Providing appropriate care for your pet as they enter their golden years can help improve their overall wellbeing, and prolong their life. Our team at Little Animal Hospital wants to help you provide exceptional care for your senior pet by offering information that all senior pet owners should know.
Senior pet owners should know when their pet reaches their golden years
While some pets’ muzzles begin to grey, and some pets start to slow down, others show no signs they have shuffled into their golden years. This can make realizing they should be treated as a senior pet difficult. A pet’s age when they reach senior status depends on their species and breed.
- Cats — At 7 to 10 years of age, cats are considered middle-aged. They are considered senior at 11 to 14 years of age, and geriatric at older than 15 years of age.
- Small-breed dogs — Dogs 20 pounds and smaller reach senior status at 10 to 12 years of age.
- Medium-breed dogs — Dogs weighing between 20 and 50 pounds reach senior status at 8 to 9 years of age.
- Large-breed dogs — Dogs heavier than 50 pounds reach senior status at 6 to 7 years of age.
Senior pet owners should know their pet needs more frequent veterinary care
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends twice-yearly veterinary wellness visits for senior pets, since they are at higher risk for age-related diseases and conditions. If caught early, before your pet starts exhibiting signs, these conditions are easier to manage, which can prolong your pet’s life. A senior pet veterinary wellness check involves:
- Physical exam — Your pet will be thoroughly examined for any possible medical condition. By evaluating your pet from head to tail, our veterinary professionals can detect issues such as cataracts, dental disease, heart conditions, lung conditions, abdominal masses, abnormal organs, and arthritis.
- Diagnostics — Diagnostics, including a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, thyroid screening, urinalysis, heartworm test, and fecal check, will be performed. These tests can detect issues such as infection, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, thyroid disease, and parasite infection.
- Preventive medicine — Your pet will receive the necessary vaccinations and preventive medications, to ensure they are not affected by preventable diseases, and external or internal parasites.
Senior pet owners should know their pet needs to maintain an ideal weight
Obesity is an increasing problem in pets around the world, and has been linked to numerous concerning issues, including arthritis, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and cancer. Pets carrying excess weight also have more mobility and respiratory issues. In addition, senior pets tend to be more sedentary, and therefore, more prone to gain weight. Keeping them at an ideal weight is the best way to keep them healthy. Steps include:
- Accurate assessment — Your pet’s cute face and fluffy coat may make accurately assessing their weight difficult, so let our veterinary professionals make that assessment. They will also determine your pet’s ideal weight, and if they need to be put on a weight loss program.
- Continued monitoring — Once we have determined your pet’s ideal weight, you will need to monitor their weight by weighing them, and assessing their body conditioning score (BCS). This will ensure they are making progress, if they need to lose weight, and help ensure they are maintaining their weight, if they are starting at their ideal weight.
- Appropriate food — Senior pets’ nutritional needs are different from those of younger pets. Consult our veterinary professionals, to ensure you are feeding an appropriate food.
- Appropriate amount — Once you have found a suitably nutritious food, you can use the food’s recommendation label and calorie calculators to determine the amount your pet needs. Then, use standardized measuring cups to measure out their food, to ensure you are giving the correct amount.
- Treats — Treats should make up no more than 10 percent of your pet’s daily calorie intake. When you do treat your pet, adjust their meal portions accordingly, to account for the treat calories.
Senior pet owners should know their pet’s dental health is important
Periodontal disease can cause significant pain for pets, and most pets have dental disease signs as early as 3 years of age. In addition to being painful, periodontal disease can cause loose teeth, jaw fractures, and organ damage, including the heart, kidneys, and liver, when bacteria are transported through the bloodstream. Prevention is the best way to protect your pet from periodontal disease. Steps include:
- Professional dental cleanings — Let our veterinary professionals perform regular professional dental cleanings, to assess your pet’s overall mouth health, and remove bacteria buildup under the gumline.
- Teethbrushing — Brush your pet’s teeth daily, to further promote their dental health. Ensure you use pet-friendly toothpaste and go slowly, to allow your pet to adjust to the procedure.
- Dental chews — Pet dental chews approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) help remove plaque and tartar, and freshen your pet’s breath.
Being educated on how to best care for your aging pet will allow them to live a long and healthy life. If you would like to schedule a wellness exam or dental check up for your senior pet, contact our team at Little Animal Hospital, so we can make a difference in the life you share.