Ageing Pets

Pete Wedderburn
23rd January 2020 - 3 min read

There is one “disease” problem that science can do little about, yet it afflicts every single living creature, from stick insects to elephants. The ageing process is a part of the life of every animal and every human. Old age, with the gradual deterioration of our physical bodies, is something that medicine seems to be able to do little to stop.

old dog and cat lying in the grass
Old Cat and Dog friends

What is Considered Old for an Animal?

Pets grow older much more quickly than humans.

  • A hamster is elderly by the age of two.
  • A dog may die of ‘old age related’ illnesses at any time from ten years of age.
  • A very old cat would be around twenty-two years of age, which would still be very young in human terms.

It is interesting that at a microscopic cellular level, animals are almost identical to humans. Yet their bodies age far more rapidly than our own. There are scientists all over the world scratching their heads over the comparison. If someone could discover what makes humans live so much longer than animals, and if that effect could be applied at a magnified rate to humans, the result could be startling. 

Anti-Ageing Products

There are plenty of products on the market that claim to have anti-aging effects. If you search for “anti-aging” on the internet, you’ll see. Borage oil, Siberian Ginseng, certain exotic seaweeds, and many other products are claimed to delay the aging process. It’s difficult to establish proof that any of these products make a significant difference, but who knows?  Simple Vitamin E is increasingly recognised as being very useful, with its potent antioxidant effect.

dog chewing bone sitting on red couch

Senior Diets

In the world of pets, there are some specific aspects of old age that can be helped with careful attention to diet. So-called “senior diets” have been formulated specifically to meet the changing needs of older pets, and they can make a difference. One new senior diet has been proven to improve cognitive function in older dogs. A recent report in the British Journal of Nutrition showed an improvement in dogs’ memory, learning capacity, and ability to adapt to novel situations when fed on the new diet.

Genetic Influence

Some animals seem to age more rapidly than others. So why do some dogs remain like pups, whereas other seem to grow old prematurely? When:

  • Both types of dogs are fed on high quality diets.
  • Both are adored by their owners and receive regular walks and plenty of attention.

The one significant difference between the two animals is their genetic background.

One of the dogs’ families may have been strong and healthy, whereas as the other family might have had a strong hereditary basis that included arthritic joints.

Tips for Ensuring a Long Life

  • Choose a puppy or kitten from genetically sound breeding stock.
  • Allow them to have contented, healthy lives, with good food and plenty of exercise.
  • When they show signs of old age, whether it is sooner or later, give them veterinary help to keep their ageing bodies disease-free, pain-free, and comfortable until that inevitable end.