When we look at our pet companions, it can be hard to see them as “seniors.” Unlike us, some pets don’t necessarily develop gray hair and certainly not wrinkles. Still instead, some pets seem to have an ageless appearance that keeps sweet faces looking young and adorable.
However, your pet is just as prone to senior-related health issues as humans are. Therefore, it’s important to recognize common problems so you can monitor your senior pet’s health.
Know & Understand Your Pet’s Age
Dogs and cats age differently than we do. As such, many pet owners are familiar with the term “doggy years.” Although it is an old wives’ tale that dogs age seven years for every human year, you might be surprised to learn that early aging sets in for cats and dogs by the age of seven.
Large dog breeds age even faster than smaller companions, so they are considered seniors as early as five. While it may sound like a no-brainer, when you keep track of your pet’s age, you can begin to be more aware of possible health issues and be better able to determine when it might be time to see your vet.
Understanding Common Senior Dog Health Problems
Your four-legged friend is prone to some of the same diseases as humans as they age. This can include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney troubles
- Liver disease
The risk for canine cancer begins to increase over the age of 10. Cats tend to have slightly lower rates of cancer compared to dogs.
Monitor for Warning Signs of Sight and Hearing Loss
Dogs and cats may begin to experience hearing and sight issues as they age. In some cases, they can even develop cataracts. Some signs your dog or cat might be experiencing sight or hearing issues include not responding when you call them or not reacting appropriately when loud noises occur.
Dogs and cats might also have trouble spotting their food bowl or even walk into obstacles in their path. As soon as you notice your pet demonstrating sight issues, you should see your vet, as this presents dangers for them.
Decreasing Activity & Energy Level
Inevitably, pets will become less active as they age. You might notice it is more difficult for your pet to jump up (or down) from their favorite spot on the couch. Dogs and cats might also stop running or even walk with a limp if they have arthritis. Watch to see if your dog or cat seems irritated if you pet or touch them, as this could indicate they are feeling pain in those areas. Senior dog health issues that cause pain can also lead to moodiness.
These changes in activity levels and temperament should be brought to the attention of your vet. They can diagnose the issue and make recommendations for therapies to help keep your senior pet more comfortable.
Cognitive and Behavioral Changes
If your pet is in pain, they may begin to display noticeable changes in behavior. In addition, pets can also suffer from cognitive dysfunction, similar to those experienced by humans. Some signs to watch for that could indicate your pet is suffering from cognitive dysfunction include:
Disturbed by sudden or loud noises
Becoming more vocal with barking/meowing
Lack of interest in play or cuddles
Not responding to voice commands
Senior Pet Weight Gain
Among the most common issues faced by senior pets is weight gain. As your pet ages and becomes less active, they can quickly gain weight, exacerbating other health problems. As with people, weight gain increases the risk of other health issues such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Insulin resistance or diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Skin problems
Senior Pet Coat and Skin IssuesSkin and coat issues can also occur in older pets. Watch for signs such as:
- Dry, flaky skin
- Hair loss/shedding
- Constant itching
- Bald spots
- Irritation when petted or brushed
- Lumps or bumps on the skin
Encouragingly, pet owners can seek products to help keep senior dogs or cats comfortable to reduce itching from issues such as dry flaky skin; however, we do encourage pet owners to speak to their vet if they notice any of these changes, especially lumps which could indicate tumors.