Looking after Senior Pets 

By Veterinary Nurse Ayesha Watson 

As pets age they need some extra care and depend on us more.

We class an average sized breed of dog like a Labrador as senior from the age of seven or eight, and from five for giant breeds which have a shorter life span. We class cats as senior when they reach nine.

Most veterinary practices including Paragon offer more regular health checks for older animals as these allow us to pick up age related issues before they become serious, and we can make sure your senior pet is not in any pain.

Many pets will experience stiffness as joints age and they may develop arthritis. You might notice them walking more slowly than usual, limping or not jumping on the sofa anymore. Arthritis is painful, but there are lots of ways to help manage it including joint supplements, laser therapy, physiotherapy, acupuncture or medication if necessary.

Giving up exercise will make the joints become even stiffer, so it can be helpful to have an exercise plan. Changing your routine to shorter gentler walks or play sessions, keeping the sessions regular and going at your pet’s own pace can all help.

Some conditions do not show themselves until they have become quite advanced. An example is kidney disease which is common in older dogs and especially cats. By the time symptoms of kidney disease become apparent 75 per cent of damage has already been done. During a health check we will run blood tests which will show what’s happening a lot earlier and allow us to start managing it.

Pets’ metabolism slows as they age especially if they are neutered. But it is important that they don’t put on weight especially if they are developing arthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces pressure on joints and organs like the heart, and special senior diets are available.

We also check your pet is not becoming underweight which can result from kidney disease or hyper-thyroidism (an over-active thyroid) and keep an eye on any lumps to make sure they are not malignant and need to be removed. 

Simple tips can make a difference such as raising the food bowl to take the strain off their neck and shoulders. 

Senior pets have lots of character and it is rewarding to see them happier and healthier when we adapt our care to their changing needs.