Our Durham and Chapel Hill Veterinarians Answer Your Senior Pet Questions

Growing old can pose some significant health and wellness chances --not just for humans, but for their beloved pets as well. If your Durham or Chapel Hill pet is several years old, you may be wondering what to expect from the senior years and how you can provide the best possible veterinary care. Here are some answers to frequently asked senior pet questions from our veterinarians at New Hope Animal Hospital.

old dog laying down in chapel hill

What is the definition of a "senior" pet?

The veterinary world typically defines the senior years as around age 7 for most dogs and cats. This can vary somewhat from breed to breed, and larger dogs in particular may become geriatric earlier.

What ailments can senior pets develop?

Senior pets are at elevated risk for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart/kidney/liver disease, osteoarthritis, gum disease and various cancers. They can also develop dementia and other neurological problems.

What are the outward signs of aging in animals?

As metabolism slows down, so do many pets, especially if age-related joint pain or vision problems make running and playing more of a challenge. Some pets may display signs of incontinence, personality changes and/or mental confusion. If you pet doesn't answer your commands, hearing loss may have developed.

How often does a senior pet need to be examined?

Your senior pet should receive at least two wellness exams per year. We can run extensive lab tests to check for internal ailments, evaluate sight and hearing, counsel you on behavioral changes that might indicate dementia, weigh your pet for possible obesity and administer many other essential preventative measures.

Are more frequent dental exams also necessary?

Dental care usually needs to be stepped up along with general wellness exams, especially since so many senior pets are prone to gum diseases and/or tooth damage. Senior cats can also be burdened with a condition called tooth resorption, so we need to watch for that as well.

Does my senior pet require dietary changes?

Some senior pets require special diets due to an underlying medical problem. For instance, our veterinary team might recommend a low-sodium diet for a pet with kidney problems or hypertension. Less active senior pets cannot eat as much as they once did without becoming obese, so we may also recommend a reduced calorie intake.

My pet seems to have chronic pain problems.How can I help?

Many chronic pain issues are related to inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis. Your veterinarian can prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to manage this pain. We can also suggest natural anti-inflammatory foods and supplements that may help. Last but not least, gentle exercise can help reduce or control joint stiffness and pain.

Learn More from Our Durham and Chapel Hill Veterinary Team

Any veterinarian on our New Hope Animal Hospital team will be happy to answer additional questions and help you schedule the proper care for your senior Durham or Chapel Hill pet. Contact us at 919-490-2000 today!

Hospital Hours


8:00 am-6:00 pm


8:00 am-6:00 pm


8:00 am-6:00 pm


8:00 am-6:00 pm


8:00 am-6:00 pm


8:00 am- Noon



Our Location

Visit us today

Featured Articles

  • Fish

    If you’re thinking of getting a pet fish, you should know that your veterinarian has a lot of good advice about pet ownership. Fish can be very rewarding as pets, and you just may be surprised about how much fish actually interact with their owners. Here’s more valuable information about choosing ...

    Read More
  • Caring for Senior Cats

    Thanks to advancements in veterinary care, today’s cats can live well into their teen years. It is not uncommon for cats to live to be 18 or even older. However, in order for cats to live a long full life, they need proactive veterinary care to stay healthy. As cats age, they are at greater risk for ...

    Read More
  • Feline Stomatitis: Treatments

    Cats rarely display their pain, but cats with feline stomatitis are often the exception. If your cat appears to have mouth pain, is reluctant to eat, doesn't want to groom, is drooling, and doesn't want you to open its mouth, it may be suffering from this debilitating, degenerative oral condition, and ...

    Read More
  • Feline Leukemia Virus: What You Need to Know

    Feline leukemia (FeLV) is a virus that weakens your cat's immune system. Unfortunately, when the immune system does not function properly, your cat may be more likely to develop other diseases, such as cancer and blood disorders. How Cats Contract Feline Leukemia Cats get feline leukemia from other cats. ...

    Read More
  • Family Cats and Pregnant Women: Take Measures to Prevent Toxoplasmosis Infection

    Nothing must spoil the joys of becoming a new parent. Not even your pets. But family cats with normal, every day habits can pose a risk to expectant women. Women's immune systems can be disturbed by a parasite carried in fecal matter. If you're the primary caretaker of your family's feline friend it ...

    Read More
  • Create an Environment Your Cat Will Love

    The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery confirms that feline emotional wellbeing, behavior and physical health are a result of how comfortable they are in their environment. Understanding how our cats interact with their environment can help us create a space for owners and cats to mutually thrive ...

    Read More
  • Catnip: Why Cats Love It

    Few things stimulate a cat's pleasure faster than catnip. Exposure to this simple herb can reveal a new side to their feline personality. Many cats will go crazy at the smell of this plant. Catnip has a reputation of being a feline drug and many cat owners wonder if it is safe to give it to their pet. ...

    Read More
  • Zoonosis

    Zoonosis refers to diseases that can be transmitted to humans from animals. In particular, they occur when an infected animal passes on bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses to humans through scratches, saliva, feces and urine. Vectors (e.g., organisms like fleas and ticks) can also carry zoonotic diseases ...

    Read More
  • Sugar Gliders

    Thinking of getting a sugar glider? These tiny marsupials are energetic and friendly, making them popular choices as pets. Though they weigh less than a half-pound, they're more closely related to kangaroos than they are flying squirrels. If you think a sugar glider would make an ideal pet for your family, ...

    Read More
  • Epilepsy

    Epilepsy (often referred to as a seizure disorder) is a chronic neurological condition characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures. It is commonly controlled with medication, although surgical methods are used as well. Epileptic seizures are classified both by their patterns of activity in the brain ...

    Read More

Newsletter Signup