As our furry family members get older, it’s time to start considering how age will soon start impacting them. On average, a cat or dog is considered a senior once they reach the seven year mark. What does this mean for you as a responsible pet owner? Here are a few things for you to consider:
Vet visits become more important.
As your pet gets older, regular visits to your trusted vet are one of the best preventative measures you can take to ensure your senior pet is getting the care they need. Your vet will also be able to inform you of things you can expect or should be looking out for now that your pet is reaching their older years.
“As a dog or cat ages,” Camala, our animal care manager said, “it becomes necessary to start geriatric exams every six months instead of the usual yearly exam. A geriatric exam typically consists of a detailed exam and geriatric blood work. Changes can occur quickly as pets age, so it is imperative to check often. When to begin these exams does differ depending on breed, size, and circumstances of your pet, so please be sure to follow your veterinarian’s advice.”
Your pet’s diet will change.
When your pet reaches senior age, their diet is even more important to regulate. As a pet gets older, it isn’t just the outside body that changes. Your pet’s digestion may also slow down and they may not be able to consume the foods they used to be able to. You’ll want to switch to a senior diet. Consult with your vet about the specific needs and diet recommendations your senior pets may need!
Along with diet, don’t forget about your aging pet’s dental health! “My advice,” Daisy, our clinic care manager, said, “ is to make sure that your older [pets] have good dental care as they grow to avoid expensive dental procedures! It’s less painful for your pet, and for your wallet.”
Exercise is still important.
Be careful not to think that just because your pet is old, that it’s ok for them to not go out or play as much anymore! In fact, exercise and play is still very important to senior animals. Your pet’s exercise and playtime may be less or toned down, but it can still contribute plenty to their quality of life in the long run.
“Managing weight is important,” our veterinarian, Dr. Medina said. “Overweight pets have a harder time getting around.”
Pain management needs to be considered.
Arthritis is a major concern as our pets age. Camala recommends starting a pet at an early age on Glucosamine Chondroitin, which is a joint lubrication supplement. “While it is recommended to start at an early age, it’s never too late!” she said. “Seek your veterinarian’s advice to start proper diagnostics and supplements for help with immune, endocrine and joint issues.”
Dr. Medina also added that “using over the counter Cosequin can be helpful, prescription Adequan and eventually pain management like NAIDs can be really helpful and makes quality of life better.” Of course, always be sure to consult with your pet’s vet!
Consider making your house more accessible to an aging pet.
As your pet gets older, you may have to make small changes in your home. If you have steps that separate one room from another, consider adding a makeshift ramp to make it easier on your pet. If you have a cat, consider adding softer flooring, or rugs, to make landing on the paws easier on your pet.
As our animal companions get older, it’s important to stay curious about their health and to know what the future may hold. Although all pets are individuals and no two animals may age the same way, being aware of things you should be on top of or be on the lookout will help to ensure your animal companion can be with you for as long as possible!
Here are a few additional words below from our staff about senior animals:
Maritza, Cat Care Supervisor and Foster Care Coordinator:
“Seniors have a special place in my heart. All I have ever owned were seniors. They are often overlooked [for adoption] because they are old or have some sort of health issue. I love giving senior animals their one last hurrah in a home where they will have comfort, love, and peace.
I have 3 seniors in my household right now, Gordy (9 years old), Gladys (15 years old), and Darwin (12 years old). Gladys suffers from chronic upper respiratory issues, and I knew that being in a shelter was not the life for her and she would most likely never be adopted. Darwin has chronic issues with his mouth. Gordy was originally a dog living in someone’s backyard for the first seven years of his life.
Whether these guys stay with me for a few short years or a long time, I am ok with that. I find comfort in the fact that I loved them until the end and they were a part of my family. I gave them a second chance, a second chance at a home, a second chance at love and patience. That’s all they ever really ask for. In return, they gave me some of the best memories I will ever have.”
Ruben, Dog Care Supervisor:
“I currently have 2 senior pets, and had one that very recently passed away. I love adopting seniors because I feel like the appreciation they show does not compare to anything else. We sometimes don’t know what these animals have been through, so my goal with adopting any animal is to give them the best they may have never had.”
Camille, Senior Registered Vet Technician:
“A high quality diet, regular vet visits and preventative care are the best way to maintain a senior pet’s health. Prevention and early detection can keep disease from taking years off your pet’s life.”
Anjanette, Cat Care Associate:
“It’s super important to remember that if you are adopting a pet that is already a senior animal, have patience. Adjusting for senior pets takes a lot of work but is very rewarding. Another thing is to make sure to get at least an annual checkup. Once they begin to age is when noticeable differences in their health start to happen.”