How Old is Your Pet, Really?
Cats and small dogs are generally considered geriatric when they turn 7 years old, even though many cats live to be 18-20. Larger dogs have a shorter lifespan than smaller dogs, and are considered geriatric by the time they turn 6. While there is no exact formula for converting cat and dog years to human years, these charts should help you to understand a little better how old your pet really is.
*Small: 0-20 lbs; Medium: 21-50 lbs; Large: 51-90 lbs; Very Large: 90+ lbs
Plan Your Pet's Annual Checkup
Whether you're the loving owner of an aging dog or cat (or both!), a yearly visit to the veterinarian is recommended. Your vet can perform procedures for identifying age-related problems, and offer advice, specific to your pet, on how to make his or her life more comfortable.
Inquire about your pet's diet and eating habits, as your vet may recommend making a diet change to benefit your aging pet.
Pay special attention to your pet's dental care. Routine care is important, as dental disease can lead to other problems, including heart disease in dogs. Ask your vet if you're doing everything you can to prevent dental disease.
Your Pet is Changing
As dogs and cats age, they're likely to become less energetic than in their younger years. They may develop problems with their hearing and vision, and arthritis may affect their mobility. As they become increasingly intolerant of extreme hot and cold temperatures, you'll find your cat or dog favoring a warm draft-free area where they can nap (more frequently) in peace.
It's normal for cats to become less disciplined at using the litter box. And dogs are likely to need to relieve themselves more frequently, including once or twice over the course of the night.
Cats may compulsively self-groom as they grow older.
Your dog's fur may go gray around the muzzle with increased age.
Is This Normal?
The changes mentioned above are typical. But if you're concerned, see the vet as soon as possible. For cats, the following symptoms and behaviors necessitate a veterinary visit, ASAP:
Show Your Pet Some Love
Your dog or cat is still the same pet you've loved for so long, so keep showing them plenty of attention and affection.
Cats and dogs that receive good care throughout their lives fare better as they age. The aging process is accelerated, however, when sickness, illness, or injury is ignored.
It's normal for arthritis to make your dog stiff and sore, but regular exercise is still so important. Check with your vet about how vigorous the exercise should be, and be alert to your pup's body language. Play every day. Hearing problems may reduce a pet¿s responsiveness, but touch and hand signals can communicate a lot. Be mindful not to disturb a sleeping, hearing-impaired dog or cat, and don't approach from behind.
If your cat or dog is losing vision, you can make them more comfortable by maintaining a consistent environment. Don't move furniture, as doing so may cause stress and frustration.
Sources: webmd.com, akc.org, avma.org
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