Kittens and puppies get lots of attention and rightfully so. But there is no deeper love than that between a guardian and their senior pet. Whether we’ve watched them grow and transition through the phases of their life or they came into ours at a later age and we appreciate that they’ve “seen some things” in their previous years, older pets are incredible creatures worth every ounce of attention the youngins get.
What is a “senior?”
While there is no set number and even some difference of opinion among veterinarians, it is generally agreed that a senior dog is between five and seven, perhaps a little older for smaller dogs and cats reach that title by ten.
10 is the new 4: healthy aging
The best medicine is prevention. A healthy weight is vital for pets of all ages but obesity can be especially problematic for senior pets with the added stress on joints and aging organs. The infographic to the right, courtesy of PetSmart, is a good starting point for evaluating your pet’s body condition. Nutrition is extremely important and studies indicate pets may benefit from supplements such as glucosamine for joints, antioxidants that slow many aging processes, and making adjustments to their diet to fulfill their specific needs. Just like humans, pets of all species age a little differently from one another and it is their guardian’s task to pick up on the sometimes subtle cues that there may be a change or special need. To that end, having a great relationship with your vet is helpful. Regular checkups are essential and in addition to measuring your pet’s health, your vet will be happy to provide advice on what to look for and preventative measures.
Generally speaking, vets have several additional recommendations for senior pet owners. While it may seem counter-intuitive, mild exercise is very important for countless reasons. If mobility is a challenge for your senior, consider low-impact alternatives such as water therapy. Protein requirements generally remain about the same according to recent studies but your pet may not require as many calories as s/he once did. Finally, lots of TLC! Extra grooming and activities such as teeth brushing are not only ways to tell your pet you care but are vital home checks for potential problems such as growths, tumors, and new sensitivities.
Why we love ’em
Senior pets have life figured out. They’ve been with us so long, we feel like we can have life conversations with them. Even being older, they keep us on our toes and encourage us to be better pet parents.
So for all you readers with senior pets, give them an extra pat on the head and treat from us because we know how awesome they are!