Geriatric Pet Care – 12 Things You Should Know
Pets age much faster than we do. Some pet experts suggest that pets age about 7 years for every one of our years. However, this can vary with the species and especially with the size or breed of dogs. As a general rule, the larger the breed or size of the dog, the shorter the life span. For example, in a study of lifespans, only 13% of giant breed dogs lived to be over 10 years old. Conversely, 38% of small breed dogs live to be over 10 years of age.
The life span of indoor cats can be 13 – 18 years and indoor/outdoor cats 8 to 13 years. Small breed dogs (<20 pounds) commonly live into their teens while large and breed dogs more commonly live 8 to 12 years.
As a general rule, cats and small dogs are considered senior when over the age of 8 to 10 and large breed dogs over the age of 7 and giant breeds over the age of 6 years.
When your dog or cat is senior, make sure they have a senior check-up every 6 months to a year. The aging process affects every organ. Some organs wear out faster than others, so certain observations are especially important. Most diseases diagnosed early can be more successfully treated or even cured.
The following is a list of 11 recommendations that we feel are important for older dogs and cats:
- Keep vaccinations current. It is especially important to prevent contagious diseases such as respiratory disease in senior pets. Common respiratory infections that cause only mild symptoms in young pets can lead to pneumonia in senior pets.
- Brush your pet frequently to the haircoat from matting. Some pets groom less as they age. Brushing or combing your cat also prevents hairball in cats. The Furminator® is an excellent deshedding tool that works extremely well in cats and dogs with an undercoat. (link to online store?)
- Clip toenails as needed to prevent overgrowth. Older pets are often less active and don’t wear their nails down like they did in their younger years.
- Keep plenty of fresh clean water available at all times. Provide fresh water twice daily and wash the bowls in the dishwasher at least weekly.
- Monitor your pet’s water consumption. Increased thirst can be signs of disease such as kidney disease or diabetes. Dogs normally drink 20 to 40 milliliters per pound of body weight per day, or about 3 to 4 cups of water per day for a 20-pound dog. Anything more than that, under normal environmental conditions, is considered too much.
- Keep your pet indoors most of the time, especially in inclement weather. Senior pets are less likely to regulate their temperatures during extremes of heat and cold.
- Weigh your pet monthly. When you see your pet every day, it is difficult to notice gradual weight changes. By weighing monthly, this can allow you to see problems early. The most accurate way to weight small dogs and cats is to weigh yourself with your pet then weigh yourself and subtract. For large dogs, come in to our clinic and get a weight.
- Monitor your pets breath and oral health. Dental disease is a common problem of older dogs and cats. A common sign is bad breath. Untreated dental and gum disease can be painful and cause severe infections. Many dental problems are easily treated in senior pets with a dental cleaning. (hyperlink to dental cleaning)
- Feed a good quality grain free diet. There are numerous quality foods that we recommend. Call us or visit Village Pet Market which is located next door our clinic. We often have some free samples.
- Keep your pet on flea prevention, heartworm prevention and tick control medication. Senior pets are susceptible to all the same problems of young dogs but the diseases or infestation can be even harder on them in their senior years. Please ask us what prevention medication we recommend for your pet based on his or her risk factors.
- Monitor your dog or cat for the following health changes and schedule an appointment with us at the first sign of problems. Signs you should monitor for include:
- Increases in water consumption
- Increases in urination frequency or straining
- Weight loss or gain
- Decreased appetite or failure to eat for more than 2 consecutive days
- Repeated vomiting
- Increased appetite with weight loss or gain
- Straining to defecate
- Changes in housebreaking habits
- Difficulty jumping up or going up or down stairs
- Lameness that lasts more than 1 day or in more than one leg
- Bad breath
- Increase in the size of the abdominal size
- Red painful eyes, squinting or rubbing at the eyes
- Tumors or, masses or lumps that are new
- Skin ulcers, open sores or scabs
- Lethargy or increased time sleeping
- Abnormal hair loss
- Excessive panting
- Trouble chewing or swallowing food
- Restlessness, panting with unproductive vomiting or retching (dogs)
- Vision problems
- Urinating outside the litterbox (cats)
Let us help. We are here to help you keep your senior pet as healthy and happy for as long as possible. To schedule an appointment, please call Granville Veterinary Clinic at 740-587-1129.
Additional References for Senior Dogs and Cats
Here is some additional information we thought might be helpful to you and your senior pets.
14 common disorders of senior dogs
Commonly asked questions about senior dogs
Feeding your senior dog
Commonly asked questions about senior cats
10 common disorders of senior cats
Feeding your senior cat
Homemade treats for senior cats