From the age of seven your pet’s health can change. Although your pet may still look and behave like a youngster, after their 7th birthday (or 5th birthday for large and giant breeds) cats and dogs enter their senior years. In human terms, it’s equivalent to entering your 50s. Just as our nutritional and physical needs change when we’re seniors, your pet’s feeding and exercise routines need to change too.
Diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease are more common in senior pets. Conditions such as arthritis, obesity and dental disease also occur in over 20% of our pets. The earlier these diseases are detected, the better the chances of managing them successfully*. Better still, ask your vet about scheduling twice-yearly physical examinations and laboratory tests to screen for common diseases. Observe your senior pet regularly and consult your vet if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Weight gain or weight loss.
- Increased drinking and/or urinating
- Lower tolerance for exercise or listlessness, reluctance to climb stairs.
- Reduced appetite or increased appetite.
- Coughing or difficulty in breathing.
- Hearing loss or poor vision.
- Difficulty chewing, poor digestion or blood in faeces.
- Brittle nails or poor coat.
- Behavioural changes such as confusion or disorientation.
Tips for caring for your Senior Pet
Provide a nutritious and balanced diet, crucially to maintain kidney and heart health. Pet foods for senior cats and dogs need to have reduced levels of phosphorous and sodium. To aid digestion, consider feeding them several meals a day instead of one large serving.
Keep your pet on a regular exercise routine to help preserve muscle tone and to keep bones and joints strong. Because senior pets are prone to inactivity, inspect their nails on a regular basis and trim them when necessary.
Provide a comfortable, warm bed. Many older pets suffer from arthritis or general muscle stiffness. Keep their bed and surrounding areas clean, and always remain proactive in controlling fleas.
Natural oils in the skin are reduced with age and can make your pet’s skin and coat dry and lustreless. Older cats often have difficulty grooming themselves.Brushing and grooming will help stimulate the skin to produce natural oils.
Accidents may become a problem as bladder muscles weaken. Pay extra attention because your pet will need to be let outside more promptly and frequently to avoid house soiling. You might need to have an extra litter tray inside for your cat as an extra precaution.
Always provide plenty of clean, fresh water.
* Epstein M, Kuehn NF, Landsberg G, Lascelles DX, Marks SL,Schaedler JM, Tuzio H. (2004). Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. Journal of the American Animal HospitalAssociation pg81-91.