Great news for pet parents: the average life expectancy of pets has increased! They are living longer than ever before as long as you take the right steps to keep their health and nutrition in check. This means being proactive in their growing years, providing pets with the best quality of life.

You can determine your pet’s quality of life when your senior pets are at ease in his aging process: if they have had the proper care and nutrition in terms of food and hygiene and access to quality health care in their growing years, very similar to humans. Senior dog or cat health issues and senior dog or cat behavior are more complex as they become more and more dependent on their pet parents, but definitely nothing to worry about.

senior pet healthSource: @missmuffinski

When is my Pet a Senior?

While every animal is different, there are general guidelines to determine when they become "senior citizens." Cats are considered mature at 7 to 10 years, senior at 11 to 14 years, and geriatric at 15 or older. Dogs, in general, may be called senior at seven years of age, but larger dogs age more quickly. Ultimately your pet’s genetics, nutrition and environment will all play a role in determining when he is a senior.

What changes should I expect?

Changes in both activity and behavior are expected. Choices in activities will change depending on the illnesses of your senior cat or dog. Cats will try their best to mask the changes, becoming more evident when they cannot run as fast or jump as high. Unlike cats, dogs are more expressive in terms of these changes, avoiding an active role in playing or running. Changes in behavior are similar to those in people such as: unusually aggressive behavior, anxiety, confused or disoriented behavior and changes in sleep patterns among many others.

Wondering how you can cope with an old dog and cat? Here are some simple senior health care tips you can do to help your senior pet stay healthy, happy, and vital.

8 Tips You Need to Know to Keep Your Senior Pet Healthy

1. Make the Veterinarian Your First Stop

Annual check-ups, especially regular check-ups are essential to your senior pet’s health, and become even more important as your pet ages. Age-related diseases can be subtle, and symptoms may be easy to miss. Through regular exams and blood tests, your veterinarian can establish a baseline of what is normal for your pet. This will help alert you when something is not right. If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior, appetite, or energy level, make sure to check with your veterinarian. Senior pets are advised to see a veterinarian every six months.

2. Choose the Right Diet

Best senior dog food

If your older pet is less active, he will need fewer calories. Try feeding fresh vegetables or high quality all-natural or organic food and treats, adding fatty acids such as DHA and limiting portion sizes at mealtime to keep your senior pet at his ideal body weight. Many pets are overweight, and obesity contributes to many diseases and puts more stress on your pet’s joints.

Dogs with joint problems may benefit from supplementation with glucosamine or fish oils; there are even special foods to improve issues with joint disease or mobility. Pets with kidney or heart disease may also need special diets that have lower sodium content. Your veterinarian can design a weight plan that addresses your pet’s specific nutritional needs and make recommendations if supplementation or a specialized diet will help.

3. Get Moving!

Cat playing with yarn

Exercise helps your senior pet maintain a healthy body weight, and it helps slow the degeneration of joints from arthritis. A unique exercise plan can help address the specific needs and the breed of your senior pet. Walking is excellent exercise. Start with short walks — 10 to 15 minutes each — then gradually increase the length. Listen to your dog: if he seems tired, it’s time to stop.

Many elderly dogs will try to keep up with you and won’t know they’ve reached their limit. Make sure to keep water available, and don’t spend long periods outdoors in overly hot or humid weather. If you have access to a pool, supervised swimming is a great low-impact exercise and is naturally relaxing for many dogs. Dog swim vests can be used for those having trouble staying buoyant.

4. Practice Proper Dental Hygiene

Remember the old saying, “Be true to your teeth, or they’ll be false to you”? Well, dental care is just as important for pets as it is for us. Dental disease is painful and may make it difficult for your senior pet to eat. Ideally, you should start brushing your pet’s teeth early, but if you haven’t, don’t despair; you can still take action.

The first step is a veterinary exam and professional dental cleaning. Then, schedule regular follow-ups and brush daily at home. If your pet won’t tolerate you brushing its teeth, consider dental treats, dental diets or dental toys designed to help keep the teeth clean and healthy.

Dental hygiene for dogs


5. Safety First!

Senior dogs and cats may experience loss of sight and/or hearing. If this is the case, you need to take extra care to keep them out of harm’s way. Remove dangerous objects from their path, and use pet gates to create a safe space for your pet when you are not able to supervise. Use hand signals to communicate with a pet with hearing loss. And, if your senior dog or cat has vision loss from cataracts, check with your veterinarian to see if surgery might reverse the problem.

6. Accessibility

Older dogs and cats may develop arthritis or other joint problems, which can make it harder for them to get around. You can help by providing ramps to help them navigate around the house, get up on the bed, or get outside. Make sure litter boxes are easily accessible. Orthopedic pet beds, with or without heating elements, may help keep your senior pet comfortable and relieve pressure on the joints. Hydrotherapy and therapeutic massage are also effective therapies for senior dogs with joint pain. Consult your veterinarian for the latest treatments and therapies.

7. Mental Stimulation

Yes, you can teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks — in fact, it’s a great way to keep them young at heart. Try enrolling in a basic training or tricks class with your senior pet. You can also give them “puzzle toys,” which require them to actively figure out the puzzle in order to get the food treat inside. For dogs and cats, keep plenty of toys handy, and engage them in lots of interactive play to keep their minds and bodies working.

Dog playing

8. Physical Contact

Nothing tells your pet that you love him like a good belly rub. As your pet ages, physical contact is more important than ever. Therapeutic massage is great for animals with joint pain, and equally enjoyable for those without. Pets that have a difficult time grooming themselves may benefit from extra brushing. Every moment you have together is precious, and increasing the physical connection between you will strengthen your bond immeasurably. Maximize every opportunity for bonding with your pet – you will both be glad you did.

How to make a cat purr

A pet entering his senior stage is nothing to fear for any pet parent. Though the life of pets will change as they age, you will find that they are more adaptable, more pleasant to be around, patient, less destructive and seemingly grateful for your kindness. Taking care of our senior pets is a good way to give back the love, joy and positive energy they have been bringing into our homes. With access to the right senior pet health care and senior pet health tips, we pet parents can easily monitor and maintain the health and happiness of our pets.