By Lyn Lewis DVM
Wayside Animal Hospital

Our pets age differently than we do, so a lot of the things we go through are different than our pets. A big factor that separates our pets from us is the difference in the aging process based on their size. Cats tend to live well over sixteen years. Small breed dogs under or around twenty five pounds can live similar lengths of time. Medium dogs up to around sixty pounds live around twelve years. Dogs over sixty pounds live around ten to eleven years. Giant breed dogs such as Great Danes are considered to have a full life if they live around eight years!

There are a lot of common issues that affect our senior pets. One of the most noticeable early senior issues is a condition called nuclear sclerosis. This condition is a very normal process which causes the lens of the eye to begin to harden. It makes the lens look slightly white; which makes a lot of people think their pet has cataracts. This hardening of the lens also occurs in people; this is why people with normal vision need reading glasses as they get older. Another common problem our pets have is different kinds of skin tumors. A lot of dogs get very soft lumps of varying size as they get older. These lumps tend to be under the top layer of the skin and are called fatty lypomas. Lypomas are benign and some dogs can have dozens, the only way to confirm a lypoma is via cellular aspirate. Both dogs and cats can develop wart like masses on the top of the skin. Both of these conditions are usually benign and are quite normal with age. But I urge you to have them checked out first and get an expert’s opinion before assuming it is normal.

There are a lot of other internal issues such as diabetes, cushings disease, thyroid problems, and different organ failures. All these processes take time, usually many months up to a year. Unfortunately, our pets have a certain driving force to hide any problems that they might be suffering from. This is why after the age of seven routine bloodwork is so important. It allows us to pick up on various problems that our animals may be suffering from. At this point there are many things we can do to help the problem, perhaps even cure it.

So, in review, our pets age differently based on their sizes. As they age, certain changes take place such as nuclear sclerosis and various skin tumors, some benign and some worse. One of the best ways to protect your pet is to have routine exams and senior bloodwork done every year. If you notice any changes to your pet a simple exam could mean the difference between a long life and major health problems.