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Sat, Dec. 14

Keeping your pets healthy in their senior years

Keep your senior pet healthy longer, because sharing your life with a senior pet is rewarding.
Yavapai Humane Society/Courtesy photo

Keep your senior pet healthy longer, because sharing your life with a senior pet is rewarding.

Pets are living longer than ever, thanks to the quality medical care, improved diets, more exercise, and other factors. It’s a good thing too, because having a senior pet companion is beyond rewarding.

As author Sydney Jeanne Seward said, “Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.”

September is Senior Pet Health Month and there are measures you can take to help your pet stay healthy longer.

In addition to the influences mentioned above, another reason pets are living longer is the increased number of pets being spayed and neutered, which has been proven to lengthen an animal’s life. In fact, a 2013 study by Banfield Pet Hospital showed that neutered male dogs live 18 percent longer than un-neutered male dogs, and spayed female dogs live 23 percent longer than un-spayed female dogs.

It’s true that senior pets have different care requirements than those of younger pets. But how do you know when your dog or cat is considered to be a senior?

While every animal is different, cats are generally considered mature at 7 to 10 years, senior at 11 to 14 years, and geriatric at 15 or older.

For dogs, it’s not so cut and dry. In general, giant breed dogs age faster than smaller breed dogs. A Great Dane is considered to be senior by roughly 5 to 6 years old, whereas a Chihuahua is considered middle-aged then, and is not a senior until 10 or 11 years. Medium/large breed dogs fall somewhere in between, for instance a Golden Retriever is considered senior by 8 to 10 years of age.

So how can you care for your senior pet?

• VET VISITS: Regular check-ups — semi-annual is recommended — are essential, and become even more important as your pet ages. Age-related diseases can be subtle, and symptoms may be easy to miss.

Through regular exams and blood tests, your veterinarian can establish a baseline of what is normal for your pet. This will help alert you when something is not right. If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior, appetite, or energy level, be sure to check with your veterinarian.

• TEETH: Dental care is important throughout your pet’s life, and especially for seniors. Tartar build up can cause gingivitis, which can cause bacteria to get into your pet’s bloodstream, wreaking havoc on organs. A great way to contribute to your senior dog’s good health is to keep their teeth and gums in shape with at-home brushing and yearly professional cleanings by your vet.

• SCALE: It is also vital to keep your older pet at a healthy weight because it means less stress on their body, including joints and internal organs. If you feel your pet needs to shed a few pounds talk with your veterinarian about a weight loss plan. It could add quality and quantity to their life.

• SHOTS: And don’t forget to keep up to date on your senior pets vaccinations. Older pets are more prone to contract a wide range of illness and disease. Many of these can be prevented with through vaccinations.

To keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date, consult with your veterinarian or visit the Yavapai Humane Society Spay/Neuter and Wellness Clinic any Friday for walk-in, reduced-cost pet vaccinations (located at 2989 Centerpointe East in Prescott, between 8 and 11:30 a.m. or 1 to 4:30 p.m.).

As our pets age it is up to us to monitor their health and take measurements to keep them as healthy and happy as possible in their senior years. Visit www.yavapaihumane.org/wellness for resources and FAQs on senior pet care.

Elisabeth Haugan is the Marketing & Development Director for Yavapai Humane Society. Contact YHS at 928-445-2666 or email info@yavapaihumane.org.

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