Senior Pet Months by Dr. Dave Kerr

October and November are months in which we celebrate senior pets. As our pets age they go through phases of life just like we do. Infants (puppies and kittens) grow quickly from total reliance on their mother for all their needs and become partially self sufficient by six months of age. Adolescents continue to grow but at a slower rate and can have puppies or kittens or their own around 10-11 months of age. Adults have finished growing and are typically around 16 months of age and remain adults for many years. Pets are considered senior when they enter the last quarter of the predicted life span for their species and breed. This is the time when their bodies are starting to slow down, they don’t have as much stamina and they are generally more laid back.

As mentioned, the senior label is determined by the breed and expected lifespan for that breed. Different breeds of dogs and cats different life spans. Smaller dogs and cats tend to live longer reaching senior ages at 9-10 years. Medium to large sized dogs – Labradors, Shetland Sheep dogs and German Shepherds become seniors closer to 8 years of age. Giant breeds like Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes and Mastifs have shorter lifespans and can be considered seniors as early as 6 years old.

When cats and dogs become seniors often but, certainly not always, they start showing signs of aging. They are more prone to the achy joints caused by arthritis, eyesight and sometimes hearing diminishes and internal organs don’t function as well as they used to. Many senior dogs and cats are less active which can lead to weight gain and that causes more problems with sore joints.

Senior dogs and cats need special care to allow them to live in comfort for as long as they can. Dietary changes may need to be made to reduce calories, help prevent soreness in joints and help deal with potential liver and kidney issues. Yearly blood tests allow early detection of internal issues and biyearly examinations show up lumps, bumps and other issues that can be a worry. Simple things like leaving a night light on to help with vision, using hand signals when hearing is diminished and putting carpet on slippery steps to aid unsteady legs all improve the quality of life in senior pets.

Senior pets are special. Recognizing the senior life stage allows us to prevent potential problems that can occur as our pets age. Pets considered seniors need special care and attention to keep them healthy and active in the family for as long as possible. Your Labrador being only seven years of age is not yet a senior. When his next birthday arrives, that is the time to talk to us at North Hill Animal Hospital about special considerations for your young at heart but not-so-young in body best friend.