Most people think that taking care of companion animals gets easier once they’re out of the “puppy stage,” but the truth is, taking care of them is almost the same as raising humans – is almost the same as raising humans — challenging, even near the end.

When is a companion animal considered senior?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), cats and small dogs are generally considered senior at the age of seven. Meanwhile, larger dogs tend to age faster as they‘re already considered senior at six years old.

It comes with age

Like humans, companion animals become more prone to health problems when they get older. Senior animals can develop weakness, senility, heart disease, diabetes, joint or bone disease, kidney or urinary tract disease, liver disease, and cancer.

With all the possible physical and mental health problems that they can develop, they require more attention than younger animals. Below are some tips to help your senior animal stay happy and healthy.

Visit the vet often

AVMA recommends that senior companion animals visit their veterinarians at least twice a year so signs of illness can be detected and treated early.Health exams for seniors are similar to those for younger animals – just more in-depth, as some diseases don’t immediately show symptoms. They may include dental work, blood check, and specific checks for physical signs of illnesses common in senior animals.

Watch out for parasites

Senior animals’ immune systems are not that strong anymore, so they can’t fight off diseases and heal as fast as younger animals.

Ask for body condition evaluation

Ask your vet to check your fur baby’s weight: Weight changes can be detrimental to their health. For instance, weight gain in dogs can lead to heart, liver, or kidney disease.

Pat attention to diet

Senior animal companions usually need food that’s easy to digest. Of course, specific conditions may require special diets as prescribed by the vet.

Keep them young at heart

Just because your companion animal is old doesn’t mean they can’t play with toys anymore. Providing them with toys can mentally stimulate them and lessen the risk of mental health problems. These may also keep them occupied – some toys even serve a dual purpose by exercising them, too.

Check their teeth

Dr. Fred Metzger of Caring for Your Senior Dog, told adoption database Pet Finder that tartar build-up can cause gingivitis, a gum disease that can generate bacteria which may eventually get into the bloodstream and cause health complications.

“Older dogs and cats with neglected teeth are time bombs ticking,” said Dr. Metzger.

Keep them moving

Make sure your senior companion animal is physically active so that they have healthy muscles and joints while keeping a healthy weight.

Mind the mental health

Some senior companion animals may show senility, especially when not mentally stimulated.

According to a 2018 article in DGP for Pets, humans should also watch out for cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) as it may result in restlessness, disorientation, separation anxiety, increased agitation or sleep, and loss of appetite or energy.

Provide special accommodations

As companion animals get older, they start changing their habits, especially when they get ill. Some animals prefer spending time indoors. Dogs with arthritis need soft beddings with blankets – some may even need ramps to go up the stairs. Others prefer lying down on a carpeted floor instead of moving around all the time.

Related stories:
– Senior dogs are pawsome! Here’s why you should open your heart to an older pooch
– After spending life in cage, dog adopted by senior home a day before she was scheduled to be euthanized
– Woman opens hospice for abandoned senior dogs to enjoy their last days