Slowin’ Down: Understanding the Changes of Senior Pet Care

A golden retriever sits in a red toy wagon. Proper senior pet care is vital to ensure a long and healthy life for your furry friends.

Thanks to improved owner involvement, top-notch nutrition, and advances in veterinary care, pets are living longer than ever before. While pets are considered “seniors” when they reach the age of 6 or 7 years old, they may not act or look “old” until much later in life. 

Even when it’s obvious they’ve entered their golden years, many senior pets are still able to do the things they’ve always enjoyed, like hiking, playing with the kids, or jumping up into their cat tree. However, because pets age faster than we do, a proactive approach to senior pet care is essential.

Moving Down the Line

Pet owners are unlikely to miss their pet’s greying muzzle or unsteady gait. The aging process seems to start slowly, but by the time we see physical changes it’s possible that a senior pet already feels aches and pains or suffers from age-related health conditions. 

As a result, we recommend increasing a pet’s routine wellness visits from once a year to twice annually (every 6 months). The opportunity to stay in front of any developing illness may lead to effective (and possibly less expensive) treatment. Diagnostic testing can screen for:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Deafness/blindness
  • Periodontal disease

Together we can build a treatment plan that elevates senior pet care and helps to ensure a long, healthy life with less pain.

Dental Details

A majority of pets over the age of 3 years old have the signs of periodontal disease. If they’ve never received dental care, a senior pet may have advanced signs of dental problems, such as broken or missing teeth, gum infections, and severe sensitivity.

A major facet of senior pet care is upholding or maintaining their dental hygiene. Brushing their teeth at home 1-2 times a week is very helpful, but professional dental cleaning under anesthesia (along with full sets of x-rays) gives us a full understanding of what’s happening in their mouth. Poor dental health can cause disease in the kidneys, heart, and liver. 

Use It or Lose It

Keeping your pet fit and active is necessary for their mental and physical wellness. It may seem counterintuitive to work out with an aging, arthritic pet, but if they don’t exercise regularly their condition is likely to worsen.

A daily walk is the perfect form of exercise for an older pet. Provide breaks and stay close to home so you can return if you notice they are struggling to keep up. 

What’s In the Bowl?

Aging pets have different nutritional needs than younger animals. Finding food that your pet not only likes to eat, but also adds value to their changing dietary requirements isn’t always straightforward or easy. Some senior pets need a prescription that supports kidney function or urinary tract health, but it can take time for them to adjust to their new food. 

Senior Pet Care for Many Years

It can be emotionally difficult to watch an aging pet lose some of their functions. However, since you know them so well you can advocate for their changing needs. Always watch for any shifts in behavior and take note of the following:

  • Changes in coat quality or appearance
  • Overgrooming
  • Lameness or limping
  • Sudden changes in activity level
  • Sore mouth, dropping food or inappetence
  • Abrupt weight changes
  • Increased thirst

If you have any questions or concerns regarding senior pet care, we hope you’ll let us know. Our staff is always here for you at Berkeley Veterinary Center.

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