Thanks to advances in veterinary technology, improved diets, and the love and care of their owners, today's pets enjoy longer lives than those in earlier generations did. They still age at the same rate, with the most rapid aging taking place during the first year of life. A one-year old dog or cat is equivalent to a teenaged person. After the second year of life, they are the same as a young adult. For every year after that, both dogs and cats age the equivalent of four human years.
While the exact age a pet enters her senior years varies by breed, species, and other unique characteristics, it is typically between the ages of seven and 10. When you've had your pet since he was a puppy or kitten, the signs of aging can be subtle and easy to miss. Since your pet can't tell you that she's struggling, it's important to know the common health issues of senior pets so you can recognize and treat them as soon as possible. With proper intervention, your dog or cat can continue to thrive even with several age-related conditions.
Approximately one-third of dogs and cats between 11 and 14 years old suffer some form of cognitive decline. This number jumps to 50 percent for pets ages 15 and older. Behavior problems are often the first indication of a change in brain functioning. Pet parents become frustrated as their dog or cat begins having potty accidents in the house, becomes aggressive, or does things he knows he shouldn't like jumping up on the table.
The normal reaction to the above scenarios is to punish the pet for bad behavior. However, it's likely related to a physical cause rather than intentionally trying to upset you. We encourage you to talk to us about any behavior changes you see at your pet's next check-up.
When your pet has arthritis, she may hesitate to climb stairs or jump, appear stiff, limp, or seem to favor certain limbs over other ones. Arthritis occurs when smooth cartilage that normally protects and covers bones breaks down and wears away. While normal aging is the most frequent cause, arthritis can also occur due to obesity and other health conditions. It's important to rule out all other causes first before we can diagnose and treat the arthritis.
Diabetes is especially common in older and overweight pets. It results from the inability of the pancreas to properly break down food and convert it into energy. As a result, the bloodstream contains excess levels of glucose (sugar). This causes a number of complications, including increased appetite, excessive thirst, weight loss, and excessive urination. Left untreated, pets can experience the same serious consequences of diabetes as humans, including blindness.
It's essential to bring your pet in for testing as soon as you notice any of the symptoms. If we diagnose diabetes, you must commit to daily management of the disease with pills or shots as well as close monitoring of diet and exercise.
We Help Keep Your Older Pet Healthy
The three conditions described above are just some of the common problems of senior pets. Obesity, kidney disease, cancer, and dental disease are also common. Dogs and cats who have reached their senior years should come in for a wellness exam bi-annually rather than annually. Cedar Pet Clinic has two programs suited just for their needs. Please contact us to learn more about our senior wellness plans and our geriatric care program.