The older your dog or cat is, the more frequently your veterinarian may want to see him. Generally a dog is considered “old” around age seven or eight, and by age ten, your dog can definitely fall under the category of senior citizen. As for cats, under ideal conditions, they may live as long as twenty years.

Older pets experience aches and pains like us but typically adjust to their infirmities with minimum fuss. Your aged cat will sleep more than it once did and generally become more mellow. Eighty percent of dogs suffer from some kidney dysfunction after they reach their middle years, and other organs of the body such as the heart, lungs, eyes, and ears may also begin to show signs of deterioration.

The nutritional requirements of the older dog or cat differ in degree rather than kind from those of the young counterparts. An older animal simply needs less food. The safest way to give your pet the appropriate balance of nutrients is to feed him high quality foods that have been scientifically formulated for dogs or cats, and to follow instructions on the back of the can or bag.

You’ll find that your cat or dog will sleep more in their old age and seek out warm places for naps. Take care to provide a comfortable, well-padded bed away from drafts. If you plan to travel, inquire about a sitter to either stay or look in on your older pet. If boarding is your only option, select a facility that provides a caring and serene environment and take along a favorite blanket or some familiar toys. Keep in mind that in times of illness, they are often better off at home where the sureness of your love and attention is available.

Regular grooming will help keep your dog or cat clean, stimulate the skin, and restore a little shine to their coat. It will also help eliminate fleas and ticks, which can lead to skin infections. Grooming is especially important in older cats because they sometimes have trouble regurgitating fur balls. While grooming, you may want to check your pet’s body for lumps that may call for medical attention.

The death of your pet can be as devastating as the loss of a human loved one. The type of bond between us can determine the degree, but the process we go through in experiencing that loss will certainly be the same. Grief is a period of profound sadness and is healthy. This is a difficult time when the task is to simply hurt, feel appropriate loneliness, and come to the point where it is time to get on with life. That does not mean to forget or experience no more sadness, yet in time, memories tend to be filled with fondness and happy thoughts of life together.

From the National Humane Education Society