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When our pets are young and brand new to us, it's easy to remember to visit the vet on a regular basis. However, as time passes, many pet owners don't realize or remember the importance of regular veterinary care. Without regular visits, your pet's health could decline and create internal problems affecting his quality of life. Your pet's quality of life is dependent on the care provided as he ages and his internal systems slow down.

As your pet ages, many of the normal bodily functions do not perform at their optimal capacity. When problems arise in an older pet, they can often be complicated. If these problems are detected early, the chance of treating and correcting them are significantly increased. Early detection begins by first identifying what age category your pet fits into.

How Do You Know When Your Dog Becomes a Senior Dog?

The age of any dog, relative to humans, is primarily based on the size of the breed. Smaller breeds, or those under 20 pounds, age slower while larger breeds, or those over 90 pounds, age much quicker.

While an exact determination of the animal's age, relative to a human's, is impossible to measure, these standards can be used to estimate when your dog will be considered a senior:

  • 20 pounds or less = 8 years
  • 21 - 89 pounds = 7 years
  • 90 pounds or more = 5 to 6 years
  • Cats = 7 years

If your pet falls into the senior pet category, it is best to have them examined by a veterinarian twice a year. While this may seem excessive, a yearly visit for an older dog is equivalent to allowing four years to go by without a trip to the doctor for an elderly human. Problems can arise within this time that are easily undetectable by the pet owner and can cause serious problems if left untreated for too long.

What is the Vet Looking for During an Exam?

Initially, the vet is going to look at all your pet's vital signs, such as heart rate and breathing pattern, as well as physical characteristics such as the condition of the eyes, ears, nose and throat.

Behavior is very important as well. Is the animal alert and responsive or dull and depressed? Has water consumption increased? Has urination frequency changed? Does the animal vomit often or have diarrhea? These questions can help determine the overall health of your pet. The vet will check how the bones and joints are holding up. Is stiffness a concern? Does the animal have trouble getting up? Can the dog no longer take long walks or run like they used to? Many animals feel pain and cannot tell their owners.

The veterinarian will also review your pet's medical history. Have the vaccinations been routinely given year after year? Are preventative care programs followed, such as heartworm preventative and flea and tick control? All of these together contribute to the longevity and the quality of life of the animal.

What is the Next Step?

Your veterinarian will discuss the health of your pet with you and make recommendations as to how to sustain a long and healthy life. After all, it is not the number of years, but the quality of those years that matters most.

Learn more about Petco's affordable vaccination services.

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