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Getting old isn't a disease, but senior pets are more liable to contract certain conditions related to age. Most cats and smaller dogs can be considered senior pets at age 7, while larger dogs are senior citizens by age 6. Large dogs' that have relatively shorter lifetimes move that timeline forward a year. Health and vitality ebb and flow depending on the pet, but by a senior age most pets will begin to develop some of the more familiar signs of aging. This is when it's time to take stock and figure out how your pet's lifestyle should change.
Like humans, the most obvious signs of age in your pet may be a graying coat or if they begin slowing down in daily activity. Your pet may want to spend more time napping in a sunbeam and less time running around the back yard or park. But aging isn't just a function that's visible on the outside. Your pet's internal organs are aging as well. Kidney, liver, and heart disease are more common as a pet ages, as are arthritis and cancer. In fact, cancer is the cause of death for almost half of all senior pets.
Your pet's sight and hearing will probably also be affected by age. Older pets can develop cataracts, and pets who look like they're ignoring commands such as "sit" or "stay" may simply not be hearing them any more. It's a great idea to teach your pet hand signals along with verbal commands while it's still young; this gives you the ability to still communicate with a pet with lack of hearing. Pets can function amazingly well with poor eyesight or even blindness as long as they live in a familiar environment. Refrain from moving furniture or taking your pet unsecured to unfamiliar places.
A senior pet exam is crucial for older dogs and cats. Our Chapel Hill and Durham veterinarian team recommend yearly exams for all senior dogs and cats. This allows the vet to evaluate your pet's progress and to give advice on any lifestyle changes you may want to make to ensure your pet has a comfortable and fulfilling life. Some common problems with older pets, such as weight gain, can be dealt with by using simple behavior modification: changing diet, eliminating treats, and encouraging exercise. Sudden weight loss, on the other hand, is often a sign of a serious illness and should be treated as such.
Your senior pet will undergo a lot of behavior changes, simply because of its aging view on the world. Some of the changes might be:
The best thing you can do for your senior pet is to provide a secure home environment without a lot of changes. Your pet will be happiest in familiar surroundings, with all the love and attention it's used to getting.
For more information about New Hope Animal Hospital, give us a call today at 919-490-2000!
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