Growing Old With Your Senior Pet
Pets age much faster than people do, and their health needs change rapidly. A good rule of thumb is that a dog or cat ages seven years to every one human year. When a dog is considered senior varies depending on the size of the dog: for giant (greater than 100 lbs) breeds, after age 6; for large (60–100 lbs.) breeds, after age 7; for medium (20–60 lbs.), after age 8; for smaller (1–20 lbs.) breeds, after age 9. For cats, any time after the age of 8 is considered senior. All Pets Animal Hospital has established guidelines to help you navigate your pet’s changing needs.
Senior Pet Health Exams
With the rapid aging process pets experience, senior pets need to be examined twice a year for early detection of illness when it can be easily managed or cured. In addition to a general physical exam, we recommend:
- Blood work
- Urine analysis
- Blood pressure monitoring
- Chest X-rays
Recent advances in medical technology have provided many new procedures and treatments that can extend your pet’s quality of life:
- Rehabilitation services—Many senior pets benefit from our therapeutic massage, water treadmill, therapy balls, cavaletti, or agility exercises, which will strengthen their core muscles and restore strength and mobility.
- Laser therapy—All Pets Animal Hospital has witnessed many pets recovery from debilitating arthritis through use of the laser therapy technology. Restoring mobility to pets allows them to engage in exercise and it restores much of their quality of life.
- Stem cell therapy—We have also found stem cell therapy to be a significantly beneficial treatment for pets with arthritis. Stem cells stimulate healing and can restore mobility lost to the normal aging process.
- Proper nutrition based on the pet’s senior health status
Senior Pet Nutritional Counseling
The body of an aging pet has different nutritional needs than that of a younger pet. All Pets Animal Hospital offers guidance on proper pet nutrition and carries pet foods designed for seniors, as well as foods that cater to medical conditions. The brands below are diets we commonly recommend for aging pets:
- Hills Prescription Diets
- Royal Canin
- Purina Veterinary Diets
- Pet Diets—Personalized nutrition by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist
Managing Pet Pain and Discomfort
As with people, aging in pets can be accompanied by aches, pains, and stiffness that can slow your pets down and discourage them from getting the exercise they need. Our veterinarians are able to assess your pet’s pain status and to instruct you on how to recognize signs that he or she is uncomfortable. There are many options for managing pet pain, and we encourage you to check our information on pet pain management.
Signs of Health Issues in Aging Pets
Knowing your pet and his or her normal behavior will help you detect when something has changed in his or her health status. Some symptoms that would suggest that you should contact us include:
- Drinking and urinating more frequently
- Weight gain or loss
- Muscle weakness
- Behavioral changes
- Decreased appetite
- Bad breath
- Urinary or bowel incontinence
- Decreased vision or hearing
- Dull or thinning coat
- Odor to the coat
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Difficulty moving or limping
- Coughing, panting, or labored breathing
- Decreased responsiveness to attention from the pet owner
At any time you have questions about your senior pet’s condition or changing needs, please feel free to contact the veterinarians of All Pets Animal Hospital.