Geriatric Pets

Dogs and cats begin to show visible age-related changes when they are seven to twelve years old. Before those changes become visible, though, there are metabolic, immunologic and body composition changes that slowly begin. Some of the changes are unavoidable. Others can be managed with diet. If, however, the timing of those dietary changes waits until the overt signs are visible, the opportunity to prevent or slow those changes is past.


Nutritional adjustment should begin early, but the exact age in dogs is not as simple as it is in cats. Cats should start eating a senior diet at about 7 years of age. The age for dogs depends upon the dog’s size. Since smaller dogs live longer and don't experience the age-related changes as early as bigger dogs, size is used to determine the time to change diets.

Small breeds or dogs weighing less than 20 pounds

7 years of age

Medium breeds or dogs weighing 21 to 50 pounds

7 years of age

Large breeds or dogs weighing 51 to 90 pounds

6 years of age

Giant breeds or dogs weighing 91 pounds or more

5 years of age

As a dog or cat ages, changes in body tissues may result in health issues, including:

  • Deterioration of skin and coat
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • More frequent intestinal problems
  • Arthritis
  • Obesity
  • Dental problems
  • Decreased ability to fight off infection

The main objectives in the feeding of geriatric dogs and cats should be to maintain health and optimum body weight, slow or prevent the development of chronic disease and minimize or improve clinical signs of diseases that may already be present.

Older dogs and cats have been shown to progressively put on body fat in spite of consuming fewer calories. This change in body composition is inevitable and may be aggravated by either a reduced energy expenditure or a change in metabolic rate. Either way, it is important to feed a diet with a lower caloric density to avoid weight gain from fat and with a normal protein level to help maintain muscle mass.

Studies have shown that the protein requirement for older dogs does not decrease with age and that protein levels do not contribute to the development or progression of renal failure. It is important to feed older dogs diets that contain optimum levels of highly digestible protein to help maintain good muscle mass. Avoid "senior" diets that have reduced levels of protein.

Other special nutrients have been shown to be beneficial in older animals:

  • Increased vitamin E for senior cats. Antibody response decreases as cats age. Increasing the intake of vitamin E in cats over seven years of age can increase their antibody level back to levels seen in younger cats.
  • Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that acts like an omega-3. It also plays a role in the maintenance of a healthy skin and coat. It is normally produced in the dog's liver. In older dogs, GLA levels may be diminished because the activity of the enzyme responsible for its production decreases with age.
  • Fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Older dogs often have changes in the intestinal bacterial population which can result in clinical signs of gastrointestinal disease (e.g. diarrhea). Senior diets for dogs should contain FOS to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria at the expense of detrimental ones.
  • Antioxidants. As dogs age, free radical particles accumulate and can damage body tissues and contribute to the signs of aging. Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene help eliminate the free radical particles. Senior diets should contain higher levels of these antioxidant compounds to help nutritionally manage the free radical particles at the cellular level. Antioxidants can also increase the effectiveness of the immune system in senior cats and dogs.

Routine care for geriatric pets should involve the adherence to a consistent daily routine, regular attention to normal health care procedures and periodic veterinary examinations for assessment of the presence or progression of chronic disease. Stressful situations and abrupt changes in daily routines should be avoided. If a drastic change must be made in an older pet's routine, attempts should be made to minimize stress and to accomplish the change in a gradual manner.

Sign-up using the form or call us at 250-545-8200 to take advantage of this exclusive offer.

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule


8:00 am

5:00 pm


8:00 am

5:00 pm


8:00 am

5:00 pm


8:00 am

5:00 pm


8:00 am

5:00 pm


10:00 am

2:00 pm





Find us on the map


Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Finding a superb vet was a priority for our 13 year old Collie, Braidie. We were extremely fortunate to discover Dr. Ringness who is deeply caring and supportive of her patients and their humans. She explains treatment options clearly and works with us. The best testimony is that Braidie, a “frequent flyer” at Crescent Falls Vet Hospital, used to be afraid at other clinics, but now she waltzes confidently through the door to be greeted by the friendly, relaxed, efficient Staff."
    Braidie, Chris & Ann H. Vernon, BC

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

  • Lost Pets

    Has your pet wriggled their way through the fence or dashed out the front door? When searching for your lost pet, make sure you include these steps in your hunt. ...

    Read More
  • Should You Leave Your Cat Alone for a Long Weekend?

    So you have a trip planned for the weekend, but what should you do with your cat? Learn how to best care for your cat while you're away. ...

    Read More
  • Flea and Tick Season

    Want to protect your pet from fleas and ticks? These tips can help. ...

    Read More
  • Summer Grooming Tips

    Want to keep your pet cool and comfortable this summer? A few changes to your normal grooming routine can help. ...

    Read More
  • What to Do If Your Pet is Stung

    Don't get us wrong, we love the bees! But we don't love when our pets get stung. Follow our tips to treat and prevent bee stings on your furry best friend. ...

    Read More
  • Tips for Traveling With Your Pet

    Do you dread hitting the road with your pet? These tips may make the trip more comfortable and enjoyable for you both. ...

    Read More
  • 6 Questions to Ask At Your Senior Pet's Next Check Up

    Want to keep your senior pet healthy and happy? Ask these six questions at your pet's next check up. ...

    Read More
  • Why the Controversy About Pet Vaccinations?

    As with anything, pet vaccinations can be too much of a good thing. Similar to parents who are learning more about vaccinations for children, veterinarians and pet owners alike are beginning to question some of the standard wisdom when it comes to protecting pets. There are certain fatal diseases against ...

    Read More
  • Pet Clothes: A Fashion Statement or a Necessity?

    There is nothing cuter than a pet in a colorful sweater, but do our furry friends really need to wear clothing? Although clothing is not a necessity for every pet, some animals benefit from a little extra protection during cold or damp days. Others enjoy wearing festive clothing during holidays or other ...

    Read More
  • Introducing a New Pet to Your Current Ones

    Pet Proofing Your Home Introducing your new pet to your current one is only a single part of the equation relating to taking a new pet home. You also have to make sure your new pet is comfortable in your home, which is a foreign environment to the animal. Like humans, animals can experience high levels ...

    Read More