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5 Tips For Senior Pets Living in Los Angeles

My Bliss is 10 years old!
My Bliss is 10 years old!Susan Hartzler

I can't believe my Australian Shepherd Bliss is 10 years old and my cat Cyd is turning 18! According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), that's not so unusual. In fact, pets are living longer and healthier lives thanks to developments in veterinary care and dietary habits. However, that doesn’t change the fact that their health begins to decline in their senior years at around the ages of six or seven.

“Pets age at a much faster rate than humans. For every one human year, a pet ages seven,” says Dr. Mitsie Vargas a veterinarian based in Winter Haven, Florida. “When you think about that and put that into perspective, then you realize how important taking your pet for a checkup twice a year is… that is when a lot of situations can be found out earlier and treated cheaper and with a better outcomes,” added Vargas.

Follow these simple tips to ensure a pet’s senior years are also its golden years:

1) Increase veterinary visits
Senior pets should be taken to the veterinarian twice a year, instead of only once a year. Semi-annual visits allow veterinarians to detect and treat any signs of illness early. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA.org) has a few tips to make veterinary visits a little better for everyone click HERE for more.

2) Look out for changes in behavior
Before any medical symptoms appear, behavioral changes can provide signs that something is wrong. Examples of behavior changes include confusion, decreased interaction with humans, house soiling, changes in sleep cycles, and more. Also watch for weight changes because those can be a sign that something's wrong.

3. Consider modifying diet and nutrition
As pets age, their dietary needs change. Senior pets may need easily digestible foods or foods with different calorie levels and ingredients that include anti-aging nutrients.

4. Keep pets physically active
Just as with older humans, it is very important to keep senior pets moving. Maintaining mobility through appropriate exercise will help keep them healthier. Bliss just went swimming this morning at the beach. Swimming is a great physical activity for senior dogs. Make sure you also play stimulating games with your senior pets.

5. Be aware of pet health risks and symptoms.
Some pet breeds and lifestyles have increased risks associated with them. For instance, dogs and cats that have not been neutered or spayed have a higher risk of developing mammary, testicular, and prostate cancers. As pets get older they develop many of the same illnesses that are present in humans such as cancer, heart disease, kidney and urinary tract diseases, diabetes, and even senility.

These five tips will help maximize a pet’s senior years, but always check with veterinarians for specific guidelines on pet care.

Keep pets physically active
Keep pets physically active Handout/Getty Images

Keep pets physically active

You can teach a dog new tricks! Try surfing!!! I am teaching Bliss to surf right now and she loves it! Many adages promote negative ideals or overly cautious behavior disguised as wisdom. Most of you have heard, “you can’t teach an old dog, new tricks” which is completely false. This old adage is in direct conflict with “you are never too old to learn.” Some components of aging may slow learning, but continuing to learn new things can keep the mind sharp and greatly increase quality of life for any species.

Beware of health risks and symptoms
Beware of health risks and symptoms Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Beware of health risks and symptoms

Swimming is a great activity for seniors. Swimming is not only fun for your dog…but it also does great things for him. The resistance of water makes your dog work harder to swim than he has to work on land to walk or run. He will show improved muscular strength and tone, while working the cardio-vascular and respiratory systems, without the impact of concussive exercise on land and the associated damage that it may cause.

Look out for changes in behavior
Look out for changes in behavior David McNew/Getty Images

Look out for changes in behavior

If your dog is not as active as it was, that might be a sign of a problem!We expect certain changes to occur in an animal's body as the animal ages. These changes may not be the same in each animal species. In some animals (e.g.; toy breeds of dogs) changes in the heart are common, whereas in other animals (cats), the kidneys may be one of the first organs to show signs of aging. We can help older animals to adapt to these changes in a variety of ways: diagnosing problems early, use of appropriate medications and supplements, modifying the dog's environment, and changing the way in which we interact with our older friends.