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Managing Age-Related Changes in Senior Dogs and Cats

Senior pets have different needs than younger dogs and cats. As your pet gets older, you’ll need to change the way you care for it to keep your pet healthy and comfortable as it ages. These are some of the common issues you’re likely to experience as your pet ages and how you can manage them.

Signs of Aging in Senior Dogs and Cats

small senior dogCats and small- to medium-sized dogs are considered senior around the age of seven. Large-breed dogs reach their senior years earlier, around five or six years. Some age-related changes are obvious, like a graying coat and a slowing gait. Others are more challenging to spot, especially if you don’t know to look for.

Dogs and cats go to great lengths to hide pain and discomfort, so it’s up to their owners to monitor for these signs of aging.

Aging Signs In Cats

  •  Hearing loss.
  • Loss of appetite due to dental disease or decreased sense of smell.
  • Poor grooming habits leading to matting.
  • Difficulty jumping and climbing stairs due to arthritis.
  • Behavioral changes such as disorientation or excessive meowing.
  • Chronic health problems, including kidney failure, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and cancer.

Aging Signs In Dogs

  •  Hearing and vision loss.
  • Urinary incontinence.
  • Dental problems leading to bad breath and loss of appetite.
  • Weight gain.
  • Joint stiffness and reduced activity due to arthritis.
  • Dementia-like behavior changes.
  • Chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney failure, and cancer.


Pet Parent's Guide on How to Help Your Aging Pet

Arthritis in Senior Pets

German Shepherd Wheelchair and friendsThe most noticeable issue senior dogs and cats face is arthritis. Arthritis causes joint pain and stiffness, especially in the mornings or after periods of laying down. Pets with arthritis have trouble with daily activities like walking, playing, and using the litter box.

There’s a lot that pet owners can do to alleviate arthritic discomfort in senior pets. Changes around the home, like raised food dishes, orthopedic pet beds, and pet stairs, are key, as is maintaining a healthy weight. More than half of all dogs and cats in the US are overweight or obese, which worsens arthritis and puts pets at risk of developing other health problems.

Veterinarians may also recommend medication or dietary supplements for an arthritic pet. Glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids are among the supplements that may improve joint health.

Grooming Senior Pets

washing a senior petMobility problems make it harder for senior pets to groom themselves. Hair and skin changes also contribute to issues like dry or oily skin, matting, and odors.

Poor grooming in senior pets can lead to skin infections. Dog and cat owners should increase the frequency of grooming as their pet ages to keep their pet’s skin and coat healthy. Routine brushing and bathing is also an opportunity to check a senior pet for lumps and bumps. Most skin growths in older pets are benign, but some indicate a health problem like cancer, so it’s important to get them checked out.

Nail trimming is equally important for senior pets. Nails grow thick and brittle with age. If not trimmed regularly, nails may grow into the paw pad.

Taking care of your senior pet at home is important, but it’s not all pet owners need to do to keep their aging dogs and cats healthy. Your veterinarian is the expert in your pet’s needs at every stage of life. Schedule wellness checks twice a year to catch problems early and keep your pet happy and healthy for longer.

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