As members of the family, we love our pets unconditionally. We would do anything to ensure they live long and happy lives with us. That’s why as they age it is important to be aware of the different ways to care for our pets to help them remain healthy and energized as they reach senior status.
Purina has answers to these common questions about aging pets to help you be the best pet parent for your furry family member.
1. When are pets considered “senior”?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, our cats and dogs are generally considered senior when they reach the age of 7 years. However, some pets, like larger dog breeds, are considered seniors when they are 6 years old.
No matter what age your pet is, make sure they get regular veterinary checkups and necessary preventive care, like required vaccinations. Your veterinarian may recommend older pets get additional tests to watch for specific health conditions, and more frequent checkups to prevent future problems.
Watch for signs of aging that could need attention. You may notice changes in their skin and coat, their appetites may diminish, or their activity level may slow down.
“Changes in appetite and behavior may indicate underlying health concerns, so it’s worth sharing your observations with your vet,” said Dr. Kurt Venator, DVM, Ph.D. and chief veterinary officer at Purina. “Dogs may also experience hearing, vision or cognitive changes as they age that are hard to detect, so pay attention if your dog responds less promptly to voice commands, bumps into things as they walk or seems to have trouble doing activities he once enjoyed.”
Reduced mobility, limping or having trouble managing steps can also indicate issues like osteoarthritis.
2. Do pets need special nutrition as they get older?
A 2020 Purina Pet Ownership Survey found that 93% of pet owners feel it is important to choose food specific to a pet’s life stage. And while most people know puppies and kittens have different nutritional needs than adult dogs and cats, few owners realize that senior animals also need food tailored to them.
An effective senior pet food formula can help control chronic health conditions, manage a pet’s weight and improve their mental focus. For example, Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ is formulated specifically for senior dogs. It includes ingredients like enhanced botanical oils that are Medium-Chain Triglycerides, which can help improve brain function in older dogs. Purina scientists have spent years developing formulas that help boost energy levels and manage caloric intake for your senior dog, while ensuring that he or she receives the right balance of food and nutrients.
3. How can you keep an older pet active and alert?
Dr. Ragen McGowan, Ph.D., a Purina pet behavior scientist, notes that “just like people, older pets can become set in their ways and naturally slow down as they age. Keeping your senior pet active is a simple, fun and effective way to help them stay healthy and nimble. Remember, that it is just as important to keep your pet’s mind active as it is to keep their body active.”
Try out a couple of these activities with your pet:
- Play with new toys and games — When was the last time you got your pet a new toy, or played a game of fetch or catch the mouse? Research your pet’s breed (or breeds) to find out what kinds of activities they may like best at all stages of their life. Puzzle feeders and games can go a long way to keeping your pet mentally active.
- Introduce variety to your pet’s life — Vary your walking route by visiting an unfamiliar park or drive to a walking trail to give your dog a new place to discover. Introduce your cat to the outdoors by taking her on a walk or letting her explore the backyard on a harness and leash.
- Train your pet — Yes, even older pets can learn new tricks. Consider a training class or watch videos from trainers to learn how to teach your pet a new command.
- Spend time with your pet — Petting, talking to and playing with your pets can help keep them happy and alert. Grooming them regularly will also give you a chance to bond as well as look for changes in their skin, toenails, ears and coat that your vet may need to know about.
With regular care, proper nutrition and loving attention, aging pets can live a long, enriching life and enjoy every moment they have with you.
To learn more about caring for your senior pet, visit www.Purina.com.