Aging pets make wonderful and loving companions, but like people, pets need special considerations as they age. By understanding the normal aging process, you will be better able to provide the environment your older pet needs to age with grace.
Pet Life Expectancy
How old is an old pet? This is a common question, and the best way to answer it is to consider life expectancy. Pet life expectancy depends on species, breed, genetics, weight, overall health, size and other factors.
Average Cat Life Expectancy
For domestic cats, the variable that seems to have the most influence on life expectancy is where the cat is kept. A study from Purdue University found that indoor cats tend to live about two and a half times as long as outdoor cats. Because the average life expectancy of an indoor cat is about 15 years, indoor cats are considered seniors when they are approximately 8 years old.
Average Dog Life Expectancy
Size seems to be the most important factor when it comes to calculating average dog life expectancy. As a general rule, smaller dogs live longer than larger ones.
The average 50-pound dog is expected to live for 10 to 12 years. A dog under 20 pounds might be expected to live longer than 12 years, and a dog over 100 pounds is only expected to live for six to eight years. This means that a mastiff is considered old at five or six years of age, but a miniature poodle is not considered a senior until it is closer to 8 years of age.
Because many purebred dogs and cats have a higher risk for certain genetic diseases, most veterinarians believe that mixed breeds have longer average life expectancies. For example, certain dog breeds, such as the boxer and golden retriever, have high cancer rates. These high cancer rates decrease average life expectancies for members of the affected breeds.
Normal Aging Changes
Pets tend to slow down as they age. They are not as spry as they once were, and they are more sensitive to temperature. They can also seem to have more trouble remembering things or learning new tasks and be more anxious and less tolerant of change.
Signs of Potential Health Problems
If changes happen gradually, they may be part of normal aging, but any sudden change or extreme alteration in behavior or physical status should be referred to a veterinarian. Some signs that the changes you are seeing might be due to a health problem rather than normal aging include the following:
- Weight loss
- Not eating
- Difficulty breathing
- Limping or difficulty walking
- A lump or other growth
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Extreme thirst
- Increased frequency of urination
- Rapid breathing
- Increased vocalization
- Abrupt behavior changes
Veterinary Care for Senior Pets
Because aging pets are at increased risk of developing certain health problems, including arthritis, dental disease, certain cancers, thyroid problems, liver and kidney disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases, they need more frequent veterinary care than younger pets. Most veterinarians recommend that senior pets receive wellness checks every six months.
Lifestyle Changes for Senior Pets
- 1. Maintaining a routine to reduce anxiety
- 2. Controlling indoor temperatures
- 3. Feeding canned diets
- 4. Feeding multiple small meals to help aging digestive systems
- 5. Reducing the need for pets to jump or climb to reach their food or beds
- 6. Handling animals more gently
Need help evaluating your senior pet’s needs? Book an appointment today!