Growing old gracefully: how to care for your senior pet

How can I help my pet to age gracefully?

TWILIGHT YEARS: Pets are considered senior from seven years of age and can have differing needs to that of their younger selves.

TWILIGHT YEARS: Pets are considered senior from seven years of age and can have differing needs to that of their younger selves.


Senior animals have different needs to younger ones, but can still live full and enjoyable lives.


By the ripe old age of seven, dogs and cats are classified as senior pets. And just like humans, pets experience the effects of ageing. This can include greying hair, sore joints, changes to eyesight, lumps and bumps as well as behavioural issues and more.

Greencross Vets' chief veterinary officer Veronica Monaghan encouraged Australians to visit their local clinic to learn more about pet ageing. "There are a number of health concerns pets can encounter as they get older, but owners can play their part in the quality of their furry friend's life by keeping an eye on them and providing appropriate care for their age," she said.

"If your pet is entering the senior age bracket soon, you can take precautions to help your pet live a long and happy life. Dogs and cats age at different times based on factors including their breed and size. Pet parents should adapt their pet's diet and exercise to suit their individual needs to help them age gracefully."

Dr Monaghan said quite often pet parents did not realise when the dog or cat hit that senior age bracket, they would have different dietary and care requirements. She outlined some of the more common health conditions experienced by senior pets. She assured pet owners the transition from adult to senior pet was nothing to worry about if you knew what to watch out for.


Pet parents may notice their furry friend has started to slow down and decline physically and this can be a sign of arthritis. If your pet is limping or experiencing difficulty getting up, see your vet to have them assessed. A veterinarian can provide a plan to help manage and treat symptoms.


As pets age, they experience changes to their metabolism. "We recommend switching to dog and cat foods that specifically cater to seniors to make sure they're getting the correct nutrients for their life stage," Dr Monaghan said. It is important to bear in mind your pet's energy levels, so meal portions and exercise match up.


Dogs and cats can experience mood-changes as they get older. Monitor how they interact with other animals and humans. Dr Monaghan said it was important to identify any shifts in behaviour and tend to these changes before they become an issue. "Sometimes changes in behaviour can be linked to health issues, such as arthritis or tooth pain for example, so be sure to check in with your vet if you see any changes in your fur baby," she said.