Senior Pets Have Special Needs


Dr. Julie Schell  BSc(Hons), DVM, CVA, CVCHM, CVC

Pets speed through their life stages, much faster than humans.  One year to a human is equivalent to 5 years in a dog or cat.  Because of this fast aging process, senior pets have special needs.  They definitely need to be examined by your veterinarian every 6 months, twice yearly.  This is to help diagnose and cure health issues that they may have before it’s too late.

Did you know that most large-breed dogs are considered seniors at 7 years of age?  Cats are considered to be seniors when they are 10 years old.

Senior dogs and cats are at a greater risk for conditions affecting the heart, kidney, and liver.  They are also more susceptible to arthritis, cancers, thyroid disorders and diabetes.  Through twice-yearly thorough physical consultations as well as blood and urine analyses and blood pressure monitoring, your veterinarian is able to identify animals that appear clinically ‘normal’ but may be developing early signs of organ dysfunction.  Animals unfortunately cannot tell us when they are in pain or discomfort. This is why it is important to be pro-active so that diseases can be identified early.  By diagnosing and treating medical problems before your pet becomes sick, longevity and quality of life will be improved.

Quality nutrition is also very important for senior pets.  They generally have a lower metabolism and thus require fewer calories per day.  They also have a higher risk for cancers and organ problems feeding extra vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals, they are able to be more resistant against these diseases.  Your veterinarian will help you choose a food that meets the needs of senior pets.

Joint supplements such as glucosamine HCl and omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce the signs and discomfort associated with age-related arthritis.  Regular exercise and keeping your pet at his or her ideal weight will help prevent wear and tear on he joints and therefore decrease arthritis.  Acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, massage and essential oil therapy are also excellent ways of keeping joints mobile and strong, thus decreasing injury.

Elevating food and water bowls to prevent excess strain on their neck or front legs while eating or drinking is helpful.   Non-slip flooring is also helpful- such as a yoga mat in high traffic areas and in from of their food and water.

Comfortable bedding is also helpful at decreasing joint pain.  Check out the Kuranda Bed- it is like a low lying hammock for dogs and cats and I find that they truly enjoy them: 

Senility, otherwise known as cognitive dysfunction has been documented in dogs.  As their brain ages, dogs can be more prone to behavior changes such as house-soiling, lack of response to verbal or visual cues, sleeping more during the day and less at night, pacing, staring into space or the walls and seeking less attention.  Your veterinarian can help you determine if these behaviors are due to age change or if they are caused by underlying diseases that can be treated.

Dental care cannot be encouraged enough.  Senior pets who have not had regular dental cleanings throughout their life are especially susceptible to disease.  Resistance to disease in seniors is not as good as it was when the pet was younger.  The healthier your pet’s mouth is, the less chance that bad bacteria will migrate from the mouth to other organs.

Advances in veterinary care help pets live longer, happier lives.  Don’t let your pet be a stranger to your veterinarian- bring them at least twice yearly for physical examinations.  Early detection and correction of illness is important.  For more information, please contact your veterinarian and visit websites such as and


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