Your Senior Pet Can Stay Young at Heart
By: Jessie L. Rayburn, CVT
As humans get older, there are certain aspects of health that should be evaluated. The same mindset applies to our four-legged companions. Some parts of the ageing process can be measured preemptively and made to have a lesser impact through monitoring and evaluation. Other aspects can be delayed through proactive action and supplementation. While no one wants to think about their beloved furry family member getting old, we can help ease them into their senior years in comfort, happiness and grace.
At what age is your pet considered a senior? According to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) cats and dogs are considered senior at ~7 years of age. To help put this in human terms: A 7-year-old cat is approximately 54 years old in human years. 10 feline years equals 63 human years. Depending on a dog’s size, a 7-year-old dog is 44-56 years old. 10 canine years is the equivalent of 56-78 years. As your pet reaches their senior years, their vet exams may include different questions and requirements, so be extra observant of your pet’s behavior and take note of anything out of the ordinary.
Many of the physical and mental changes we experience with age are the same for our pets. Some of the biggest areas of concern are cardiac disease, diabetes, organ failure, cancer, senility and mobility issues. While this may seem overwhelming, most of these changes will happen gradually and allow you plenty of time to work with your vet and adjust your pet’s routine and lifestyle.
Regular bloodwork is essential to staying on top of your pet’s systemic health. It is a good idea to have a blood panel run before they become seniors, as this will give you something to compare their values to as they age. You may be thinking, “My pet is a senior but perfectly healthy. Why should I run bloodwork on a healthy pet?” Healthy bloodwork gives your veterinarian a “baseline” of internal values. If your pet becomes ill and your vet runs a blood panel, a baseline allows them to know what is normal for your pet so they can detect what is abnormal.
Here are some other steps you can take as your pet ages:
- Switch to a food specifically geared towards a senior’s dietary requirements
- Increase their one on one play time and mental stimulation to keep the mind sharp and active
- Avoid over exerting their physical abilities and add a joint supplement to help with their mobility
- Be more cognizant of their behavior and habits
- Include your senior pet in your daily family activities as much as you can to cherish and make the most of your time together
Just as it is for us, getting older doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience. Many of our animals can live well beyond their “senior” years and continue to be a huge part of our families. It is true for humans and animals alike, age is just a number and you are only as young or old as you feel. By making some small changes and being diligent in monitoring their overall well-being, we can keep our four legged companions happy, energetic and puppies/kittens at heart.