By Langley Cornwell
Everyone who shares their life with a dog or a cat wishes their pet would live longer. Even so, with advances in veterinary medicine companion animals are living longer than ever before. This increased lifespan is a wonderful thing, but because pets are living longer they can become afflicted with certain ailments that younger pets are not susceptible to. It’s the same thing we humans face; as we age, our bodies and minds change. Advancing into our golden years will mean a different type of medical attention for most of us. Your pet will need a different type of medical attention as well.
For your pets, aging may bring on osteoarthritis, mobility changes, weight gain, heart, kidney, and liver disease, benign or cancerous tumors, hormonal conditions such as thyroid imbalance and diabetes, and other things. Because of these possibilities, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends that you prepare to modify some of the activities you currently enjoy doing with your pets. As your senior pet starts to slow down, you have to adapt. Also, it will be necessary to work with your veterinarian to stay on top of your pet’s changing conditions and adjust their lifestyle to accommodate the aging process.
When does ‘old age’ start?
For dogs, small breeds usually live longer than large breeds, and cats generally live longer than dogs. Some dogs are considered middle to senior aged when they reach around 7 years of age. And some cats are considered middle to senior aged when they reach about 10 years of age. It really varies with each individual animal.
How will I know my pet is approaching ‘senior’ status, and what should I do about it?
Physical changes: As your pet’s body ages, physical changes will naturally occur. Some of the changes are easy enough to deal with, but a common problem that’s difficult to manage is inappropriate urinating. With both cats and dogs, the kidneys are one of the most common organs to lose function. As well trained as your pet may be, they may not be able to control where or when they eliminate as they get older. Do not scold your pet, but take notice and call your vet immediately. Incontinence or excessive urination can indicate diabetes and/or kidney failure, and both of these conditions are treatable with early detection.