When is a pet classified as being senior or mature?

Dogs and cats are considered mature adults once they turn seven years old. However, large breed dogs age more quickly and are considered mature at 5-6 years.

What are some of the signs of aging that a pet owner should look out for?

Pet owners may notice changes to the pet’s appearance, such as some grey hairs appearing. Pets may also develop hearing loss and reduced vision.

Even if a mature pet does not outwardly appear old, certain changes are progressively taking place. These include changes in their organ systems, such as their immune system, digestive system and certain behavioural changes. Behavioural changes include things like changes in their interactions with the family, changes in thinking and becoming confused about where the door is or where their bed is. It can be alterations in their sleeping patterns and toileting accidents when they were previously well toilet-trained. And with advancing age, there is also an increased risk of many age-related complications and disorders.

What care should I be providing to my aging pet?

All pets should be kept up-to-date with all preventative health care, regardless of age. This includes vaccinations, worming and flea control (amongst other things like ticks and heartworm, depending on location). Having a daily dental care routine is vital to protect against dental disease. All pets should receive regular veterinary health checks and should be fed age appropriate nutrition. Hill’s Science Diet portfolio provides science-led nutrition for healthy older dogs and cats of every size and a variety of needs.

Older pets should be groomed regularly to keep their coat healthy. This is particularly relevant to older cats with mobility issues who may struggle to groom. Regular grooming can help to stop painful matts from forming.

Why should I feed a senior or mature adult food to my pet?

Older animals often have decreased nutrient digestion, which means they cannot absorb the nutrients from their food as well as younger animals. It is therefore important to feed a food made with easy-to-digest ingredients for healthy digestion.

Older pets can also be prone to weight gain as they are not burning as many calories exercising, so it is important to feed foods that are specially formulated to support their energy and activity levels. Feeding a food containing high-quality protein to support lean muscles will also help a mature pet maintain a healthy body condition.

Senior foods should also contain balanced minerals to support kidney and heart health because excess minerals can lead the worsening of underlying disease.

Hill’s Science Diet Senior Vitality range is our breakthrough formula to help improve your senior pet’s everyday ability to get up and go.

When should I switch to senior food?

Even if your pet is not showing any outward signs of ageing, they should still be transitioned to senior food at seven years for cats and small/medium dog breeds and six years for dogs that are more than 25kg. It is important to recognise that the benefits of feeding good nutrition accrue over a long period of time, so it is important to feed your pet food appropriate for their changing needs throughout their lifetime.

How frequently should we take our senior pet to the vet for a check-up?

The general consensus from veterinarians is that senior pets should be checked by the vet every six months (or more frequently if there are health concerns). Whilst it might seem frequent, it is only every four dog or cat years.

Check-ups are an opportunity to raise any concerns you might have, and have the vet perform a thorough physical examination of your pet. The vet may also recommend blood and urine tests to screen for diseases. This gives you the best chance of detecting something early so that it can be treated or managed successfully.

Book a senior’s pet health check-up today.