A better understanding of domestic animals and advances in veterinary medicine mean that our precious pets are living longer than ever before. However, this also means that they are spending much more time as senior pets – and this in itself can be challenging for owners if they haven’t had to care for an older animal before.
We offer a comprehensive range of healthcare services for pets of all ages, including those who have entered their senior years. Here is what you need to know about senior pet healthcare and what you and we can do to support your older furbaby.
When does a pet become a senior?
One of the most important things to understand about pets and aging is that their shorter lifespan means that their bodies age much faster than we might expect. Most people have heard that one human year equates to seven dog years. However, it isn’t necessarily that straightforward, particularly as smaller breeds generally live longer than larger breeds. When it comes to dogs, most small breeds reach their senior years around the age of 10 or 11, while with larger breeds, they are technically considered seniors once they reach 8 or 9. Cats, on the other hand, are normally only classed as seniors once they reach around 9 or 10 years old.
Generally speaking, there are usually a few fairly clear signs that a pet has entered their golden years. These include:
- Teeth that are worn and have significant tartar build-up
- Cloudy eyes
- Grey fur, starting around the muzzle and then spreading across the face, head and eventually body
- Stiffness and a reluctance to do as much physical exercise as before
Proper nutrition for your senior pet
Nutrition plays an essential role in keeping your pet healthy and active. However, our animal’s nutritional requirements change as they get older. While your furbaby may have once needed plenty of calories to help her grow and develop, the reduction in her physical activity means that less food is needed to sustain her. If your pet’s diet is too heavy in calories, she could gain weight – something that is extremely detrimental to her health. Proper nutrition is important to help manage her weight, and certain diets may be recommended if your pet has been diagnosed with a health condition such as diabetes. Certain supplements may also prove beneficial, for example, glucosamine for pets with arthritic joints. We understand the critical role of nutrition in keeping your senior pet healthy and as active as possible and can offer all of the advice and support you need for this aspect of your pet’s care.
Lifestyle adjustments for your senior pets
It isn’t just the eating habits of your pet that you can expect to change when she enters her senior years. Her behavior may also change and capabilities that she once had; she may suddenly find impossible. For example, she may lose some of her hearing, her sight may become impaired or she may find it impossible to move around. Another thing to take into consideration is cognitive impairment – your pet may seem confused or disorientated, and in some circumstances, may not recognize you or other people she was previously familiar with. She may lose her ability to urinate and defecate in the required locations and could struggle to move around and undertake obstacles such as stairs. Our veterinary team will be able to advise you on the best ways to support and aid your pet with lifestyle adjustments that will improve her quality of life.
Senior pet wellness and preventative care
At Country Doctor Veterinary Clinic, we are pleased to be able to offer a comprehensive senior pet wellness and preventative care program. This combines regular monitoring of your pet’s health through a series of examinations and assessments with preventative vaccinations and treatments to keep your older furbaby safe from the many infectious diseases and parasites that can potentially cause her to become unwell. This includes booster vaccinations against diseases such as parvovirus or feline calicivirus, and parasites like heartworms, ticks, and fleas. Preventative care and regular health monitoring are particularly important as your pet become older and her immune system naturally weakens with age, putting her at greater risk of developing medical conditions and being affected by infectious diseases.
If you would like more information about our senior pet healthcare services, or if you have a question about the best way to look after your senior pet, please don’t hesitate to contact our veterinary clinic in Jefferson, OH.