While it’s easy to spot the outward signs of aging such as graying haircoat and slower pace, it’s important to remember a pet’s organ systems are also changing. An older pet is more likely to develop diseases such as heart, kidney and liver disease, cancer or arthritis. Cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, while cats have a somewhat lower rate.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not age at a rate of 7 human years for each year in dog years. It is normal for pets to lose some of their sight and hearing as they age, similar to humans. Older pets may develop cataracts and they may not respond as well to voice commands. If you teach your pet hand signals at a younger age, it may be easier for you to communicate with your pet as his/her hearing worsens with age. Simple gestures such as “come” or “stop” can allow you to safely retain control of your pet without the use of words. Pets with poor sight or even blindness can get around well in familiar environments. If your pet’s eyesight is failing, avoid rearranging or adding furniture or other items that could become obstacles.