Senior Pets: Caring for Your Aging Animal

As your dog or cat enters its later years, take special care to account for aging's effects on its health, including kidney function, joint pain, dental hygiene, and declining senses.

| July/August 1989

Old Dog

Our pets go through the same sort of changes we do as they age—and because their life spans are so much shorter, our beloved animal friends can seem to literally age before our eyes.


Every year I get more and more aware of the aging process. I'm now wearing bifocals, my joints tend to creak a mite when I first rise from a chair, and when the grandsons want to wrestle I'd usually just as soon read to them from Mother Goose.

Dogs and cats (and other pets) go through the same sort of changes as they age. And because a pet's life span is so much shorter than yours and mine, an animal can seem literally to age before our eyes.

There's no way that I or my pets can halt our aging; we've all been genetically programmed to live a certain number of years, give or take a few. What we can do, however, is improve the quality of the time we've got.

As an animal ages, all its body systems tend to lose their strength, suppleness and efficiency. But some organs and body parts in particular develop problems that warrant special attention in senior pets.

Kidneys and the Aging Process

The kidneys are a pair of crucial organs that are greatly affected by the aging process, especially in dogs. Kidney functional loss—to some degree or other—is the price your dog will almost surely pay for growing old.

One of the first signs that the kidney isn't behaving up to par is when a dog drinks more fluids to help his kidneys function—and when, as a result, he spends lots of time with his leg lifted at the fire hydrant. If it is allowed to progress, chronic kidney disease can lead to severe physical problems, uremia and even death.

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