One of the hardest things about owning a pet is watching them as they age.
And it's not always one thing you'll notice, but several factors that creep up over time.
One day they're bouncing around and loving longer walks, then they start sleeping more and want to return home earlier on their usual walk.
When your pet becomes a 'senior', there's a few things you will need to adapt to help them live comfortably in their twilight years.
What age is classified as 'senior' for pets?
There's no definitive answer for when a pet will become an official 'senior'. It depends mainly on their breed and size.
Large breed dogs can hit their senior years as early as 7-8 years of age
Average dog breeds are usually considered seniors over 10 years of age
Indoor cats can become seniors anywhere from 7-11 years of age
Most animal breeds will have an average life expectancy, so you often predict senior years as the last years of their life.
What are the signs of your pet becoming a senior?
Most pets don't wake up overnight and become full-on seniors! It's like us getting older and one day feeling the cold more than usual, feeling our bones ache that little bit more, noticing grey hairs etc.
Here are some of the top signs that your pet has hit its senior years:
Like us, they have more grey or white hairs that you'll probably notice first around their mouth or face
They may start ignoring you or bumping into things as their hearing, eyesight and sense of smell fades
They would prefer to sleep (and often snore from their deep sleep) rather than run around after you
Catching a ball or treat may be trickier as their reflexes are getting slower
You may notice they look stiff when they try to stand up, and walking may be slower and almost painful looking at times
The 'middle age spread' may be setting in with their weight starting to creep on
What can I do to help my senior pet live comfortably?
Here are my top tips for helping your senior dog or cat live comfortably during their older years.
Diet: Like us, your senior pet is likely to put on weight due to the lack of mobility or exercise and their metabolism slowing down. Although tempting (as they're so old and deserve good things!), it's best to avoid giving them tid-bits from your dinner plate and too many treats. Talk to your vet about the best senior diet, which may include cutting down on what you're feeding them.
Temperature control: With their ageing metabolism, your senior pet will find it harder to regulate their temperature. Give them a cosy bed, blanket and jackets in winter to keep them warm. In summer, ensure they're kept indoors when it's super hot and avoid any physical activities on those days. Also, make sure they have a constant supply of fresh water.
Vet checks: It's recommended that you take your senior pet for a vet visit every 6 months. Your vet can advise you on their diet and overall health and run tests to ensure everything is still healthy on the inside. Some older pets may require monthly visits for pain relief or joint medication.
Comfort: As many senior pets get stiff joints, anything you can do to ease their pain is a welcome relief. You may need medications to help, but things like a plush comfy bed are essential. To help back and neck pain, you can raise their food and water bowls to help them eat and drink easier. You may even consider raising their bed or getting steps for your couch if they struggle to get up and down.
Lots of love: Senior pets love cuddles and affection! You've been their world for so long that they'll love nothing more than curling up beside you for some quiet time and attention. If they're losing their senses, they may also need extra help from you when navigating the house or yard, and you may need to learn some hand signals rather than voice commands to communicate with them.
If you need someone to check in on your senior pet, I'm here!
I love senior pets and have one myself. I understand they require a bit of extra love and attention.
For over 10 years, I've been a pet minder and dog walker and love nothing more than hanging out with my senior clients! They are so happy to have someone pop in and check on them or take them for a gentle walk around the block.
I'd love to help you and your senior pets too!
Using my new online booking form, you can book a pet minding service online, including dog walking and pet sitting.
Here's a reminder of all my services.
If we're meeting for the first time, please book a meet-and-greet session so I can meet your pet.
Until next time, pat your fur babies for me!