SENIOR PET AGING COMPARED TO HUMANS
Pets age much differently than people do. Senior pet aging is a bit different in pets. The bigger the dog the shorter the life expectancy. That is why a Great Pyrenees has a much shorter life expectancy than a Chihuahua. Cats are small animals and even out live most small dogs. It is not unusual to treat a 20 year old cat while you never see a small dog lasting that long. A Great Dane is a senior citizen at 5 or 6 years of age while a Yorkshire Terrier is barely past adolescence! If science could figure out senior pet aging, it would help to understand human aging. Genetics and size play a role but what is it at the cellular level that speeds up aging?
The downloadable aging chart to the right perfectly illustrates the above concept. The difference in senior pet aging is what veterinarians discuss with owners all the time. Lots of people medically compare themselves to pets. Yes, dog and cats have the same medical issues that people have but there is one big difference. Senior pet aging in the pet occurs much faster than in people. Individuals will balk at doing lab work because “it was just done a year or two ago”! A one year interval in human blood work is akin to 3-5 years in dogs and cats. Therefore blood work that is older than one year is literally out of date. Many things can transpire in blood chemistries within not just one year, but in 6 months; particularly endocrine issues in dogs and cats.
OUTWARD SIGNS OF AGING
I always remarked to clients that cats age so gracefully. You could look at a 15 year old cat thinking it was no older than 3! Cats rarely have the outward aging signs that most dogs eventually get. Their hair doesn’t turn gray nor do they hardly ever develop cataracts until they are about 16 years of age!! They are light weight animals hence their skeletal system does not have to fight gravity as much as a dog. Rarely do they show signs of overt arthritis until they are way up there in age. Cats are amazing creatures of survival.
Senior pet aging is seen most often in the larger breed of dog for reasons explained above. A slow greying of the muzzle starting at the nose and working back along the neck is usually seen. Many Golden Retrievers around 12 or so will have a full head of grey hair with only a few “golden” ones left. Senior pet aging also includes a development of a cloudiness in the lens. These are known as senile cataracts. Immature cataracts rarely bother dogs. They are near sighted and see shades of white and black plus a few colors so a bit of cloudiness does not change their life. Even dogs with mature cataracts can get around quite well as long as you don’t change the furniture arrangement. These creatures are highly adaptive because there is one sense that doesn’t change and that is their smelling device. Dogs sense of smell is unique and never ages as a general rule.
Senior pet aging is not a terrible thing for your pet. Sure, it is graying around the muzzle, has irregular sleeping patterns and harder times getting around but with the excellent quality of veterinary care out there, it is much easier now for your pet to enjoy its “golden years”.