Caring for Senior Pets

Getting old is for the birds….and the dogs and cats.

We may not like it, but aging is a natural part of life. As we get older, our bodies and minds become more vulnerable to a variety of diseases and ailments. Nutritional needs change, and the likelihood of developing problems including cardiac issues, diabetes and arthritis increases dramatically.

Our pets are no different when it comes to aging, and they are susceptible to many of the same problems we encounter. Here at Martin Downs Animal Hospital, we have had the pleasure of treating many animals from the time they are babies until they become seniors. We value your older pets as much as you do, and want to see them have the longest and healthiest life possible. One of our favorite patients is a twelve and a half year old poodle named Pierre, and although he suffers from issues including diabetes and cataracts, he is well maintained and enjoys a very comfortable life.

Just as we have to adjust our own medical care and increase preventive measures as we get older, we need to do the same for our pets. Most dogs are considered “seniors” when they reach 7 years of age, and are classified as geriatric at 10 years. Cats are seniors when they reach 10 years old.

Doctors recommend that humans increase the frequency of checkups as we age, and if you consider that dogs age at the human equivalent of 7 years in 12 months, increased vet visits and diagnostic testing are vital to catching problems in our pets while they are still treatable. ASPCA experts recommend that healthy senior dogs see the vet every six months. During your pet’s checkup, speak with us about whether your animal can benefit from food or supplements specially formulated for seniors.

Special attention should be paid to your aging pet’s dental care. Dental disease is quite common in older cats and can cause serious complications. Senior dogs are vulnerable to developing heart disease as a result of tooth decay when teeth are not kept clean and healthy. At Martin Downs Animal Hospital, we are pleased to provide Anesthetic Free Dental Care for those who prefer it, and for whom it is appropriate. For tips on brushing your dog’s teeth, visit

Some changes, such as sleeping more and slowing down, are normal as our furry friends age. However, please contact us immediately if you notice symptoms such as lumps, shortness of breath, limping, seizure activity or significant behavioral changes. Just as with people, prevention and early detection of age related illness will greatly increase your pet’s quality of life.

In sunny Florida we also need to keep in mind that senior pets cannot regulate their body temperature as well as younger animals can, so please take extra precautions to keep them cool and comfortable.

Here’s to a long and healthy life for you and your pet!

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