Caring For An Aging Pet

Caring For An Aging Pet

You remember your pet the day you brought him home. Playful and happy, eager to learn and readily social. But all pets age and eventually you may be facing a pet with some special concerns and needs. Senior pets may need medication, may be in pain, and may be hard of hearing. There are a number of other problems you and your pet might face as the years pass. But with some small changes and proper medical care, you can help make the golden years as comfortable and happy as the younger days.

How Old is My Pet

Sure, you know the age of your pet. But do you know the human equivalent age? It isn’t as simple as 1 dog year equals 7 human years and it isn’t the same for all pets. But being able to put a human equivalent may help you to recognize some of the health issues and problems your pet faces.

Cat Age

in years

Human Age

in years









Dog Age

in years

Human Age

in years










Each pet is different, and the health will depend on the genetics, nutrition, and environment for your pet. Larger dogs often have a shorter lifespan than smaller dogs. For example, giant dogs like a Great Dane may be considered senior at 5 or 6 years old whereas a chihuahua may be 10 or 11 before he is considered senior. Cats are usually considered senior at age 7.

Problems to Face

Some of the problems that come with aging are obvious and others are not. You may see your pet looking more unkempt and the facial features more sunken. You may notice your pet not listening to your commands or gaining weight. All of these things are perfectly natural.

Cancer is a real concern with older pets. About half of dogs over the age of 10 will get cancer. It’s less common for cats as a whole, but certain types of cancer are more common among cats than dogs. And if your pet is not spayed or neutered, mammary cancer, testicular cancer, or prostate cancer are possibilities.

Other diseases or changes may appear as the pet ages as well. Make sure to share concerns with your veterinarian.


Cognitive dysfunction

Potty in the house

Increased aggression



Bone disease



Liver disease

Heart disease

Kidney disease

Dental disease



Social withdrawal

Weight loss

Hearing loss

Vision loss

Balance problems

Reduced motor skills

Increased anxiety


Muscle loss

Ways You Can Help

There are some simple steps you can take to make the last years of your pet’s life as comfortable as possible.

  1. Keep them active. Activity keeps the joints loose and helps reduce stress. If you pet isn’t used to activity, keep it light and easy at first and slowly make the activity last longer or be more intense.
  2. Add traction to your house. Consider non-slip carpet runners around your house, particularly where there is hardwood flooring, linoleum, or tile. These slippery surfaces are hard for senior pets to walk on and can cause them to lose their balance. Make the carpet runners the same bold pattern throughout your house so the pet can easily see them and knows where it is safe to walk.
  3. Access to water, food, and litter box should be easy. You may need to keep more than one water bowl and litter box for convenience. Make sure the litter box has low sides or consider adding a ramp to help your aging cat access it. Water and food bowls should have a non-slip bottom so your pet doesn’t have to chase it down.
  4. Medications can be tricky. Missing a dose or giving a double dose of medication could be very dangerous. Figure out a way to organize the chaos and keep the medications straight. A chart or a pill organizer can help make sure your pet gets the medication it needs and can make your life easier.
  5. Nutrition is even more important as pets age. Feed your pet a high-quality food and consider adding supplements to keep you pet healthy and looking good. Read the label of the pet food and choose one that sounds the healthiest. Your pet may need to be on a specialized diet. Obesity and kidney disease are just a couple of problems that may require special diets.
  6. Stay in touch with your vet. Keep up with your visits and make sure you bring up any changes in your pet’s behavior or appearance. Not only can the vet give you some tips for dealing with an aging pet but can help advise you when it’s time to let your pet go. Nobody wants to think about the end of life, but it will come for all pets and people everywhere. It will be easier if there is an open discussion about what your pet is going through and what your family can manage.

Watching your pet age can be difficult and daunting. But you still love them and now is the time to show them. Care for them as they age, watching their behavior and appearance for any changes. Talk to your vet regularly for proper care for all of their days and you will get as many happy days with your pet as possible.