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With the advancements in veterinary medicine, pet nutrition, and living environment our

pets are living longer and more active lives than previous generations.  Just like 50 is now the “new” 40 in humans it is not uncommon to see all breeds of dogs live well into their teens, and cats approaching 20 in my practice. That makes it more critical than ever to continually monitor the wellness of our senior pets. That includes but is not limited to annual wellness exams with your veterinarian.

So the question becomes when is my pet considered “old”? According to the AVMA the following chart can be used as a guide to compare pet years to human years. And contrary to the popular myth pets do not necessarily age at a rate of 7 years for every human year.



















Our older pets tend to be more susceptible to disease processes of the liver, kidney, heart, and joints and may require additional treatment and/or medication to comfortably manage

Okay, so what does this all mean to my pet? Just like what happens to senior adult humans so of the same visible signs and behaviors can be found in our senior pets. You will witness a graying or thinning of the hair coat, they may lose some or all of their vision and hearing, they will move at a slower pace and find it difficult to move up stairs or onto furniture that was a simple leap maybe a year earlier. As your pet ages you want to avoid doing things that upset their environment like moving the furniture around, or moving food and water dishes to more difficult areas to navigate. You might find it helpful to begin teaching your pet hand signals now so as they age they will comply with your commands even when they have difficulty hearing your commands. Cancer makes up nearly half of all deaths of pets in my practice who are over the age of 10. Dogs get cancer at about the same rate as people, while cats develop it at a slightly lower rate than humans.


Here are some things to be on the lookout for as your pet moves into their senior years.

  • Easily disturbed by loud noises, voices
  • An increase in the instance of barking/meowing
  • Incontinence
  • Seems lost or disoriented in own environment
  • Little or no desire to have “play time”
  • Does not respond to voice commands
  • No longer likes to be touched or petted
  • Nervous or anxious


At the onset of these behaviors you should consult with your veterinarian in order to curb or

eliminate them through therapy, environmental adjustments, or medical treatment. There is no reason for you or your pet to suffer through the senior years. One of the big negative contributors to the quality of your pet’s senior years is obesity. As your pet becomes less active changes need to be made to diet. You should consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course

of action to maintain nutrition while avoiding weight gain. Regular visits to the veterinarian for our

senior pets are critical to enhance their quality of life. Any sudden weight changes need to be

addressed immediately.


Finally, there is often a tendency to want to find a playmate for our senior pets. The thinking is that we can prevent them from getting depressed with a new puppy or kitten. Imagine introducing a new live-in guest to Grandpa who has been living on his own for maybe the past ten years. It would usually not go too well. The same is true for our pets. They are set in their ways, behaviors, and routines. Introducing a new pet will only increase the stress and anxiety levels they are experiencing with little or no ability to remove themselves from the environment or the pesky new friend. Once a senior pet is past the point of “active play” it is really too late to add a new playmate. The senior years can end up being the very best years of your pet’s life so there is no need to dread them. Just be prepared and plan for them.

Article 1: Aging Pets

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