“Old age is not a disease.” Those of you who have senior pets may have heard this phrase from your veterinarian already. The wisdom behind it has been reinforced time and again since then.
While older pets may have an increasing incidence of various diseases, age in and of itself is not a disease process. Recognizing that your pet is a “senior” is often very difficult for pet owners. When evaluating your pet’s age it is very important to understand the differences between breeds and species. For example, a seven year old Great Dane is relatively much older than a seven year old Toy Poodle. Large breed dogs overall tend to live shorter lives than many of the medium and small breeds. Cats in general live longer than most dogs, especially if they are kept safely indoors where they are exposed to fewer potential health hazards. Other factors, such as obesity, also play significant roles in decreasing a pet’s longevity. Compared to humans, pets age 6-8 years for every calendar year. In general, if your dog or cat is 7-8 years of age or older, then it should be considered a senior. Though difficult for many pet owners to accept, this should not be a cause for discouragement. Older cats and dogs can still live happy, healthy and active lives. Many pet owners feel that there is little they can do for their pets as they grow old, but this is far from true.
The veterinary profession is growing in leaps and bounds in the standard of care that we are providing our patients. Improved diagnostics, therapeutics and nutrition are greatly improving the quality of life that our patients maintain and as a result they are living longer. Most importantly, the appreciation of the human-animal bond has continued to grow. Pet owners are more willing to pursue ways to extend the quality and quantity of time that they are able to spend with their pets.