Senior pets are wonderful companions, and caring for them can be extremely rewarding. Whether you’re considering adopting a senior pet, or your pet is showing signs of aging, you should be aware of what to expect when caring for a senior pet.
When is a pet considered “senior”?
It depends on the breed of your pet, but most cats and small dogs become “senior” when they reach seven years of age. Larger dogs typically have shorter lifespans, so they tend to reach senior status a bit earlier, at six years old. Other factors that may influence the aging process include your pet’s diet and exercise routine, genetic history, and exposure to stressful environments.
Expect more frequent trips to the veterinarian
Many owners only take their pet to see the vet once a year. However, once your pet reaches senior status, most veterinarians recommend scheduling appointments semi-annually. Senior pets need more thorough exams due to their increased risk of age-related diseases. Some common health problems vets look for are arthritis, cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes. Veterinarians can also update your pet’s vaccinations, if needed.
Your senior pet’s dietary and nutritional needs will change
When your pet reaches old age, expect their diet to change. Animals, like people, grow more sluggish as they get older. Aging increases their risk of developing obesity and weight-related health issues. That is why professionals recommend diets low in calories and high in fiber for senior pets. If your pet refuses to eat, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to check for potential underlying health problems. Overall, make sure that your furry friend is getting the nutrients they need, as well as plenty of water for hydration.
Expect to make changes at home when caring for your senior pet
When caring for your senior pet, expect to make tweaks to their environment. They may not know it, but senior pets are much slower and less agile than they were as puppies and kittens. This means that they are more likely to slip on wet surfaces, fall down stairs, or have trouble jumping onto the sofa for cuddle time. If your dog slept upstairs before, now it might be safer to move their bed downstairs to avoid falls. Senior pets might also experience trouble getting into cars and traveling from place to place. Luckily, small staircases and ramps can be purchased at pet supply stores.
Give your senior pet plenty of love
You may have gone on hikes with your pup, or played with toys for hours with your kitten in the past. Now that your pet is older, spending time together won’t be as physically active as it used to be. Even though your senior pet is slower, they still need your love and affection. The way you spend time together will change, but the bond between you and your senior pet will remain strong. All pets, no matter what stage of life they are in, need love to reduce stress and anxiety.
Still have questions about senior pet care? Check out these Frequently Asked Questions from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Want to adopt a senior dog or cat? Visit getyourpet.com to browse adoptable pets near you.