November is National Senior Pet Month, and we’d like to take this opportunity to discuss all the ways they are exceptional and how to ensure they are as healthy as possible. Thanks to modern veterinary medicine, pets are living longer than ever before! With this extended lifespan comes a host of new lifestyle factors such as behaviors, medical conditions, and dietary needs.
At Animal Clinic of Milford, we want your pets to live the happiest, healthiest lives they can as they reach their golden years, and we believe the best way to achieve this is through education about their changing needs.
What Is a Senior Pet?
A pet is generally considered senior once they’ve reached seven years of age. Contrary to popular belief, cats and dogs do not age seven human years for every year of their life. On average, a seven-year-old cat is about the equivalent of a 54-year-old person. A seven-year-old dog, on the other hand, is equivalent to approximately 44 to 56 human years. Large breed dogs tend to have shorter lifespans than their small-breed peers and are considered senior at around 5 to 6 years old.
Common Problems for Senior Pets
As pets age, so do their organs, and over time they may begin to develop health conditions related to the aging process. For example, your cat or dog may begin to lose his or her sight or hearing. They are also more susceptible to problems such as heart, liver, or kidney disease, arthritis, cognitive dysfunction, dental diseases, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or cancer. In fact, nearly half of all deaths in pets over ten years of age are due to cancer.
Below are some signs and symptoms of the most common age-related conditions. This is not a comprehensive list, and any new or worsening behavior or physical symptoms should be checked out by your veterinarian:
- Arthritis – limping, muscle atrophy, stiffness, licking over a joint, reluctance to run, jump, or climb
- Cognitive dysfunction – confusion, disorientation, anxiety, diminished interaction with members of the family, and household “accidents”
- Heart disease – rapid breathing, coughing, acting lethargic, and difficulty recovering from exercise
- Kidney disease – acting sluggish, decreased appetite, increased thirst, and changes (increase OR decrease) in urinary output
- Dental disease – bad breath, brown or yellow teeth, loose teeth, oral bleeding, loss of appetite or weight, excessive drooling, and dropping food
- Hyperthyroidism – high blood pressure, increased thirst, increased urination, rough-looking coat, increased vocalization, and poor body condition
- Diabetes – increased thirst, increased urination or accidents in the house, weight loss, increased appetite, vomiting, unsteadiness, and slow healing wounds
- Cancer – change in appetite, sudden weight loss, non-healing wounds or sores, lumps or bumps under the skin, abnormal odors, abnormal discharge from the eyes, ears, mouth, or rectum, abdominal swelling, diarrhea, and vomiting
While it may be easy to chalk many of these symptoms up to “old age,” it is important to remember that old age isn’t a disease. By bringing your pet in for regular checkups, we can catch illness and dysfunction in its earliest stages. In doing so, you will ensure they spend their golden years as happy and comfortable as possible.
Benefits of Adopting a Senior Pet
Kittens and puppies are adorable, and there’s no denying that, but they also require a lot of training and attention. If you are looking to expand your family by adopting a new animal, consider adopting a senior pet. Sadly, many older pets are overlooked in shelters due to misconceptions about how long they’ll live or the amount of medical care they’ll need. Indeed, senior animals usually require more veterinary care. However, with regular visits to the vet, you can be sure to catch developing problems in the beginning before they become catastrophic for you and your companion.
Senior animals still have a lot of love to give and need caring homes in which to enjoy their golden years. Some benefits of elderly pets to consider include:
- They are usually already potty-trained
- Their personalities are already developed, so you know if they’ll be a compatible companion
- They make great napping buddies
- Contrary to popular belief, older animals can still learn new tricks/behaviors
- They are calmer and more patient, but still have the energy to play
- They usually assimilate to their new families faster
- They are already fully grown, so you know exactly what you’ll be dealing with
As you can see, senior pets still have a lot to offer and can make incredible additions to families of all kinds. If you have questions about your pet’s health as he or she ages, don’t hesitate to contact Animal Clinic of Milford!