After a certain point, its OK to lie about your age

Senior dogs. Senior cats. Anyone who has had the pleasure to live with a dog or a cat has probably experienced the senior years.  Most dogs are considered senior at 8 human years, and cats at 10 years.

Larger dogs also age at a faster rate than smaller dogs.  A 7 pound chihuahua at 10 years old is equivalent to 56 human years, but a 150 pound Great Dane is equivalent to 78 human years. If you are lucky enough to have a 10 year old Great Dane, that is.

How exactly do you tell if your dog is becoming a senior, besides their age?  The most obvious sign is gray hair.  Usually you start to see this around the muzzle and eyes first.  Unless your dog is white of course.  There can be other signs as well.  Maybe your chow hound starts to leave a little food at the bottom of the bowl.  You start to notice that she isn’t bouncing at the front door every day when you come home like she did in the past.  Maybe you even startle her awake because she didn’t hear you come in. She has suddenly started having “accidents” in the house for the first time ever.  Do you notice that she seems to have more trouble getting up after a nap?  Is she content with staying downstairs when she used to race you to the top?

Most people dismiss these things as “just getting older”, but that’s not always the case.  There are things you can do to ease them into old age, but you know your dog better than anyone else.  If your instincts are tingling about certain behaviors, don’t ignore them.  If you see any of these signs, it’s time for a vet visit.

  • Disorientation or confusion, circling
  • Panting, shaking or trembling
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Easily fatigued, even with little or no exercise
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Dull hair coat or hair loss, dry flaky skin, hot spots
  • Noticeable weight loss, even though she is always hungry
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Large or very smelly bowel movements
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Decreased or increasingly finicky appetite
  • Painful mouth or visible sores
  • Increased drinking or urination

And cats? Well, they are just weird. Since cats are both predator and prey in the wild, showing any signs of injury or pain makes them an instant target. So, they hide, both literally and figuratively. But they do so in almost imperceptible ways, especially if they live in your busy home.  That’s not to say you are at fault.  If you don’t realize your cat is napping in an out of the way place rather than her usual perch when you have jobs, kids, school and… you know, a life… it’s because she is a master at subtlety, not because you are a poor observer.

High blood pressure, for example, is not only the silent killer in humans, it can be in cats as well. It is often present in cats with hyperthyroidism and/or kidney disease. If you notice pawing at the eyes or excessive blinking, visible blood vessels in the whites of the eyes, pupils that remain dilated even in high light, or are two different sizes, bumping into objects or other signs of decreased vision, cloudiness or visible debris in the front of the eye then it’s time to see the vet.

In addition to the first list of signs, here are others to watch for in cats.

  • Sudden lack of urination
  • Sudden drop in weight
  • Unusual lumps or bumps
  • Change in litter box habits
  • Poor grooming
  • Reluctance to jump

Our pets give us many years of faithful companionship and there are many things you can do to help them age gracefully.  Twice a year vet visits for your senior pet are an important part of keeping them healthy.  Talk to your veterinarian today about how to care for your aging pet.

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