WHAT AGE IS OLD?
‘Research is showing that a dog’s brain function starts to change and decrease at seven years old,’ says Dr Vigeant. ‘In cats this can be between seven and nine years old.’
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF OLD AGE?
‘There are physical and behavioural signs, such as taking longer getting up or down, being less likely to want to chase a ball, or less agile,’ explains Dr Vigeant. ‘Some animals who have been calm, but now have more anxiety, or are less excited to play, could be showing signs of brain ageing. We now know that older dogs who are sleeping more, or not being as attentive are actually showing signs of cognitive dysfunction.’
HOW DO I KEEP THEM YOUNG?
‘Diets specially made for ageing brains and bodies are really beneficial,’ recommends Dr Vigeant. ‘Purina have worked with nutritionists to create a diet called Bright Minds that is basically food for their brains. Exercise them as you normally do, but pay attention to your pets and listen to their bodies.’
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I VISIT THE VET?
‘At my clinic we recommend pet owners visit every year once their pet has reached seven,’ says Dr Vigeant. ‘It’s really important with older animals to go once a year, even if they don’t need vaccines or seem physically healthy because catching diseases, such as kidney disease, or thyroid disease, or arthritis early is how you slow it down.’
HOW DO I KNOW IF THEY’RE IN PAIN?
‘If you see your dog struggling to get up in the morning, or if they’re a little bit lame after running around, it’s probably because their joints, muscles or back are sore,’ explains Dr Vigeant. ‘It can be harder to tell with cats because they hide it well, but if your cat used to jump up unto a perch and now it has difficulty, that’s a sign it could be struggling with arthritis. It’s those subtle signs that owners should look for.’