Caring for Your Senior Pet

As pets get older, they will start to show signs of aging — just like people. To better prepare yourself to care for your aging pet, download our handout, watch the video below, or read the outline provided below.

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Download our Caring for your Senior Pet Handout for some common signs seen in aging pets and the best ways to provide care for your senior companion.

Signs of Aging in Dogs and Cats

Each pet is different, but you may notice a few signs that your pet is a senior:

  • Decreased Activity: As your pet gets older, it may have less energy than when it was younger.
  • Reduced Mobility: Stiffness in the joints may make your pet reluctant to sit or rise.
  • Hazed Eyes: You may notice a blue haziness in your pet’s eyes called nuclear sclerosis. Your pet’s eyes should be checked by your doctor, however, to ensure that any cloudiness is not caused by a more serious problem such as cataracts.

Considerations for Senior Pets

  • Helping with Reduced Mobility: If your senior pet is arthritic and has problems with mobility, you can help with modifications in your home such as an orthopedic bed or an elevated food and water bowl. In addition, stair steps can help your pet access higher places without having to jump.
  • Hearing & Ear Issues: Is your pet easily startled if you approach from behind? Is it more difficult to wake your pet from sleep? Age-related hearing loss happens to some older pets, so if you feel that your pet has hearing loss of any kind, it’s best to consult your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems, like an ear infection. It’s best to perform regular ear cleanings, even on those often difficult-to-groom larger breeds, to help avoid problematic bacteria and infections in your aging pet’s ears. In addition, always let your doctor know if your pet has small masses or lumps on its body to determine if these pose a significant health risk.
  • Changing Nutritional Needs: Some older pets may need changes to their diet. It’s recommended you feed your pet food that is specific to seniors. Talk to your veterinarian to find out which diet is right for your pet’s individual needs. Visit our Nutrition section for some recommendations about portion control and vitamins.
  • Increased Water Consumption: An increase in daily water consumption can mean a few things in an older pet such as diabetes, liver and kidney disease, and/or hormonal disorders. To help identify potential problems early on, your veterinarian can perform certain blood and urine tests to rule out these common conditions.
  • Senior Pet Dental Care: Dental care is important at any age, but even more so in senior pets. When tartar accumulates over time and gingivitis is present, organs in the body such as the heart, liver, and kidneys can be adversely affected. Good home dental care and annual professional cleanings are the keys to keeping your pet’s teeth healthy as it gets older.
  • Mental Decline: Pets can experience some decline in cognition in their later years, just like humans can. If you notice signs of a mental decline in your dog, be sure to guide him with clear cues and easy-to-follow instructions. Avoid rearranging the furniture and reduce the amount of clutter in your home, especially if your dog is experiencing vision loss. Provide your pet with a secure and quiet place to rest comfortably.
  • Exam Frequency: It’s important to have your pet examined by a veterinarian twice a year to properly diagnose any age-related diseases. Early detection of illness paves the way to early intervention, proper treatment, and a better prognosis.

Need More Information?

Talk to your local veterinarian if you have any concerns about your pet’s age and health, and feel free to consult our extensive Pet Health Library to find the help you need on keeping your pets healthy, browse through our Pet Health Resource Library or check out some of the links below.