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April 2013 Cover Photo

Debunking the “Seven Human Years is One Dog Year” Myth: What to Watch for in Aging Pets

The main problem with pets, as any pet lover knows, is that they don’t live as long as we do. Their time at “The Rainbow Bridge” comes much too soon.  But, the equivalent of “age in human vs. dog/cat years” is a little more complicated than a simple ratio.  And being aware of signs to watch for in aging pets can make their final years more healthful and happy.

As you can see from the graph below, dog aging is more tied to a dog’s size than anything else.  (graphic courtesy Wikipedia.org)
Dog Years


A cat’s years, on the other hand, are a little more constant, at least in equivalency.  (graphic courtesy bengalcatworld.com)
Cat Years


But pets don’t age the same way humans do, and it helps to be aware of the signs and symptoms in your pet. The following tips are part of a good regimen to keep Fido and Fluffy happy and well.
1. Get regular vet exams:  This is important throughout your pet’s life, but it’s especially important in senior pets. Arthritis, heart problems, and teeth & gum issues are things we may not catch since we see our pet on a daily basis. A veterinarian, on the other hand, can help diagnose and treat issues, often before we even know they ARE issues. 

2. Watch your pet’s weight:  Nothing ages a pet like being overweight, and sudden weight loss can be an indicator of a serious problem. Watch that your pet’s weight doesn’t change dramatically. If it does, seek medical help. Diabetes, kidney issues, and cancer are some possible issues related to rapid weight change. 

3. Behavior changes: As pets age, their bodies may stay healthy, but behavior changes could be indicators of the onset of dementia. Some things to watch for include: 
a. Changes in ‘bathroom’ habits: Has Fido begun urinating or defecating in places he shouldn’t? Has Fluffy started “thinking outside the box” a little too often? These can be indicators of dementia (or other health issues). 
b. “Crying”: If Fluffy or Fido suddenly starts meowing/barking or whining at odd hours, especially wandering through the house while doing it, not only is it one of the saddest things to witness,  it is usually a sign of dementia. 
c. Getting lost in familiar places: Watch that your pet doesn’t wander aimlessly or confused through places like the living room. 
d. Lack of drive to interact: Sometimes it’s just ‘old age’ pain or lack of energy that makes a pet lose interest in family interaction, but sometimes it can be dementia. If a favorite toy or family member suddenly holds no charm, your pet may be exhibiting signs of dementia. 

So, celebrate the years you have! Revel in the joy of pet ownership! They may not be here forever, but the joy of their camaraderie and company makes it all worthwhile! 

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