Have you ever looked at your dog or cat and wondered, "Just how old are you?" Aging pets may gain a little more gray hair or walk a bit slower, but it can be difficult to know exactly how your senior pets are maturing. Do they simply look as if they're getting old, but physically and mentally are still middle-aged? Maybe they appear young and act spry, but are slowing down. It's best to know what age level your furry family members are at so you can prepare yourself and your home to best take care of them.
Signs Your Pets Are Aging
Cats and dogs have a lot in common with humans when it comes to aging. As humans get older, they may slow down, form wrinkles, and sprout a few gray hairs. Dogs and cats share the same signs. Here are a few ways aging pets show their maturity:
- Though it may be difficult to identify or evaluate, aging pets may experience hearing or vision loss.
- Skin and coat changes are another way pets age similarly to humans. Both dogs' and cats' hair may turn gray as they get older. Skin for both may become thinner.
- Dogs and cats also slow down in their senior years. The decrease in activity level could be due to general lethargy or a health condition.
- Joint and muscular issues are another harbinger of old age. Dogs and cats that are much less mobile than during their younger days may develop arthritis or lose muscle mass from not regularly exercising their joints and muscles.
The best way to care for your senior pets is to make and keep regular appointments with your veterinarian. You can work together to be aware of any aging signs and devise a treatment plan for keeping your dog or cat in the best shape, both physically and mentally.
You may have been told that if you want to find out how old a dog is, all you have to do is multiply the years he's been alive by seven. It's said that for every human year, a dog has seven. That, while widely believed, isn't actually accurate. According to Vetstreet, breed and size must be considered when identifying a dog's age. A bigger dog may appear to mature slowly physically, but actually age quicker than little dogs. Great Danes may be considered senior pets at seven, but Chihuahuas wouldn't be considered senior dogs until eleven or older.
Have you heard that every one human year is really four cat years? Well, if you've been multiplying your cat's age in human years by four, your math is incorrect, but only slightly. That methodology can work, but only if it starts after the cat's second human year of life. Vetstreet says, "The first year takes a cat to late adolescence, and the second into young adulthood. You can then start counting in fours: Figure a 2-year-old cat at 24 'human years.' and add four years for every one thereafter, making a 4-year-old cat the equivalent of a 32-year-old person. That makes a 9-year-old cat about 52 in human terms, and 16-year-old cat about 80."
If your dogs and cats are aging pets, remember that their age is just a number! Well-cared-for, healthy senior pets can have long life spans. Yes, they may get more gray hair or walk a bit slower as time goes by, but your pet has a happy long life ahead. However, it is important to take their age into consideration. For instance, your dog may love to play fetch, but he might not play as long. So, if you notice your play time is shrinking it can either be a sign of a health condition or your dog just getting older. You vet can help you determine which it is.
Another thing to be cognizant of in your pets's elder years is his or her nutrition. Much like when you were a kid, you could eat differently than you can as an adult. Dogs and cats are no different. Their metabolism slows down just as humans do, so it is important to slowly transition your pet to a mature adult or senior pet food that is formulated to meet the needs of an older pet.
And just like humans, getting older doesn't mean life isn't exciting and fun. There is still much joy to be had, but interests may change. Where your cat used to like playing with her toys for hours on end, a cat nap sunbathing on a window sill might be just as enjoyable now. Knowing the signs of aging in pets will help you provide the best care for them so that you can continue to experience a full life and relationship together.
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform–and even transform–its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.