It’s hard to imagine that your bouncy, energetic puppy or kitten will one day be a senior. For most dog breeds and cats, they are considered a senior at approximately 7-9 years of age. Giant breeds of dogs such as Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes are considered a senior as early as 5 years of age.
Senior pets can suffer from many of the same ailments as people. Age changes to many organs such as the liver, kidney, and heart often leads to eventual failure of the organ. There is also progressive loss of hearing and vision in many senior pets. Older dogs and cats will often develop more lumps and bumps. Although many of these are of no concern, any new ones should be checked by your veterinarian.
Conditions affecting the teeth will develop with age. Dental disease is one of the leading causes of other health conditions, such as kidney disease. Many dogs and cats will have abscesses in teeth that are not visible above the gum line. Dental x-rays taken under general anesthetic are the only way to diagnose this in your pet. Pain associated with bad teeth is gradual and many dogs and cats will not appear painful until it is severe. The pain, however, is real and any problems in the mouth need to be addressed. Extracting painful and fractured teeth will lead to a much happier and active pet. Regular checks by your veterinarian and dental x-rays are part of caring for your senior pet.
Dogs and cats often develop stiffness with age. As with people, they can become arthritic and have problems with mobility. Special diets, supplements, anti- inflammatory pain medications, and working with a rehabilitation therapist will all help your pet be more comfortable and move with a bit more ease.
Senior pets may also develop changes to the brain similar to Alzheimer’s patients. Once again, diet, supplements, and other medications can help ease the symptoms.
There comes a time in your pet’s life when illness, pain, or mobility problems will cause you to question their quality of life. The decision to humanly end the life of a beloved pet is one of the most difficult decisions that one may face. Your veterinarian can help guide you through this time in your pet’s life.
With recent advances in nutrition and veterinary care senior pets are now living longer and leading more active and rewarding lives. We hope, with your vet’s help, that your pet lives a long and happy life!