When I turned 50, I still considered myself young. However, it seemed like the whole world considered me a senior citizen. My AARP card arrived in the mail along with countless offers for senior insurance, phone and mobility products. I was both amused and amazed at all the attention I was getting. I also decided that I should focus more on my health so I could remain as active as possible for as long as possible. Our pets go through many of the same changes we do in our older years. Sadly, though, we don’t always notice. Maybe that is because our pets are our family and we think of them in human terms, meaning we feel that 50 is old (or old’ish) and 7 is still almost a baby.

However, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), small to medium dogs are usually old’ish or even geriatric when they are 7 years old. Larger breed dogs age even faster and are considered senior at 5 or 6 years. The AVMA also says cats can be seniors at 7. Many cats are living longer now, though, because US cat owners are keeping them indoors. Cats that live indoors typically live much longer than their outdoor counterparts. For that reason, cats are sometimes classified as senior at 11-14 and geriatric at 15+ years. When our pets get older, they are at risk for many of the same health problems and diseases as we are. Since they can’t advocate for themselves, it’s important that we do all we can to help them get to and through this life stage in the healthiest way possible.

Here are a few tips:
 Visit your veterinarian regularly and get a senior blood panel to determine if your baby is suffering from health issues you may not readily notice. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say! This is especially true for cats since they are so stoic and hide their sickness.
 Talk to your veterinarian and do research to decide on the best senior food for your pet baby. Just like humans need less sugar and more nutrients as we age, our pet’s dietary requirements also change over time. It’s important that they get the right kind of nutrition for their body chemistry.
 Watch for changes in your pet’s behavior during normal interactions. Pets that have less energy than normal, avoid the stairs, struggle to jump in the car or have accidents in the house may be in pain or have a medical condition. Even louder than normal purring for cats can mean there is a problem.
 Ask your vet about prescription food for mobility issues – both cats and dogs suffer from mobility/arthritis just like we do!
 Cats and dogs tend to get more irritable as they age. Keep this in mind if you are considering getting a new/younger pet baby, since that may be stressful for cats or annoying to a more sedentary older dog.

Aging is as natural as breathing and trying to stay as healthy as possible makes the process better. Help your pet babies age gently and love on them as much as possible to let them know you are always there for them.

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