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Some of my favourite patients to see at Orchard Vets are our senior pets. Sure, puppies and kittens are cute, but they generally don’t take much looking after. With senior pets, however, there is often a lot that we can do to maintain a good quality of life as signs of ageing start to be seen.

When is a pet considered to be ‘senior’?

This varies a lot depending on species and breed. Cats are considered to be senior from about 11 years of age, but often live to 18 or even 20. A small breed dog might still be active and mobile into their mid- to late- teens, but giant breeds such tend to have a shorter lifespan. What we do know now, is that with good nutrition and better access to a variety of treatments, many pets are living longer than ever.

What are the major concerns for senior pets?

The most important thing for our older pet is to maintain their quality of life. Painful conditions such as arthritis are common in older pets, and a variety of treatments are available to keep them comfortable and mobile. Similarly, problems with internal organ systems such as the heart or kidneys may develop in older pets – a variety of treatments are available to slow the progression of these, and stop any effects that may make your pet feel unwell. Signs of these may be very subtle in the early stages, so we recommend regular vet checks for senior pets – at least annually, but ideally at least twice per year. Our Health Plan, which includes an additional health check along with annual examination and vaccination, can be an ideal way to ensure your pet’s health gets the close attention it requires.

Written by Lucy Fleming, BVSc, MSc, MRCVS