How Do We Know When Our Pets Are “Seniors”?

Our pets are our fur-kids that age faster than we do. It’s up to us to take care of them. But, how do we know what is “senior” in dog and cats?

We all seem to know that in humans, being over 50 is considered older. The old saying was that for every year a dog or cat lived, it’s seven in human years. That would make your one-year-old pet seven years old and a 20-year-old dog or cat 140 years old. We all know that a one-year-old dog and cat really doesn’t seem to act like they’re seven years old, as they usually hit puberty at about six months. And, who’s ever heard of a human that’s lived to 140 years old (20 in cat and dog years)??

If that rule doesn’t cut it, it still leaves us wondering what is old for dogs and cats?

Not only is age dependent on species such as dog or cat, it’s also dependent upon breed, genetics, nutrition and environment. Then, you add to the mix differences in terms such as aged, senior or geriatric. “Aged” is another way to say older animal as is “senior”. “Geriatric” can imply a very old animal such as a 12- to 15-year-old cat or small dog or a nine-year-old giant breed dog. However, some people may interpret geriatric to mean that they also have a current medical condition in addition to being older. It really gets confusing!

How do we tease all this apart?

Cats, being very similar in size, tend to age at about the same rate. They hit the human 50 year mark at around eight years of age. Dogs are a bit of a different story. Small dogs tend to live longer while large and giant breed dogs don’t live quite as long. Small dogs hit the human 50 year mark at about eight or nine years of age, medium breed dogs around seven or eight years, and large and giant breeds around five or six years of age. This is a rough guide only. Remember, it can be younger for animals with genetic conditions and illnesses and can be affected by environment and nutrition.

Unfortunately, our pets can’t get a senior discount from fleas and ticks hoping to hitch a ride! What medication would be right for them?

As animals age, they can start getting age-related physical and physiological changes that can affect how they handle certain medications and flea and tick treatment. Some of these changes can creep up and not show very strong signs of illness. This becomes important when reading the label of flea and tick medications.

On the back of many over-the-counter flea and tick medications, there’s usually a warning statement that states, “Consult a veterinarian before using this product on medicated, debilitated, aged, pregnant, or nursing animals.” Why is this there? These groups of animals can have differences in the way they handle medications and these differences come from their unique physiology.

Is there a safe medication for older animals? Sure there is! However I recommend that you consult your veterinarian for choosing the right one for animals covered under the warning label, such as our senior pets. Keep in mind that a prescribed medication, just like in people, may have an over-the-counter counterpart that’s just as effective and less expensive.

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