50 is the new 40... or at least that is what I keep telling myself as I get ready to celebrate my forty-something birthday this year. But there is some truth in that feel-good statement. People are living longer, more active lives because of advances in medical care and we, as a whole, are taking better care of ourselves. The same thing is true for the furry members of our family. Because of the advances in veterinary care, pet nutrition, heartworm prevention, and the fact that more pets are living inside or in enclosed yards; our pets are also living longer more active lives. So when do pets become seniors?
The old rule of thumb used to be “one pet year equals 7 human years.” That is not exactly true and the equivalent age of our pets depends on species (cat vs. dog) and for dogs in particular, size and breed are factors. In general, cats are considered senior around 8 years of age, and dogs are senior around the age of 7 (a little later if they are a small breed). But just because our pets become seniors doesn’t mean that they don’t have a lot of years left to spend with us! It is not unusual to see cats well in their teens or older! Some small breeds of dogs can also live well into their teens.
What can you do as a pet owner to help your pet a live longer, better life? In my opinion, there are three extremely important factors to helping pets live longer. First and foremost, it begins with feeding a good quality senior diet. I am a firm believer that the quality of our pet's food is an important factor in our pet's longevity. Senior diets are balanced to meet the changing nutritional requirements of our older pets. They are made to alleviate stress on kidney function, meet decreasing caloric needs, and help joint and brain function. Many of our senior pets also require special prescription diets to manage different diseases, such as diabetes, so please feel free to contact us and we can help you choose the best diet for your beloved dog or cat.
Senior diets are balanced to meet the changing nutritional requirements of our older pets. They are made to alleviate stress on kidney function, meet decreasing caloric needs, and help joint and brain function.
Dental care is the third factor in helping our pets live longer, healthier lives. As mentioned in our dental health blog, dental disease can affect the whole body and decrease a pet's overall quality of life. Dogs and cats that receive annual dental cleanings not only have better breath, but they also tend to lose less teeth over their lifetime, have less systemic disease and live longer lives. So let your pets enjoy a daily dental chew, brush their teeth, and bring them in for an annual dental cleaning!
Finally, your biggest responsibility as a pet owner is recognizing when there is a problem! Don’t just assume that your dog or kitty isn’t playing anymore because “they are old.” Here are some signs that it is time to bring your fur-baby to come see us:
Lastly, there are a few easy ways to increase your senior pet's quality life of at home. Provide a soft comfortable bed, feed a good quality senior diet, keep fresh water daily, and start monitoring water consumption. For dogs in particular, if your floors are “slick” tile or wood, consider putting down throw rugs to help your pet keep their footing. For cats, limit distractions such as loud noises and commotion, which can make older cats fearful of getting hurt. Most of all, bring your pet in for regular check ups and maintain good communication with our staff and doctors. Together we can help you help your pet make the most of their golden years!
Dr. Murray, Dr. Burns, and Dr. Morgan will share some of their knowledge on subjects that most pet owners have questions about!