By Dr. Al Townshend
As our beloved pets begin to age, there is always a concern. Over the years, the strong bond that forms between Guardians and their pets becomes more profound and cherished. Understanding that dogs and cat do not live as long as we do can create concern.
The Golden Age of a Senior Pet
Veterinarians have studied the aging process for many years and have determined that it can begin earlier than you might think.
Dogs are considered seniors at around 7-9 years of age. That seems early, but the beginning changes are often very subtle and hardly noticed. Smaller breeds tend to live longer than larger breeds.
Cats enter the senior years at around 10 years of age.
We know that dogs frequently live well into their late teens and cats can live some twenty years. That means at least half of their life can be lived as senior pets.
Aging is described as a process of degeneration. Simply put, as we all get older, the body begins to wear out. Bones start to develop arthritis, eyes and ears aren’t as functional, activity slows, and our internal organs and bodily functions become sluggish.
It is important to understand that there are things that can be done to slow the aging process and maintain the best quality of life. Making sure the pet has everything it needs to compensate for the degeneration is the key.
Starting early, to slow the process of aging is essential. Never wait until it becomes obvious a pet is old.
A key to understanding why supplements are essential has to do with how pet foods are made. Government regulations only require manufacturers to include the bare minimums of many nutrients, like vitamins and minerals. There are no specific regulations for senior pets, so most pet food producers stay very close to the minimum requirements for adult dogs and cats.
As the body begins to become less efficient, the ability to digest and absorb nutrients slows significantly. Older pets will need more essential nutrients in their food compared to younger pets.
Vitamins and Minerals
Optimum levels of vitamins and minerals are considered essential. They are necessary because they are part of hundreds of bodily functions. Without proper levels, the body can’t function properly, and degeneration can speed up.
Many vitamins are also considered antioxidants which are important for immune health.
A word or two of caution is necessary.
Vitamins and especially minerals should be provided in a balanced package and for the most part, not given separately. Imbalances, especially in calcium and phosphorus levels, can be harmful.
Too much of a good thing can also be damaging. Remember, supplementing should just be adding to what is in the pet’s basic diet.
How do I know they work?
Most agree that it can take 4-6 weeks or longer for supplements to get into the system and see the benefit of any supplement.
Most of the benefits from a vitamin and mineral supplement are not visible in our pets. They provide essentials for bodily functions that can’t be seen, they provide immune support, and they maintain organ function.
The long-term benefits of supplements are that they help the pet live a longer, better life with fewer problems.