Senior pets – How to spot discomfort and ways to help

At the ripe age of 7 cats and dogs are considered seniors. Many factors determine how well your pet ages and when they truly become a senior. Environment, nutrition and genetics will play the biggest part. Keep an eye out for any distress from your pet to help ease them into their sunset years. As your pet ages you may notice some minor changes in their behaviour or demeanour. Typically Veterinarians like to see senior pets every 6 months to be sure no issues arise. The doctor will do a full exam, looking for any lumps and bumps, check eye sight and hearing, listen to your pet’s heart and possibly do senior blood work. By bringing you cat or dog in more often it helps the Veterinarian detect issues quickly and treat it appropriately.

Both cats and dogs may have similar issues so watch for any of the following signs.

Dental Issues

Your pet may stop eating their hard food or treats like they normally do. Some dogs or cats may also lick their lips excessively if there is something bothering them in their mouth (ie: loose tooth or pain). If dental disease is left untreated your pet may lose weight and have trouble grooming themselves. Untreated dental issues can also lead to other more severe problems in the long wrong that negatively affect the quality of life of your pet.


Cats and dogs can develop joint problems or arthritis. This makes it harder for them to eat, drink and play. Make sure any litter boxes are easily accessible with a low lip if possible. Providing ramps onto beds, couches or cars may help with mobility and prevent them from hurting themselves. Senior pets may slow down on walks or during play time as well.

Loss of sight or hearing

By remove dangerous objects that your pet can run into or hurt themselves with you allow for a safer environment for your pet to age without fear of injuring themselves. Try not to change your house around too much to make sure they remember where things are and avoid hurting themselves. Baby or puppy gates may help in preventing your dog or cat from going into unwanted rooms or falling down stairs. If they are deaf wake them gently by putting a treat or your hand near their nose while they sleep.

Obesity or weight loss

While some pets lose weight as they age some gain as well. They become less active do to pain or discomfort while still eating the same amount, which causes the weight gain.

There are many ways to keep your cat or dog feeling young, happy and mobile. Keep your dog healthy with slow and short walks. You don’t want to push them to much but you also want to keep them moving and active. Some dogs will let you know when they are done and some won’t, so be sure to watch for signs of fatigue or pain. Don’t overdo it! If you can access a pool allow your pet to relax and swim in it if possible. It is low impact and helps with their aging joints while keeping them active. Dog swim vests can be used for those having trouble staying buoyant.

Invest in short scratching post or cardboard scratchers, it lets your cat scratch until their hearts content while having a great time. Soft mats that make noise can be bought at most pet stores and most cats really enjoy the noise of the mat. They can leisurely lay, sleep or play on them!

By providing soft beds you allow your pet to sleep peacefully and comfortably. Some pets may benefit from warmth if they are stiff or have arthritis pain. By placing a towel in the dryer and placing it on your pet or on the floor for your pet to lay on may provide some pain relief.

Puzzle toys are fun for both cats and dogs! Engage your pet in mellow play time. Physical contact as your pet ages is extremely important. Most pet’s will as enjoy home massages, this provides the human contact they need while helping their aching joints and muscles. There are many homemade solutions out there so think about what your cat or dog likes to do (balls, stuffed toys, cat nip, cardboard scratcher etc.). Some cats (and dogs) need help grooming themselves once they get older so be sure to watch for any matts or dirty hair.

Senior pets deserve just as much love as they did when they were puppies. So love your pet and enjoy everyday with them!