Perhaps the most difficult thing about owning a pet is knowing from the beginning you will live to see them age. Dogs and cats age at approximately seven times the rate of humans, so when your pet is ten years old he is the equivalent of a 70-year-old human! The average lifespan for cats and dogs is around 10-12 years.
When your pet reaches six or seven years old, they may be considered geriatric and may begin exhibiting common signs of aging. You may notice the gray hairs in their fur, a decrease in their energy and even limitations to their mobility. A dog that could jump up into the back of your truck when they were a puppy may struggle with such a leap at six or seven years old.
Common health concerns for older dogs include:
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Joint disease
Older pets often exhibit behavioral changes, too. They may become less social, more irritable and louder. Aging pets tend to wander more and exhibit signs of anxiety and protective behaviors. They might be less responsive, change their sleeping cycles and even begin to make messes in the house.
How to Treat Older Pets
Unfortunately, we can’t stop the aging process, but there are some things you can do to make it more comfortable for your pet. By focusing on certain areas, you can help preserve your pet’s quality of life for as long as possible by using these tips:
- Parasite control: Older dogs and cats have less-robust immune systems. It is especially important at this stage of life that you are diligent about protecting them from parasites year-round.
- Diet and nutrition: Geriatric dogs can’t digest food and snacks the way they used to. Changing their feeding habits should reflect their need for softer, more easily digested foods, fewer calories and anti-aging nutrients.
- Vaccinations: Talk to your vet about changing your pet’s immunization schedule to accommodate their needs.
- Environmental considerations: As they get older, your dog may not tolerate so much time outside in the sun and the elements. They may also benefit from a sleeping area they can access without stairs, and they might appreciate more quiet time to rest in the air-conditioning.
- Weight control: Older cats need help maintaining their body weight, whereas older dogs tend to put on too much weight. Cats can become finicky eaters. Dogs tend to get less exercise as they age, and the additional weight is not good for their joints.
- Increased veterinary care: Geriatric pets benefit from visits to the vet every six months, rather than just yearly. At this stage of life, detecting disease early is paramount to successful treatment.
Get the Best Treatment for Your Older Cats and Dogs
Finding vets for old animals in Sarasota, Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch can be difficult, but University Animal Clinic can serve all of your aging pets’ health needs. Make an appointment today to bring your geriatric dog or cat in for an examination to help support their health in this stage of life.