When it comes to the aging process, many similarities exist between humans and our pets. How many times have you seen a scruffy, gray muzzled dog shuffling slowly beside her owner, or a cat curled up in the lap of his? The “Golden Years” with our pets are very special ones and paying attention to a few important details will ensure that our faithful companions will continue to enjoy a high quality life.
There is no definitive age that is considered old or geriatric for dogs and cats. The aging process is dependent upon many factors including breed , other genetic factors, nutrition and lifestyle. In general, animals approaching 9-10 years of age begin to experience changes we typically associate with age.
Your geriatric pets may begin to exhibit changes in their hair coat, sometimes appearing “scruffy.” Older cats are particularly notorious for “relaxing” the good grooming habits they had when they were younger. To prevent fur mats from developing in the older pet and to keep the natural oils spread throughout the coat, brush your pets often and gently, remembering that as skin ages, it loses its elasticity and becomes more fragile. Your pet will appreciate the special attention.
As pets age, their metabolism changes and the demand for energy and calories often decreases. Older pets may not show the same enthusiasm for their food as they did when younger. A “senior” or “geriatric” diet may be helpful or recommended. The nutrient profile for these diets takes into account the body’s changing demand for protein, minerals, fats and calories. Good palatability is also addressed as older pets may lose some taste sensation.
Good routine health examinations and blood screening are essential for the older pet. It is important to appreciate that a single year in our pet’s life is the equivalent to 7-10 years in ours.
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, which carry microfiliaria (baby heartworms). When a mosquito bites your pet, the insect injects these tiny microfiliaria into the dog or cat’s blood stream where they migrate to the heart and become adult worms. This is a very painful and debilitating disease.
It is recommended that your pet has a blood screening once a year to assure a negative heartworm result. Once a negative result is confirmed, your pet should be maintained on a monthly preventative year round. Remember it is much easier for your pet to prevent heartworm infestation than to have to treat the disease.