Senior Pet Health: When Is My Pet Considered a Senior and Why It’s Important.

Our pets are living much longer lives than they did 10 to 20 years ago.  This is due in a large part to advances in veterinary medicine and health care.  Much of the research for human disease prevention uses dogs as a model for discovering this information.  Many breeds from the American Kennel Club fund research projects to find answers to disease conditions that affect their breed.  Many of these conditions also affect people so that knowledge gained in canine research leads to breakthroughs in the human medical field as well.  As a result of this new knowledge, we now can detect disease conditions in dogs and cats much earlier than in years past.  Just as in human medicine, early detection and early intervention can lead to a higher quality of life, a longer life for your pet.

Senior pet health care is designed to perform screening tests for early detection of disease just as we do in humans.  Basic lab tests can pick up on early changes so that we can then monitor the progression of the disease and initiate treatment in a timely fashion to slow the progression of the disease and the associated damage that will occur.  When we age, we can tell our doctor or loved ones that we have this ache or pain or that we are tired or don’t feel well.  This alerts our physician to run screening tests to find the cause and treat appropriately.  Our pets do not tell us these things.  They can go for a number of years before we realize there is something wrong.   By the time the owner notices a problem, often it is far advanced causing great damage to the pet.  In addition, treatment at that time is often much more costly to the owner than early intervention and early treatments.

At what age is my dog or cat considered a senior?  It depends upon what pet you have and their calendar age.  Humans often enter into senior screenings when we reach age 50.  Colonoscopies are often performed at this age, earlier if there is a family history of the disease.  The following chart will help you determine at what age your pet is considered to be “50” in human years.  Cat owners should use the same chart as we do for small dogs.

The outer orange ring is used to calculate “human years” for giant breed dogs.  The middle ring is for large breed dogs, and the inner lighter orange ring is for medium to small dogs and cats.  So, a 6 year old Giant breed dog, 7 year old large breed dog and 8 year old medium/small dog and cat would all be considered to be in their early 50’s in human years.  So, in one calendar year your  giant breed dog will age about 7 human years, large breed dog about 6 human years, and medium/small dogs and cats about 5 human years.

Based upon the above aging chart, health screenings are needed minimally every year for your pet.  If your pet has a chronic compensated disease such as kidney failure, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, etc, more frequent monitoring is needed to manage the condition.  Not performing annual tests would be like you having a disease and not being checked for 5-7 years!  A lot can go wrong in that amount of time.  This is also why your pet can be fine at one visit and 3-6 months later show significant loss of organ function.

For optimum health and longevity of your pet, start annual health screenings  at 6 years for giant breed dogs,  7 years for large breed dogs, and 8 years for medium/small breed dogs and cats.  It is much easier to manage a disease if detected early.  It helps slow the progression of the disease and also helps prevent more serious damage to your pet.







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