Dogs and cats are increasingly reaching old age thanks to the right care they receive at home that keeps them healthy for years to come. “Geriatric examinations can detect certain diseases at an early stage, before they progress, and in this way we can stop their development in order to keep the animal in good physical condition for a longer time, for example, in case of heart disease,” explains Manuel. Lazaro, veterinarian and member of the College of Veterinarians of Madrid. But at what age can dogs and cats be considered older? Large dog breeds age earlier than small ones. “The average lifespan of a large dog is 11 to 13 years. Toddlers can live up to 13 or 16 years old, and cats can live from 14 to 17 years old, ”he clarifies.
The signs that indicate that a dog or cat has reached old age are varied. This veterinarian mentions the following: “Greying hair, loss of some degree of vision and hearing, tartar, mild osteoarthritis, or thinning of the skin.” Veterinary examination of older dogs and cats is important to ensure their quality of life in later years. “Particular attention should be paid to symptoms such as fatigue, coughing, drinking and urinating heavily, constipation or difficulty moving,” Lazaro describes. He also mentions that older animals can suffer from an Alzheimer’s-like condition known as cognitive dysfunction, which the expert says affects 25% of dogs over 12 years old.
The anticipation of old age in animals is the so-called fragility syndrome, which is characterized by an increased risk of disease in the animal. “With symptoms such as loss of muscle mass, reduced resistance to infections, deterioration in heart, kidney or liver function, fatigue, hormonal changes or osteoarthritis,” comments the expert, who advises early detection of these signs in order to alleviate the situation as soon as possible. possible deterioration in the health of the pet.
Keeping older dogs and cats healthy can be done with some advice, such as following a special diet known as Senior. “Reducing the amount of protein, as well as phosphorus and sodium, in addition to low calorie content, has a very positive effect, since reducing the amount of protein contributes to the proper functioning of the liver, kidneys and heart of the animal,” recommends Lazaro. . And he adds other recommendations: “Moderate exercise, proper hydration through water intake, and adherence to the animal’s vaccination schedule.”
The first specific signs of animal aging
Cats tend to mask more signs of decline in their vitality, as cats are predators who cannot show themselves vulnerable in order to survive. However, there are signs that point to the onset of aging in dogs and cats. Pedro Ruf, board member of the Madrid College of Veterinarians, mentions the following:
- Lack of interaction with the owner.
- Insufficient excretion of urine and feces, as in the case of cats outside the litter box or dogs outside the walk schedule.
- Excessive vocalization of meowing or barking.
- Behavior is unusual, such as looking at walls.
- Spatial disorientation, lack of activity, apathy, or excessive sedentary behavior relative to the dynamics of the animal at a young age.
- Do not go to the call and do not recognize the owners.
- Aggressive episodes that never happened before.
Dogs and cats share traits with humans who are in the process of evolution towards their physical decline due to age. “They can develop conditions such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease or kidney problems, so it’s important to see a veterinarian if any unusual physical signs are found, such as drinking more than usual,” advises Roof. Brain deterioration also occurs in dogs and older cats. “It can begin to appear as early as seven or eight years of age in less long-lived breeds, such as the Mastiff or Boxer, and in general in large breeds; for the youngest, from the age of 10,” he explains. For these cases, the presence of drugs that improve irrigation and oxygenation of the animal’s brain is highlighted.