Pet Care Tips for Older PetsBy Sam Weeks | December 14, 2020
As a beloved member of the family, the health and wellbeing of your pet is no doubt very important to you. This is particularly true as they grow older and their health needs become more complex.
Elderly pets require specialist nutritional care, exercise programs and regular vet check-ups to ensure that they remain happy and healthy in their senior years.
At Vets on Call, we understand that the needs of older pets are different to those of kittens and puppies. We are with you every step of your pet’s journey, providing dedicated, professional pet care — right up until their point of passing.
What is the lifespan of my pet?
The lifespan of a pet varies dramatically depending on their size and species.
In general, the average lifespan of a domestic cat is 15 years old however they can live into their 20s. Some Siamese and Manx breeds are known to live up to 30 years. Mixed breed cats tend to live longer than their purebred counterparts and an indoor cat is far less susceptible to environmental dangers (pests, weather conditions and cars) than one who lives primarily outdoors.
The average lifespan of a dog can be anywhere from 7 to 14 years. Small dogs tend to live longer than larger breeds and the care provided in terms of exercise, nutrition and hygiene all play an important role in prolonging the life of your dog.
The nutritional needs of cats and dogs change rapidly as they age. Once your pet celebrates their seventh birthday, it is recommended that they transition to a senior pet food, which will have a specific combination of protein and fats. The choice of food is very important to maintain muscle, and support digestive and urinary tract health.
Older pets tend to have less energy and should ideally be on a low-calorie diet to reduce the risk of them becoming overweight.
Exercise is an important element of pet care for puppies and kittens, as well as older cats and dogs. Whilst an older pet may tire more easily, you should still engage them in play-based activities to maintain muscle and joint health, improve mental alertness and provide quality bonding time.
Older dogs should go on regular, gentle walks. Be prepared to take rest stops and go at a slower pace than what you may be used to. Swimming is also an excellent form of exercise as it puts less strain on joints.
Common geriatric conditions
There are a number of common ailments that tend to plague older pets. Whilst these are not always serious, without immediate treatment from a vet you risk a small problem turning into a life-threatening issue.
As they age, you can expect your pet to develop the following conditions:
Most older animals will develop arthritis, particularly those who are large or overweight. Symptoms of arthritis include slowness and stiffness, difficulty going up and down stairs and a noticeable change in personality. Arthritis can be managed through a combination of nutritional, exercise and environmental changes as well as medication offered by your vet.
Diabetes in pets is relatively common and affects animals in much the same way that it does humans. Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, lethargy and bad breath. Most animals with diabetes will require insulin injections once or twice a day as well as regular vet appointments for blood glucose monitoring.
Cats are particularly susceptible to chronic kidney disease, which manifests through increased thirst, weight loss, mouth ulcers and bad breath. Cats can compensate for the slow loss of kidney function over many months (even years) and by the time the underlying issue is picked up, it may be too late. It is recommended that you monitor your cat closely for any signs of dehydration or discomfort and contact your vet (who can run a range of tests) should you believe anything is amiss.
Liver disease is quite common in older dogs and affects a canine’s ability to digest food and remove toxins from their system. The symptoms of liver disease include weight loss, vomiting, an unstable walk and general confusion. Liver malfunction is serious but can be treated through diet changes, antibiotics and supplements.
Many pet owners are faced with the difficult decision of having to euthanize their four-legged companion. As hard as this is, euthenasia is often the most humane option for sick animals and allows your pet to pass peacefully, without pain.
Vets on Call understands how stressful and upsetting this process can be. Our at-home euthenasia service allows you to say goodbye to your beloved pet in the comfort of your own home, surrounded by family and friends.
Our professional vets are on-hand to provide expert knowledge, advice and treatment options for your pet, at all stages of their life. Vets on Call’s easy-to-download app delivers high-quality house call vets, right to your door and allows you to access your pet’s complete health history at any time. Contact us today to book an appointment or find out more.