November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month!

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November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month!

The ASPCA has dedicated a whole month to raising awareness of senior pets. These lovable animals are usually the last to be adopted from shelters. But, if you’ve ever had a senior pet, you know that they can make wonderful companions! Whether you’re currently caring for a senior cat or dog, or thinking about adopting one, we’ve got lots of tips for keeping them healthy and happy for years to come!

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What is a Senior Pet?

While many factors can play a role in your pet’s aging process, most dogs and cats are considered to be “seniors” at the age of 7. Because there are so many variations in breeds, sizes, and genetics, dogs and cats may be more accurately considered senior pets during the last 25% of their expected lifespan. Life-expectancy is a broad estimation based on breed, size, and overall health, among other factors. Your vet is a great resource for determining your pet’s life stage.

Benefits of Loving a Senior Pet

  • Already housetrained - Most senior pets have years of experience using the litter box or asking to go outside
  • Minimal training - Just like with housetraining, many senior pets are already trained to walk on a leash, perform basic commands, and avoid things that will get them into trouble, like getting into the garbage can!
  • Most have moved past the destructive phase - There’s less worry about your senior dog or cat tearing up the furniture or snacking on your favorite shoes.
  • Personalities are already developed - There’s little guesswork in determining if a senior pet’s personality is compatible with your family and lifestyle. What you see is often what you get!
  • You can still teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks - Senior pets still enjoy interacting with you. Learning a new trick or command is a great form of stimulation for your pet, regardless of age.
  • Require less exercise - If you’re looking for a less active pet, a senior dog or cat may be just right for you.

Senior Pet Health Concerns

Adopting an older pet may come with some health concerns. It’s important to be aware of these possible changes because early intervention could prolong your pet’s quality of life for many years. Common age-related changes include:

How can you help your senior pet?

  • Keep your older pet cozy. Senior dogs and cats often appreciate soft, warm beds that are easy to climb in and out of.
  • Provide easy access to things that are important: food and water bowls, litterboxes and doggy doors, and favorite toys
  • Minimize slippery surfaces, especially for senior dogs. Lay down carpets or rugs in areas where your dog may struggle to keep his footing.
  • Keep your senior dog and cat’s coat well-groomed and nails trimmed. Older pets may lose their ability to care for their coat. Gentle brushing and regular nail trims can be performed at home, by your favorite groomer, or by veterinary staff. For help caring for your pet’s coat and nails, check out our related articles:

Grooming Tips for Cats

Grooming Tips for Dogs

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

How to Trim Your Cat’s Nails

  • Take your senior pet in for routine health check-ups. Veterinarians recommend that older pets be examined every 6 months. Lab work like blood and urine tests may be recommended to help catch early signs of disease.
  • Speak to a veterinarian if you’re concerned that your senior pet may be losing their hearing or vision. Sometimes this can be a normal age-related change, but it may also be an indication of an underlying disease.
  • It's never too late to get an insurance policy for your pet. Dogs and cats are likely to have more medical expenses as they age. Having insurance for your senior pet (especially before they have any pre-existing conditions) can save you money and ensure that your best friend receives comprehensive care throughout her life!
  • Pay close attention to their diet. Senior dogs and cats have different nutritional needs than younger pets. Talk to your vet about the specific needs for your favorite senior. To learn more about preventing weigh gain in your senior pet, you can read these related articles:

Obesity in Dogs

Obesity in Cats

  • Provide appropriate exercise and activity for your senior pet. While some older dogs can still keep up during hikes and long walks, others may need shortened outings due to advancing arthritis or other health conditions.

Read more:

Is my dog hypothyroid?

Arthritis in Cats

Joint Supplements for Pets

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Published: 10/30/2020
Last updated: 10/30/2021
Dr. Sheena Haney, Veterinarian

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