Caring for Senior Pets

Do you live with a senior?

Have you ever had the experience when someone asks you the age of your fur baby, of saying œoh, about four”only to stop to count, and realize with some trepidation that they’re really eight? As with older family members, our aging pets need special care and considerations. Their needs change too.

When a pet is considered a œsenior often depends on the pet and breed. Large breeds age faster than smaller ones; for instance, a large dog might be considered a senior at age seven while a small breed might not be considered a senior until it is ten years old. Cats are considered senior between 7-10 years old. A pet moves from being œsenior to œgeriatric at the older end of the spectrum, while often experiencing more health-related issues.

In addition to age, there are a variety of other indicators that your pet is aging. Some of these indicators include development of arthritis, other degenerative issues, and general weakness. Beyond these more outward symptoms of age, pets can also display behavior changes as they age. These changes could include increased sensitivity to noise, changes in vocalization, increased irritability, decreased interaction with others, changes in sleep schedules.


Overall signs to watch for:

  • Change in the level of grooming
  • Increased/decreased drinking
  • Changes in frequency/amount of urination
  • Hiding behaviors
  • Vocalizations, especially in the evening

Common diseases for senior cats: 

  • Periodontal disease (drooling, tilting the head when eating, not eating)
  • Hyperthyroidism (restlessness, weight loss in spite of eating large quantities)
  • Kidney failure (large volume/frequency of urination, nausea)
  • Liver/ heart/ valve disease/ high blood pressure (symptoms vary)
  • Cancer (varies by location; be vigilant of œlumps)


Overall signs to watch for:

  • Reluctance to go up and down stairs or get into the car
  • Licking/chewing at a joint
  • Avoidance/difficulty eating, resulting in weight loss; unkempt fur
  • Obesity

Common diseases for senior dogs:

  • Arthritis (limping, reluctance to move, painful response to being picked up)
  • Gum disease (bleeding, swelling, tenderness)
  • Diabetes (increased thirst/urination, fatigue, slow-healing cuts)
  • Blindness (cataracts-milky coating over the eyes)
  • Kidney disease(increased drinking/urination, having accidents inside
  • Cancer (varies by location; be vigilant of œlumps)

The best way to care for your senior pets is to recognize signs of aging and learn more about their common ailments.

Tips for caring for senior pets:

  • Schedule regular wellness check-ups, including labwork; vets recommend more frequent check-ups as pets age
  • Check for vision and hearing loss
  • Ensure your pet is getting a high quality diet
  • Keep your pet at his/her ideal body weight (Obesity can lead to diabetes; stress arthritic joints)
  • Consider a special diet to address health concerns
  • Learn the signs of pain for your pet
  • Take care of dental issues
  • Exercise your senior pet
  • Provide special accommodations, including orthopedic bedding or ramps
  • Utilize rubber-backed throw rugs on slippery floors
  • Give lots of love!

Just as our two legged family members age, they need special care and patience, the same can be said about caring for our four legged family members.

Additional Information:

Senior Pet Care (FAQ)

Tips for Caring for Senior Dogs

Defining Senior Age in Cats