This week on Animal House with our favorite veterinarian, Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, it’s all about our senior pets.

People talk about the “greying” of America as the boomers age, our pets are also getting older. As a result of people knowing more about their own health, the Internet, better diets, and advances in veterinary care, pets are living longer.

While the life expectancy for Americans has actually gone down, our animals are living longer lives. In the last 30 years, life expectancy for dogs is up 11% while for cats it has increased 14%.

For dogs over 55 pounds, they become geriatric at 8 years old and dogs weighing in at 20 to 55 pounds, they become geriatric by 10 years and dogs under 20 pounds become geriatric at 12 years of age.

As dogs and cats age they begin to slow down, gain weight more easily, their senses, hearing and vision start to dull and as they continue to age, like people they lose muscle mass.

The 3 most common health problems in older animals are:

  • Arthritis – particularly in large and overweight animals, have difficulty walking or standing,
  • Kidney disease – these pets show weight loss, vomiting, drink more, may have poor appetite, stop grooming, and have irregular urination,
  • Cancer- sudden weight loss, often still with a good appetite, be independent active and more lethargic, and have various swellings or bumps, Immune system – weakens with age – more vulnerable to infections of all sorts.

Dr. Fitzgerald recommends taking your pet in for a biannual veterinary visits so they can run tests and make suggestions on proper diet and medication and most importantly receive a good and thorough physical.

The goal of both the veterinarian and the owner is identical. Both wish to maximize their animal’s quality of life for as long as possible.