What winter means for your senior pet

Not all of us suit the salt-and-pepper look, and those who wear it best usually have four-legs, but your black lab looking more like George Clooney doesn’t just mean he’s more fashionable than you.


Dog and cat’s lives aren’t broken down into years so much as stages. Both have six periods; puppy/kitten, junior, adult, mature, senior and geriatric. The common “seven dog years equals one human year” doesn’t directly apply, as the size of the animal makes a big difference.

“Cats are generally considered senior over eight years of age, and this applies to small dogs too (under 10kg). However, as dogs get bigger, the age at which they are considered senior becomes earlier,” RSPCA companion animal officer Bronwyn Orr explained.

“A border collie for example (under 25kg) would be a senior at seven years of age, but a Great Dane (over 40kg) would be senior by only five years of age. This is because smaller dogs generally experience age-related changes slower than bigger dogs.”


There are three main things to watch for as your fur-baby becomes less baby and more grandma/pa; disease risk rises, dental health deteriorates and the senses diminish.

“Some of the common health issues to be aware of are arthritis and dental health, such as gum disease, and the higher risk of obesity due to lower levels of activity and movement. Additionally, as cats age, the risk of kidney or thyroid disease also increases,” Dr Orr said.


Us humans and our furry friends experience many similarities as we age, and arthritis is a common complaint amongst the species with a number of parallel remedies as well.

“Cold weather makes arthritis flare up, so if your cat or dog has any niggling issues, these will be much worse in winter,” Dr Orr said.

“Generally, when temperatures head to zero and below, it’s best to allow your pet access to warm indoor areas. Ensure your pet has access to a warm, dry area at all times with thick, soft bedding.”

#DogsInCoats is more than just a happiness laden hashtag, there is some merit to doggy dress-ups in winter. “Some dogs may require a coat as the ability to keep warm and self-regulate body temperature can become harder as your pet ages,” Dr Orr concluded.

For those who really stiffen up in winter and see their mobility decline, a helping hand/paw to snuggle up on their favourite couch or bed is a no-brainer (and saves you a possible backache from picking them up all the time, too).

Carpeted pet steps and ramps are easily found online, and you can try and fashion something suitable too. If your pooch is not a regular in your bedroom (we know, they miraculously become an immovable object which takes up all of your foot space and whose farts wake you from the deepest of slumbers) make sure they have something elevated off cold hard floors and is super squishy and warm for those old achy joints. Cats feeling creaky may need some help with their hair, so a brush may help them keep their self-esteem so notoriously high.


When it’s dark when you wake up and dark when you get home from work, that routine you so optimistically secured in autumn ends up a dog’s breakfast. While we’re known to gain a few kilos during these frigid months, it’s common for our paw-fect companions to do the same. If they are outside a lot there is a case for a little bit of insulation and more calories to burn to keep warm, but don’t go overboard! Try and exercise when you can, keep it low-impact and watch both of those waistlines.

See the live article here.