Looking After a Senior Pet

As your pet gets older, they need to get regular check-ups with your vet to make sure they are fit and healthy. Senior pets are more likely to have health issues, and monitoring with routine check-ups and bloodwork is a perfect way of keeping ahead of any illness. Cats are classified as seniors when they are over 12 years old, and dogs when they are 10. Many aspects of your pet’s health should be monitored as they age, and this post highlights several of the key care points for your aging pet.

Did You Know?

  • Chronic Kidney Disease is the most common metabolic disease in senior felines
  • 1 in 4 dogs in America are diagnosed with arthritis
  • 90% of cats over 12 have evidence of degenerative joint disease
  • 10% of cats over 10 years old have evidence of hyperthyroidism


It is important to get your pet’s blood taken regularly as they get older to monitor for disease and health of internal organs, and this may include some additional values that may not have been included in previous bloodwork. There are many different blood panels out there, and your doctor will pick a panel that is best suited for your pet to include the important blood parameters to monitor, which is the reason why bloodwork can have a higher price in our senior animals. Comprehensive blood panels will include specific values to monitor the kidney, liver, bone marrow and blood, and often can include values to measure baseline levels for some endocrine disease (e.g. hyperthyroidism). It is important to monitor for these diseases in our seniors as they are much more prone to developing disease (much like in humans!). If values are abnormal, your doctor will discuss with you what these mean and treatment options, and will most likely ask for additional bloodwork monitoring.

Dental Care

As pets, age, so do their teeth, and without daily cleaning, dental disease can stack up pretty fast! It is important to get on top of your pet’s dental care to prevent the build-up of tartar, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and diseased teeth. Often our older patients will need teeth cleaning with the possibility every couple of years. It is a common misconception that dogs and cats cannot do well without their teeth, where, in reality, they are much better off chewing food with a healthy oral cavity with no teeth than an oral cavity with diseased teeth and gums. Dental disease can be extremely painful for patients, leading to weight loss, appetite loss and even infections that enter the bloodstream.

It is so important for our older patients, especially to keep on top of their dental care, as the later, it is left, the more disease is built up, and with age, there is, of course, an increased risk of putting your cat or dog under anesthesia. Home care is just as important as routine oral exams and dental with extractions- they serve different but unifying purposes.

The purpose of anesthetic cleaning is to debride off the tartar from the teeth as this cannot be removed with tooth-brushing alone. It is also an important time to assess teeth and mouth health through thorough visual inspection and x-rays of the teeth. Extractions are important to prevent further bone damage and infection from dental disease.

Tooth-brushing is important for the daily upkeep of your pet’s teeth. This can help prevent plaque build-up that is so difficult to break down. It also (as in humans) promotes healthy gums and is important to do daily or as often as possible. Dental chews can also help with plaque breakdown, but nothing beats a good ole bristle toothbrush for that mechanical debridement.
There are also dental diets that your dog/cat may be advised to go on for recurrent dental issues.

Joints and Activity

Our senior pets tend to have a lower activity as they age due to stiffness in their joints. 90% of pets over 10 years old have evidence of degenerative joint disease and arthritis. It is often hard to notice if your pet is in pain. There are, however some signs of arthritis to look out for at home that can hint towards this.

  • Difficulty rising/getting up.
  • Difficulty walking up the stairs.
  • Less keen for walking or frequent stopping during walks.
  • Stiffening in colder weather.

Regular check-ups with the vet will also help with diagnosing arthritis and may include a physical exam of the limbs and back.
Depending on the situation and nature of your pet’s arthritis, your veterinarian may prescribe pain medication or supplements to help your dog feel comfortable and delay further progression of joint disease.


Senior pets require senior food! As your animal ages, their nutritional requirements do, too, and it is important to transition to a diet that meets their needs. Talking to your vet about diet options for your senior pet is important! Your vet may also recommend specific diets for your animal based on the health conditions your pet may have.


Heart disease is unfortunately quite common in our senior patients, which is one of the reasons why, at vet visits, the doctor listens to your pet’s heart. Your veterinarian may recommend further investigations if they are concerned about your dog/cat developing heart disease, including x-rays and ultrasounds. If your pet is diagnosed with heart disease, you may also be asked to monitor your animal’s “sleeping respiratory rate” to monitor for signs of heart failure. Speak to your vet if you have any concerns or questions with regard to your pet’s heart health!

If you have any questions about your senior pet, please call us at 416-494-1109, and one of our team members will be happy to assist you.


  • Anderson, K., O’Neill, D., Brodbelt, D., Church, D., Meeson, R., & Sargan, D. et al. (2018). Prevalence, duration and risk factors for appendicular osteoarthritis in a UK dog population under primary veterinary care. Scientific Reports, 8(1). doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-23940-z
  • Arthritis & Degenerative Joint Disease in Cats | International Cat Care. (2019). Retrieved 4 December 2019, from
  • Bland, S. (2015). Canine osteoarthritis and treatments: a review. Veterinary Science Development, 5(1). doi: 10.4081/vsd.2015.5931
  • Carney, H., Ward, C., Bailey, S., Bruyette, D., Dennis, S., & Ferguson, D. et al. (2016). 2016 AAFP Guidelines for the Management of Feline Hyperthyroidism. Journal Of Feline Medicine And Surgery, 18(5), 400-416. doi: 10.1177/1098612×16643252
  • Stephens, M., Neill, D., Church, D., McGreevy, P., Thomson, P., & Brodbelt, D. (2014). Feline hyperthyroidism reported in primary-care veterinary practices in England: prevalence, associated factors and spatial distribution. Veterinary Record, 175(18), 458-458. doi: 10.1136/vr.102431