How to care for your ‘senior’ pets

Vet’s Voice with Dr Tafara Mapuvire

AGING is an inevitable part of life.

This means that, as much as we are reluctant to imagine it, our once bouncy puppy or kitten will grow old eventually and slow down considerably.

The term “senior” has been chosen to describe older pets. The number of years considered to be “senior” may vary, and it is of paramount importance to keep in mind that organ systems, species, and breeds of dogs and cats age at different rates. In humans, 56 to 60 years of age is considered to be the start of the senior years.

Middle age begins at 42 to 45 and is the time when senior wellness screening generally starts. Middle age would equate to approximately seven to eight years of age for most dogs and cats. Large-breed dogs tend to reach middle age a year or two earlier. As the pet enters its senior years, more frequent testing and more extensive examinations are recommended than for younger pets.

Geriatric pets can develop many of the same problems associated with aging in humans, such as cancer, heart disease, kidney/urinary tract disease, liver disease, diabetes, joint or bone disease, senility, and weakness.

Senior pets require increased attention, including more frequent visits to see the veterinarian. Geriatric pets should have semi-annual veterinary visits instead of annual visits so that signs of illness or other problems can be detected early and treated promptly.

Senior pet examinations are similar to those for younger pets, but are more in-depth, and may include dental care, blood tests, urine analysis and specific checks for physical signs of diseases that are more likely in older pets. Senior pets also require special nutritional consideration. There are several pet foods formulated specifically to meet the nutritional requirements of older pets.

Consult your veterinarian for advice on caring for your senior pet.

Leave a Reply