As pets age, their health care needs change. Senior pets’ health care needs are different from those of younger cats and dogs. Therefore, to maintain a good quality of life for years to come, senior pets often require additional support. To help make your senior pet’s golden years some of their happiest and healthiest, follow our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of La Marque team’s four health care tips.

At what age is a pet considered a senior?

The age at which a pet is considered to be a senior varies by species, size, and breed. Cats 10 years of age and older are generally considered senior, but dogs’ senior status is more nuanced. Larger dog breeds tend to have shorter life spans than smaller dog breeds. Therefore, a dog is considered a senior when they reach the last 25 % of their breed’s estimated lifespan. Using this formula, dogs may be considered seniors at the following ages:

  • Small and toy breeds (less than 20 pounds):  8 to 11 years
  • Medium-sized breeds (20 to 50 pounds): 8 to 10 years 
  • Large breeds (50 to 90 pounds): 8 to 9 years
  • Giant breeds (more than 90 pounds): 6 to 7 years

4 Ways To Support Your Senior Pet

When you adopt your pet, you are responsible for providing them with lifelong love and ensuring they receive necessary veterinary care throughout their life. Regardless of the age at which they become a senior, support your aging pet by following these tips:

#1: Prioritize your senior pet’s veterinary wellness care

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends senior pet wellness visits every 6 months. Twice-a-year preventive care tailored to your pet’s age, breed, lifestyle, and other factors can help prevent common age-related diseases, and enables your veterinarian to detect health issues at an early and easily treatable stage. As your pet ages, so does their risk for illnesses that threaten their health and quality of life, including:

  • Cancer 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Cognitive dysfunction 

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination at your four-legged friend’s routine visit. In addition, your senior pet’s wellness exam will include the following preventive screening tests:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)  — A CBC measures the blood’s cellular and liquid components, including red and white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin, and plasma. A CBC can detect anemia, inflammation, stress, infection, clotting or bleeding disorders, and dehydration.
  • Biochemistry profile (i.e., chemistry) — A chemistry provides critical information about your pet’s organ function. For senior pets, kidney and liver function, blood glucose, electrolyte, and serum protein levels are especially important to monitor. 
  • Urinalysis — To find out additional information regarding your pet’s filtering organs (i.e., the kidneys and liver), your veterinarian will evaluate your furry pal’s urine. Urinalysis can indicate urinary tract inflammation, infection, or crystals, as well as detect dehydration. 
  • Thyroid — The thyroid gland controls your pet’s metabolic rate, and this gland can malfunction as your pet ages. Thyroid hormone level changes can explain sudden changes in your senior pet’s body weight, energy, overall appearance, and recurring skin issues. 

#2: Maintain your senior pet’s healthy weight 

Obesity is a significant problem for all pets, and as your pet ages, their risk of becoming overweight or obese increases. Extra pounds can add a significant amount of stress to your pet’s joints, and worsen mild joint problems. Diet and exercise are essential to ensure your pet maintains a healthy weight. A pet’s metabolism slows as they age, and they usually require fewer calories than they did in their younger years. Consult with your veterinarian about your senior pet’s dietary needs. In addition, help keep your pet mobile by encouraging them to exercise each day. To ensure you avoid overworking your senior pet’s weak muscles or arthritic joints, ask your veterinarian to recommend appropriate exercises that can help keep your pet moving.

#3: Brush your senior pet’s teeth

By 3 years of age, 80% of pets show periodontal disease signs, so you must make dental care an essential part of your senior pet’s regular health care routine. Plaque and tartar accumulation below the gumline cause dental disease—a progressive oral condition. Hidden bacteria damage a tooth’s supporting structures, causing a pet to experience pain, infection, and inflammation, and ultimately leading to bone and tooth loss. In severe cases, bacteria enter the bloodstream, permanently damaging the kidneys, liver, and heart muscle. If your senior pet has bad breath or tartar accumulation, dental pain may be affecting their quality of life, despite them exhibiting a normal appetite. Daily toothbrushing and regular professional veterinary dental cleanings are critical to stopping dental disease from progressing and causing painful problems.

#4: Keep your senior pet’s mind sharp 

To live their best life, your senior pet needs more than physical exercise—their mind needs stimulation too. Similar to people, senior pets can suffer from declining cognitive function, and they need regular mental stimulation to stay sharp as they age. Keep your senior pet engaged by following these tips:

  • Teach your senior pet a new trick or command. 
  • Feed your senior pet using a puzzle feeder.
  • Hide treats throughout your home for your senior pet to find.
  • Explore a new neighborhood or nature trail with your senior pet. 
  • Provide interactive toys, and play with your senior pet daily. 

Ensure your senior pet receives the high-quality veterinary care they need to get the most out of their golden years. Schedule your senior pet’s wellness exam with our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of La Marque team.