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When does my pet become a "senior"?

Did you know that dogs and cats age at a rate that’s seven times faster than the ageing rate for humans? That means that by the time they’re seven years of age, they’re considered to be roughly the equivalent of 49 human years of age. 
“The approximate age where a pet is considered senior is when they’re older than seven years of age,” says Dr Roslyn Lui of Greencross Vets Werribee. “Sometimes we need to take into consideration their breed, though – larger breeds of dog can age faster and have a shorter life span than smaller dogs.”
For example, a Pomeranian, at an average height of about 20cm, would therefore be more likely to live longer than a Great Dane, at up to 80cm. A large dog’s increased height and weight mean that the effects of age-related disease like arthritis can take a heavier toll, even though a small dog may be just as likely to develop the same diseases – its lightness will help reduce the impact of symptoms. 
As our pets age, it’s important to consider their changing needs. Dr Roslyn recommends having a vet check your pet at least twice a year, in order for the vet to catch any age-related problems early on. She also highlights three areas that pet parents should pay close attention to:
  • Changes in mobility: This can be a symptom of arthritis or other discomfort-inducing illness.
  • New lumps or bumps on the body: “As age becomes an issue we also unfortunately see more instances nasty cancers,” says Dr Roslyn.
  • Dental problems: Symptoms can include smelly breath, pain on chewing, drooling, or preference for wet food over dry food. “I will always make sure to have as part of their ageing plan dental food or some sort of a dental management strategy,” says Dr Roslyn.
Furthermore, Dr Roslyn recommends asking your Greencross Vet about the dietary requirements of your senior cat or dog, which should be tailored to each animal based on factors including their activity level and existing conditions. 
“If a pet is ageing they may choose to be indoors more and might not be using as much energy compared to when they were young,” says Dr Roslyn. “We want to make sure they maintain a lean, healthy body weight while they’re going into their older years.”
Most importantly, Dr Roslyn recommends talking to your local Greencross Vets about your pet if you have any concerns. Remember to book in at least twice-yearly checkups for your pet.

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