Caring for a Senior Pet

September 19, 2011
Happy Dog At The Old Swimming Hole

Just as with humans, improved health care has meant an increased life span for dogs and cats. Along with aging come frequent minor health concerns. Follow these tips on caring for an older pet to head off serious problems.

Provide Your Pet With:

  • Regular checkups—at least once a year—from middle age on. For dogs, that's from around seven years of age, and earlier for the big breeds. Cats reach middle age between eight and ten years.
  • Daily exercise
  • Weight Control
  • Extra fiber
  • Healthy snacks
  • Supplemental diet
  • Antioxidants
  • Plenty of water
  • Finally, keep aging pets close to home and by your side. If they are losing their hearing, you don't want them running out into traffic or other dangerous situations. Help children understand that aging pets may get cranky.

When should you bring an older pet to the vet?

If you notice any of these abnormalcies, it's time to consult with a professional.

  • A lump or bump
  • Shortness of breath
  • An appetite change
  • Weight loss
  • Drinking a lot of water
  • Scratching and digging at the skin

Your Dog Can Get Alzheimer's

Dogs can lose mental functioning as they age, much as humans do. While some loss is normal, other cognitive problems could be signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CD). The symptoms and behavioral changes of CD are caused by histolic lesions in the brain, very similar to the type found in people with Alzheimer's. CD strikes dogs that are age seven or older.

Common Symptoms of CD:

  • Disorientation
  • Lack of response to familiar verbal cues, such as their name or calls from usual family members
  • Loss of house-training skills
  • Sleep disruption

Medications for CD are available. As with Alzheimer's researchers are learning more about this syndrome every day.


The Old Farmer's Almanac Pet Lover's Companion

Reader Comments

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What to do?

Our rescue Pit Bull is 13 and over weight. It's difficult for him to get around, much less go for a long walk for exercise (and he doesn't like the water). I'm at a loss for ideas as to how to get his weight down. Any ideas?

Overweight 13 year old rescue dog

My 12 yr old Chihuahua was on kibble at vets recommendation his whole life. Got neutered at age 9 due to he needed dental surgery so I relented and had him neutered. He got overweight within a year. Several more dental surgeries later switched him to HONEST KITCHEN dehydrated grain free whole food (not raw) April of this year- he lost weight (went from 14.8 in april to 13.5 in july). Make him bone broth and give him TOTAL BIOTICS probiotic. More energy. Is like a new dog. Highly recommend Honest Kitchen. Tip: hydrate the food with very hot water. And ideally for several hours or make night before- needs more than a few minutes.

RE: What to do?

My pit-bull mix is 11 and also overweight with arthritis. Luckily he still loves taking walks and playing with his toys!
Try gentle massage to help with muscle stiffness/mobility issues and gradually work your way up to longer walks and more activity. Your dog may be in pain (arthritis is just as common in dogs as in people) and may benefit from a daily, low-dose doggy pain reliever (I give mine half of a doggy aspirin daily and a whole one on rainy days--check with your vet). You can also try swapping out normal dog treats for cut-up fresh vegetables, such as carrots, sweet red peppers, cucumbers, watermelon.