Senior Pet Care

By November 13, 2019 Uncategorized

It’s no surprise that senior pets have different care requirements than those of younger pets.  It varies, but cats and small dogs are generally considered geriatric at the age of 7. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans and are considered geriatric when they are approximately 6 years of age.  This means that that both cats and dogs, between the ages of 6-7, start to have different needs and requirements to keep them happy and healthy.

The first thing you should do for your  pet is make sure you have semi-annual veterinary visits instead of annual visits so signs of illness or other problems can be detected early and treated. Senior pet exams are similar to those for younger pets, but are more in depth, and may include dental care, blood work, and specific checks for physical signs of diseases that are more likely in older pets.

Changes in behavior can also be an indicator that something is changing in your senior pet.  As your pet’s owner, you are the first person who knows what their usual routine is, and any changes in this can be a sign that something is going on.  Some possible behavior changes in older pets include:

  • Increased reaction to sounds
  • Increased vocalization
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Decreased interaction w/humans
  • Increased irritability
  • Decreased response to commands
  • Increased aggressive/protective behavior
  • Increased anxiety
  • House soiling
  • Decreased self-hygiene/grooming
  • Repetitive activity
  • Increased wandering
  • Change in sleep cycles

These are all things to watch for, and if observed they should be discussed with your veterinarian.  While there are different diseases or problems that can affect your pet, one common ailment is arthritis.  Older pets, especially large dogs, are vulnerable to arthritis and other joint diseases.  Signs of arthritis can include:

  • Favoring a limb
  • Difficulty sitting or standing
  • Sleeping more
  • Seeming to have stiff or sore joints
  • Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased activity or interest in play
  • Attitude or behavior changes (including increased irritability)
  • Being less alert

Signs of arthritis often are similar to signs of normal aging, so if your pet seems to have any of these symptoms, the best thing to do is to have your veterinarian examine them, and then advise you as to what treatment plan would be best to help your pet deal with the pain.  Environmental adjustments and enrichment for your senior pets is also very important.  Little changes such as:

  • Carpet runners and toe grips to help them move around
  • Providing your pet with an orthopedic bed
  • Raised feeding/drinking platforms
  • Pet stairs, ramps, or other steps/boxes to help with getting up on bed and furniture
  • Providing different rest areas for dogs and cats on all levels that are easy to get in and out of
  • Resource stations (water, litter boxes, etc) on each home level at least and easy to access
  • Easy to get in (and out of) litter boxes
  • Warm areas to rest (especially for cats)
  • Night lights can  help an aging pet with vision issues
  • Low perches and hidey holes for kitties

Remember senior pets still want to have fun! Toys and playtime are still important, just a little slower and gentler.





Works Cited

American Veterinary Medical Association. (2019). Senior Pet Care (FAQ). Retrieved November 2019, from American Veterinary Medical Association: American Veterinary Medical Association

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