November is National Senior Pet Month!
With the advancement and growth of veterinary medicine, funding, and research over the past few decades, our pets are living longer, healthier, and happier lives than ever before. Caring for our senior pets is a gift but it also means we should be aware of normal aging and changes.
The age at which a dog or cat is considered senior is dependent on the species, size and the breed.
Though each pet ages differently, the following is a general guideline to help you determine when your pet may be considered a senior:
- Cats: > 10 years of age
- Dogs > 50 pounds: > 8 years of age
- Dogs < 50 pounds: > 10 years of age
As your pet gets older, their healthcare requirements will have to change to adapt to their new needs. Older pets may need to visit the vet more often than younger pets to check for any new or follow up on chronic medical conditions.
Early detection and treatment are key to addressing many of the diseases and health issues that arise as our pets age. Management of conditions such as arthritis, dental disease, kidney disease and many others are most successful when diagnosed early.
Physical Signs of Aging in Cats and Dogs
• Graying eyes & muzzle
• Stiffness in movement
• Lack of endurance
•In addition to the physical symptoms of growing old, cognitive function begins to decline in the later years.
Cognitive Signs of Aging in Cats and Dogs
• Inappropriate vocalization
• Disruption of wake/sleep cycles or rhythms
• Difficulty sleeping altogether
• Increased anxiety, phobias, and fears
• Increased aggression
• Hearing loss
• Disorientation (For example, your older pet may get “stuck” in corners, seemingly unable to figure his way out)
Why Adopt a senior pet
Many people are reluctant to adopt older adult dogs and cats, so they tend to experience longer stays in shelters and are at higher risk of euthanasia.
“One misconception older animals suffer from is that they are in shelters because of their destructive or bad behavior. Though this is far from the truth, there are many reasons why a pet would end up in a shelter. Many of these senior pets were once someone’s faithful companions. Changing home circumstances, financial restrictions, death, or relocation can have adverse effects on a pet’s life. These pets have much to offer, and they are usually adaptable. Younger pets can be adorable, but they also demand a lot of attention and can be destructive and very hard work to keep up with. Usually, an older pet can easily fit into your lifestyle and adapt well to a loving new home.” ~ NationalToday.com
Senior pets may have already been through a lot of the hard work associated with training. Whether it’s getting a cat used to the litter box, or teaching a dog basic commands — you may find you don’t need to put in the same amount of effort and time as with a younger pet. And remember, you can teach an old dog new tricks, and with a bit of patience they could be giving you high fives or rolling over, in no time.
Unlike puppies and kittens of an unknown breed — which can grow to be bigger than expected — with a senior dog you know what size pet you’re getting.
Adult dogs and cats are often more mature and have outgrown many of their bad puppy/ kitten habits. While a senior pet will keep you company and cuddle up to you on the sofa, their activity level often won’t be as high as that of a bouncy puppy or kitten. Many older pets are still young at heart, but have a calmer, more relaxed manner than their younger counterparts.
This means your new companion may need fewer walks and shorter play times, which could be less disruptive to your lifestyle.
Consider a senior pet in your life, they have so much left to give because you’re never too old to love and be loved in return!