Senior Pet Care
by Meghan Vos
Thanks to advances in nutrition and veterinary care, our pets are living longer than ever. Currently, the average life expectancy of an indoor cat is 16.9 years, and while the life expectancy of our canine friends varies by breed and size, most are living happily into their teens. Here are a few tips to help your pet age gracefully into their golden years.
Cats are considered senior when they reach 11 years of age, small and medium dogs at 10 years, and large and giant dogs at 7 years. This is a good time to consider having your pet examined by your veterinarian twice yearly rather than annually. During the exam, your veterinarian may find new lumps or bumps, internal masses that may need to be addressed, joint abnormalities, age-related eye problems, abnormal weight loss, and heart or lung abnormalities. Having blood work done at these visits gives your veterinarian a big picture of your pet’s metabolic and organ function. These tests may include a chemistry panel, complete blood count, urinalysis, and thyroid function. Doing this testing every six months can help catch problems early while they can be managed through diet and medication.
While there is no one-size-fits-all diet for senior dogs or cats, there are many options, and each pet should be fed a diet specific to their needs. If your senior pet’s blood work showed abnormal changes, a prescription diet specifically formulated to their needs may be recommended to suit a variety of health conditions. Senior dogs and cats can often struggle with arthritis and general joint discomfort. There are many joint health supplements available on the market today, but they are not all created equal. Check with your veterinarian for joint supplement recommendations to ensure your money is well spent and your pet gets the most benefit.
Dental health is important throughout your pet’s life but is especially important as they age. Severe dental disease can contribute to serious conditions such as heart and kidney disease, which are not reversible. While brushing your pet’s teeth is ideal, some simply will not tolerate it. There are a variety of products available to prevent plaque and tartar buildup such as chews, water additives, and wipes. Products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council have been tested and proven beneficial, so look for the VOHC stamp of approval on the product packaging.