Caring for Your Senior Pet


Caring for a pet over a lifetime brings changing issues and challenges. A healthy pet may develop age-related illnesses and conditions that seem unexpected or sudden: "But she's only 9 years old!" Depending on the type of small animal pet you have, seniority can come in very few human years.

For example, small breeds of dogs may live as many as 15 years or more, whereas very large breeds may have a lifespan of 7 or 8 years, classifying them as "senior" when they are 5 years old. Domestic cats tend to live longer than dogs, roughly 15–20 years. In terms of exotics and pocket pets, the variance is greater, with rabbits ranging from 8–12 years, ferrets around 10, and hamsters having a long life if they reach 3 years old.

Since the life span of your pet will vary with breed, general care, and lifestyle, your veterinarian is your best resource to help you determine stage of life. Your pet may experience a general slowing down with age or may exhibit more alarming symptoms such as confusion, withdrawal, loss of control, or even aggression. We will be looking for such signs of aging early in your pet's pending seniority, and will likely increase the annual wellness visit to twice annually at that time. Certainly, if your pet has any chronic health problems or is on long-term medications, twice-annual visits are a must.

Aside from the standard wellness tests, you should expect a senior pet to have at least some of the following laboratory or diagnostic tests:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood-chemistry panel
  • Feces exam
  • Blood pressure evaluation
  • Eye exam
  • Electrocardiogram

There are other exams, depending upon the type of pet and symptoms exhibited, but we will discuss any possible concerns with you, and the testing we feel is needed, prior to taking any action. We will also discuss the possible effects of aging on your pet, such as:

  • Sensory changes
  • Physical deterioration
  • Nutritional needs
  • Exercise requirements
  • Pain management

And we will guide and support you when the time comes to say "goodbye" to your special companion. We will keep them as comfortable as possible for as long as possible and provide respectful and compassionate euthanasia services when you are ready.

Knoxville Veterinary Clinic believes early detection of developing problems is the key to keeping your pet comfortable and content during these senior years. Learn more about Senior Pet Care at the AVMA HealthyPet website.


Read this WebMD article to learn How to Calculate Your Dog's Age.

If you have lost a loyal animal companion or if that time is soon approaching, visit our Pet Loss pages for information and support.