Aging Pets……How Old is “Old”?

      Most of us remember being told that 1 year of a dog or cats life is equal to 7 years of a human’s life.  While this averages out it is not a direct 1 for  1 correlation.  Dogs and cats mature very fast so that by 6 months of age most of them can reproduce.  By year 1 to 2 they are comparable to humans in their 20’s to 30’s  The aging process then levels out for a number of years but toward the later years of our pet’s life the rate of decline is quite accelerated.  Another factor affecting the aging process is the size of the animal.  Toy breed dogs and most cats can live well into their mid to late teens if well cared for.  Giant or large breed dogs are good to make it to double digit ages in many cases.  Therefore a 6 year old Great Dane is much “older” physically than a 6 year old Chihuahua.

     As our pets age there are a number of diseases and conditions that can impact them and shorten their lives and decrease their quality of life.  As is true in human medicine, early detection allows for early intervention thus helping to prevent serious harm and/or slow the progression of the disease and thus increasing your pet’s quality of life and adding to the number of years you enjoy your pet.  This is a key reason we recommend screening health tests for your pet.  Think of these tests as an “internal physical examination” of your pet.  We can evaluate organ function and screen for many of the problems facing pets in their later years.  One frequently asked question is why do I need the tests done every 6 to 12 months?  In the later years of their life your pet will age in 1 calendar year as much as a 75 to 80 year old person will age in 5 or 6 calendar years.  If you stop to think about this, a lot of decline can happen to our pets in a matter of months since their rate of decline is much faster when compared to people.  Therefore, most senior pets should have routine “internal physicals” minimally every 12 months, more often if they have a chronic compensating disease like diabetes, kidney insufficiency, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, chronic arthritis, liver disease, etc.   A health plan formulated to meet the needs of your aging pets will provide a higher quality of life for them and add years to the time you have to enjoy them.  Also, early intervention in most disease processes will minimize or slow the damage from disease and thus help avoid those major health emergencies pets face when these diseases go undetected.

So, how old is your pet?  Think about this information and if your small or medium dog or your cat is  7-8 years old then they are a senior pet.  If your large or giant dog is 5-6 they are entering their senior years as well.  We encourage all owners of senior pets to get them on a regular plan of preventive health care to maintain them as happy, healthy and active for as many years as possible.

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