Is your dog or cat showing signs of aging?
Aging in dogs and cats brings about many new changes and adjusting to these changes can be challenging for both owner and pet. Generally speaking, a small breed dog is considered senior at around 11 years old, a medium breed at 7-10 years, and larger breeds at 6-8. A cat can show signs of aging as early as 7, but 11 years old is usually considered senior.
Since there is no universal age for a dog or cat to be labeled “senior,” you should keep your eye out for signs that they are entering their mature years. Many of these signs are similar to those in humans. We’ll give you four examples of signs of aging you may notice and offer solutions for each.
Sign: “Fluffy doesn’t like her food anymore.”
One of the signs of aging in dogs and cats is when their regular food is no longer appealing. Just as in humans, as they age, their tastes change. They can also begin to lose some of their senses like taste and smell. Another factor affecting their eating habits can be related to aches and pains. Joint issues, especially in older large breed dogs, are quite common. If you’re in pain and don’t feel good, you may not feel like eating. In some cases, the pain may be directly associated with their mouth/teeth. If this is the case, their regular kibble may be too large or too hard to eat without causing some discomfort.
Switching to a specifically-formulated senior dog or cat food may help greatly. Exclusive Signature Senior and Diamond Naturals Senior dog foods are formulated with the older dog in mind. They have added glucosamine and chondroitin to help their bones and joints and are more palatable for the senior dog. The kibble is also in a small “cheerio” form that breaks apart for easier chewing. There are senior cat foods as well, including Iams Healthy Senior. It includes L-carnitine to help your kitty maintain a healthy weight and has antioxidants for a healthy immune system.
Sign: “Max has really bad breath and has difficulty chewing his food.”
It’s vital that your pet’s oral health be maintained to prevent diseases of the mouth and for its overall well-being. Bad breath can indicate the build-up of plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth. Periodontal disease in a dog or cat’s mouth may not only affect their oral health, but the bacteria can travel to their bloodstream.
If you are able, you can actually brush the teeth of your pet using a toothpaste specifically made for them. For some pets, attempting to brush their teeth may be more trouble than it’s worth, but there are alternatives. There are probiotics made in a powder form that can be sprinkled on your pet’s food in order to reinforce the positive bacteria in your pet’s mouth. Tomlyn makes these products for cats and dogs. There are also treats, like Diamond Checkups and Greenies, that are designed to brush away plaque and tartar.
Sign: “Fido has trouble going up and downstairs.”
As mentioned, joint issues can increase as we age. In addition to the pain, they may begin to get weaker and more unsure of themselves when navigating stairs or uneven terrain. You may also notice that they are less mobile and get worn out after a long or vigorous walk, especially in the mornings. Arthritis is common in older cats, so you might notice that your feline has trouble climbing or jumping.
In addition to senior foods, there are also treats that have a higher level of glucosamine to help with hip and joint issues. You can also find pet CBD oil to help assuage the pain. It is important to adjust your dog or cat’s exercise routine in these situations. It is best to go on multiple short walks instead of long ones.
Also, remember to put their food and water in a place that is accessible without having to navigate stairs. If you have multiple floors in your house, consider putting a food/water bowl and litter box on each level. Give them a warm place to rest in an area that is free from drafts and has sides that they can easily step over. You could also invest in a heated pet mat to make them more comfortable.
Sign: “Rover is having more accidents and Roxie is straining when she goes.”
Increased urination and urinary incontinence could be signs of kidney infection or urinary tract infections. If your pet is going to the bathroom more often, can’t seem to control their bladder, or has trouble urinating, these may be signs of aging or other medical problems.
You should always consult your vet if you notice these issues, in case of a more serious condition. One of the things you can do to help is to encourage them to drink more water. Cats, especially, prefer drinking fresh water and will drink more from a Pet Drinking Fountain that has a filter and constantly moving water. If you are going to be gone for a long period of time, leave some puppy pads down for your dog.
These are only some of the signs that your pet may be entering its senior years. Others may include hearing loss, behavioral changes, unusual bumps or lumps, changes in sleep patterns, or cognitive impairment. Some of these cannot be remedied, but many of them can be made more bearable. Talk to your veterinarian about viable solutions; otherwise, you can at least make your senior dog or cat more comfortable.
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