Southside Animal Hospital - Senior Pets

Southside Animal Hospital

5134 South ML King Blvd
Lansing, MI 48911


Senior pet care


Elder Dog Elder Cat


According to the AVMA, our pets are living longer. This is thought to be due to advances in veterinary medicine and better overall care of our pets. This is great for us and our furry family members. However, as our pets age, they require additional care. Senior pets will frequently develop age related health problems that can impact their longevity and quality of life. Regular veterinary examinations can detect many problems before they become serious or life threatening.


At what age does my pet become a “senior” pet?

There isn’t really an exact age that determines that a pet is a senior. Many factors including the pet’s life style, genetics, previous history of illness and even size will have an impact on how they age. In general, cats and smaller dogs age slower and live longer. The scale below is only an approximation for when we consider a pet to be a senior:

Cats and small dogs: 9-10 years of age
Medium and large dogs: 8-9 years of age
Giant or very large dogs over 100 pounds: 6-7 years of age


What additional care does my senior pet require?

No matter how well cared for, senior pets are vulnerable to many age related issues and diseases. As a result, senior pets requires more attention than younger pets.

  • More frequent veterinary visits: We recommend that senior pets have a thorough physical examination every 6 months. We also recommend geriatric lab testing at least once yearly. If diseases or age related conditions are discovered, further examinations and treatments may be required.

  • Dental care: Dental disease is a frequent finding in senior pets. Dental disease can also be the cause of furthering some age related diseases like heart disease. It can also cause pain and discomfort for our pets. We recommend senior pets have appropriate dental care and treatment at least once a year.

  • Diet and nutrition: Senior pets often require more digestible diets. Many available senior diets may also contain anti-aging ingredients. Our veterinarian is certified in nutrition and can help you choose the appropriate diet for your senior pet.

  • Weight control: Obesity can increase the risk of health problems such as liver disease, arthritis and heart disease in our older pets. Similarly, weight loss can be an indication of diseases such as kidney disease and even cancer. Discuss your senior pets changes in weight with our veterinarian.

  • Attention to environment and husbandry issues: As pets age, they may be less able to navigate stairs or furniture. That may require things like ramps or baby gates to keep pets safe. Carpet runners can help pets with traction on slippery tiles or wood floors. Keeping nails short and pets groomed can keep them more comfortable. Mental stimulation through increased interaction, play and games may help pet to deal with cognitive changes.


What changes and health problems are common in senior pets:

For most senior pets, we will see the tell tale signs of greying of the coat and slowing of their pace. We may also see a decrease in their sight and hearing. Other changes that may be common can be more serious and require intervention and treatment:

  • Cancer: Seen in at least 50% of our senior dogs and 33% of senior cats
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney and urinary tract disease
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal disease and arthritis
  • Dental disease
  • Obesity
  • Behavioral changes and cognitive dysfunction
  • Increase or changes in sleep patterns


Important end of life decisions for our senior pets:

It is a blessing that our pets are living longer, giving us more time with them. Unfortunately, that leads to difficult decisions regarding their end of life care. Your veterinarian is an important source of information and assistance at this heart breaking time. There are many ways to assess your pets quality of life to determine if your pet is at the end of their life. We may offer a quality of life scale to quantify your pets daily life. Or, we may discuss if your pet is having more good days than bad days. We may discuss keeping a journal to track your pets progress on treatments. Although the timing of humane euthanasia is personal, we are here to help you. We can walk you through questions and concerns you have, including an honest evaluation of your pet’s quality of life.

You can find more information regarding end of life care on our end of life web page. This includes quality of life scales, discussions of palliative and hospice care, natural death vs euthanasia, memorials and grief services.