So your puppy isn’t exactly a puppy anymore…now what? Senior status is dependent upon breed and size. Larger breed dogs reach seniority around 6-7 years old while smaller breed dogs and cats reach seniority around 8-9 years old. A general rule of thumb is that your pet is considered senior when they reach half their life expectancy. So what can I do?
There are some changes that are going to be made.
Stairs and ramps may be a soon-to-be purchase. Arthritis is a common process that most pets go through, so you’ll want anything to help ease their hips and elbows and allow them to climb up onto the couch to cuddle with you. Pets still need exercise though, just not as much as they have been getting. Your older pet will be sleeping more and losing muscle tone. Their metabolism slows down but in order to keep them from gaining weight then exercise is still key. This leads me into my next point.
It’s time to switch to a senior diet. When most pet owners ask me when it’s time to switch, it’s the time to switch. Senior formulas have less calories and more fiber; some even have joint supplements. If your pet happens to develop a disease or dysfunction, there are most likely diets out there that will help benefit them. Anything from kidney disease, to diabetes, and gastrointestinal issues. Your vet isn’t trying to make money by suggesting these diets, they are trying to help prolong your pets life.
Does my pet need them? If you appreciate the holistic approach to aging, then there are a few supplements to consider.
Curcumin – brain, joint, and anti-cancer properties
Fish Oil – healthier skin and coat, mental health, improved immunity
Glucosamine – joint health
Milk Thistle – liver health
There is such a thing as Canine Dysfunction Syndrome aka Alzhemiers. Older dogs may get more anxious or confused. They can lose control of their bladder (especially spayed females), appear “lost”, restlessness or roaming, or even uncharacteristic behavior. Your pet isn’t able to see or hear as well as he/she used to, so it’s understandable that they seem more lost and confused. Be patient. All they want to do is please you more than ever.
You will be frequenting the vet more often. A good recommendation is to visit every 6 months for a well visit. Your vet will also start suggesting annual bloodwork. Even if your pet is acting normal, you don’t know what’s going on internally. Medicine is an amazing thing and we can help prolong our pets life by catching most serious illness early. Bloodwork will show kidney, liver, blood, and electrolyte function. If your vet says he/she’s not worried about a certain value, then just monitor the values and start questioning it when the values start increasing at each visit. Dental cleanings and mass removals may need to happen more often now as well.
That moment is going to come. That decision that no one wants to make and as a vet I cannot make it for you. You know your pet best, you know what your pets’ quality of life has been and what it is now. There are various sources online, as well as your vet, that will help you make that decision and assess quality of life.
Just know that your vet is there with you every step of the way as your pet ages and will do whatever is best for your pet. Enjoy every moment, you know your pet will be doing the same.