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The Senior Citizen Pet

The Senior Citizen Pet


      Each animal species will age differently.  Hamsters, mice and other small rodents rarely live over 3-4 years of age.  A guinea pig can live to be 6-7 years, while a rabbit can live a healthy life for up to 10 years.  Birds can live for 10-80 years, depending upon the species.  The average cat or dog lives 15 years.  The larger breed of dogs do not live as long as the small breeds.  Below is the average comparison chart for dogs and cats.


      Your Pet’s Age            Equivalent in Human Years

                        Cat         Small-Medium Dog  Large Dog   Giant Breed

                                        (0-50#)*      (50-90#)    (90+ # weight)


      1 year old        10                10          10          10 years old

      3                 15                20          20          20

      5-6               30-35             40-52       45          49

      7-8               40-45             44-51       50-55       56-64

      9-10              50-55             52-60       61-66       71-78

      11-12             60-65             60-69       72-77       86-93

      13-14             70-75             68-78       82-88       101-108

      15-16             80-85             76-87       93-99       115-123

      17-18             90-95             84-96       104-109    

      19-20             100-105           92-105      115-120

      21-22             110-115

      23-24 years  =    120-125 equivalent human years


* the smaller breeds are on the lower end of this dog scale.  Longevity, or the length of life, is related largely to genetics and some environmental influences.


      Pets over 10 years of age are considered geriatric.  Senior pets are usually defined as being 5-8+ years in age.  Any change in a bowel, urination, eating or drinking habits should prompt a call to the clinic for advice.  Your pet should drink less than 1 cup of water (8 oz) per 10# of body weight a day.  Excess water drinking indicates a possible medical problem where the body is trying to compensate for kidney, liver, diabetes or another problem.  It is not normal for an animal to drink a large amount of water. 

      It is recommended that you consider changing your pet’s food to a senior labeled diet.  If you compare labels of the senior, the geriatric and the lite-type diets, they are similar in having 16% protein or less for dogs.  A high protein diet may be detrimental to the liver and the kidney.  The body does not store excess daily protein, and thus most high protein diets are “outdated”.

      A urinalysis test is strongly recommended if one has not been done in the last 2-3 years.  First thing in the morning take your dog out for a walk and use a clean plastic tub to collect the urine while she squats or he lifts his leg.  A cat can have his urine collected simply by loosely placing Saran wrap inside the litter box, on top of his regular litter.  Please ask for a syringe or eyedropper to withdraw the urine and place into another plastic or glass container (or 2-3cc of urine in a syringe is adequate).  Fecal contamination of urine will alter some of the tests we perform when looking for geriatric problems in the urinalysis.  Please bring in the urine within 12-24 hours.  Refrigeration, but not freezing, can be done until you are able to bring in the urine, unless we are considering a bacterial culture for a urinary tract infection.  

      Since pets age quicker than we do, 1 year is similar to 5+ years in human comparison.  The annual physical is similar to us having a physical every 5 years.  The next time you are in we would like you to strongly consider a series of blood tests for your pet.  By sending the lab samples out in the mail we can perform a complete blood count (CBC) and 15+ chemistries testing the body’s minerals, cholesterol, liver, kidney and other organs.  These above tests can be performed for less than $70 with results in 1-4 days.   


The Staff at the Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic



      Contrary to what humans are told, a pet drinking a lot of water is not normal.  Anytime a pet is drinking over one 8 oz cup of water per 10# body weight, we need to


1.  Perform Blood Tests; these are to test the kidneys, liver and to see if the patient is a diabetic,


2.  Have you collect some urine to look for an infection.  For a dog we provide a sterile urine container and a urine ladle available at no charge if you return the ladle.  Please try to collect the urine sample first thing in the morning, when you allow her to go outside.  Keep her on a leash so it will be easy to collect some urine.  It may be best to consider taking her for a walk at the same time, since the exercise may help stimulate her to urinate.

      For cats we recommend using a syringe and syringe cap available from the clinic.  Drape some plastic wrap loosely in her litter box, and after she urinates, suck up the urine into the syringe.  All we need is 1-2 cc (1-2 ml).  If there are any feces in the urine, start over.  If she urinates on the floor, you can collect this urine for a routine sample collection; if we know there is an infection and are planning to culture the urine a sample off the floor is not adequate.  We also have plastic beads you can use to collect urine using a clean, water only washed and dried litter box.  Bring the urine sample by the clinic within the next 18 hours at most, if possible; the sooner the better, and if it is over 3 hours we recommend you refrigerate the urine until it is brought into the clinic.