 years

(Source: Royal Veterinary College, UK. 2022)

How Often Should My Older Pet Visit the Vet?

As a general rule, geriatric pets should have semi-annual veterinary visits instead of annual visits so signs of illness or other problems can be detected early and treated. Senior pet exams are similar to those for younger pets but are more in depth and may include dental care, possible blood work and specific checks for physical signs of diseases that are more likely in older pets.

If your senior pet hasn't visited us in the last 6 months, please call our friendly nurses on (03) 9568 2211 or book an appointment online.


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