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Senior Pet Health & Nutrition
Dr Mina Hamilton, BVSc (Hons) MVS – Scientific Services Veterinarian Manager  

Ageing is a natural process. While ageing itself is not a disease, cats and dogs will go through both mental and physical changes as they mature. As our pets age, there are two kinds of changes that can occur: physiological (i.e. normal changes) and pathological (i.e. abnormal changes). Physiological changes are those we expect in ageing pets and commonly occur. These include losses to the senses (such as hearing, vision and taste), loss of muscle mass, changes to their weight (either weight loss or gain), and reduced activity. Pathological changes refer to health issues that our senior pets become more prone to as they age, due to the progressive loss of the function of body systems and organs. The most common health issues in pets as they age are osteoarthritis, dental disease, heart disease, kidney disease and brain related changes that can result in unusual behaviour. Each pet is an individual and the rate of ageing varies. Therefore, the age at which pets become classified as a senior differs between cats and dogs, and even varies between pets of different sizes and breeds. It is best to speak with your veterinarian about your pet at their next check-up to understand when your pet may be considered a senior citizen. Once they are a senior, this may mean they require more regular check-ups and may benefit from a change to their diet, to help support this crucial phase of life.


Senior Cats

Your cat will need different levels of veterinary care and nutrition at each stage of it’s life. As your cat enters its senior years, it will benefit from more regular check-ups with the veterinarian to help detect any health issues early, and to ensure they remain in the best health possible. Just as with humans, the ageing process is an individual experience and different cats will show signs of ageing cat different times. Generally speaking, your cat will be considered mature and will start to show the first signs of ageing at a cellular level at approximately 7 years of age. From the age of 11 onwards, your cat is then classified as a senior as the signs of ageing more obvious, and then finally a geriatric from 15 years onwards.


Signs Of Ageing

Although each individual cat will display signs of ageing differently, there are some common ageing processes and signs to look out for.

  • Changes to senses: Vision, taste, smell and hearing can all be affected in senior cats, some of which may be subtle. As your cat’s senses decline with age, so will their appetite. Appetite changes can also be a sign of dental issues and should always be checked. A combination of these problems can then lead to weight loss, especially in geriatric cats over 15 years of age.
  • Behaviour:As cats age, it is normal for them to spend more time sleeping and become more sedentary. Other changes in behaviour, however, may point to an underlying health issue and should always be discussed with your veterinarian. Some abnormal behaviours changes include an increase in anxiety, increased vocalisation, lack of interaction, changes to grooming behaviour and house soiling. Cats can also experience a decline in their cognition that may result in unusual behaviour.
  • Weight:Generally speaking, mature cats have an increased risk of gaining weight, and as they grow older and enter their geriatric years, they tend to have difficulty maintaining a healthy bodyweight. Diet can be an important part of ensuring your cat stays at an optimal bodyweight.
  • Health Issues:Generally speaking, the most common health issues in cats are osteoarthritis, kidney and thyroid issues. The signs of osteoarthritis in cats can be very subtle and may include a reluctance to jump up or jump down from a height, and an inability to groom certain areas of their body, especially their rear end. Any changes to your cat’s thirst, appetite and/or weight can be a sign of other health issues. .


It is important to discuss any of the above changes with your veterinarian, as these may be an important sign of an underlying health condition, where early detection and management is always preferred and in the best interest of your cat.


Nutrition For Senior Cats

A critical part of supporting your senior cat is ensuring they are eating an appropriately tailored senior diet. Senior diets are formulated to help support senior cats through the inclusion of specific nutrients to help slow the onset of age-related disease and help alleviate the signs of ageing:

      • Highly digestible protein, and the inclusion of specific amino acids, that help your cat maintain lean muscle mass
        •Adapted calorie content to ensure your cat maintains an ideal bodyweight. This becomes especially important as they age – Royal Canin Senior Consult Stage 2, is relatively high in calorie to help senior and geriatric cats maintain their bodyweight even as their appetite declines.
          •Reduced levels of phosphorus to help support healthy kidney function
            •Rich in antioxidants to help slow down the ageing process
              •Strong smelling diets to help entice older cats and support a healthy appetite
                •Specific nutrients such as glucosamine, chondroitin and omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil to support joint health


Senior Dogs

Your dog will need different levels of veterinary care and nutrition at each stage of its life. As your dog enters its senior years, it will benefit from more regular check-ups with the veterinarian to help detect any health issues early, and to ensure they remain in the best health possible. Not all dogs have the same life expectancy; this is dependent on their genetics, lifestyle, breed, and size. Generally speaking, smaller dogs (<10kgs) tend to live longer with an average life expectancy of approximately 12 years, while larger dogs (>45 kgs) tend to have an average life expectancy of 8 years. The ageing process is known to start earlier in larger dogs and therefore each dog will be considered a senior, at a different age. The ages at which veterinarians consider dogs to be mature may be earlier than you expect – small breed dogs are typically classified as mature at approximately 8 years of age, medium breeds at 7 years and large to giant breeds may be considered mature as early as 5 years of age. Each breed and size of dog will also have slightly different specific age-related problems. For example, small dogs are typically prone to heart disease and dental disease, whereas large dogs are more prone to joint disease.


Signs Of Ageing

Although each individual dog will display signs of ageing differently, there are some common ageing processes and signs to look out for.

              • Changes to senses:Vision, taste, smell and hearing can all be affected in senior dogs. Partial or complete loss of your dog’s hearing and vision can mean your dog startles more easily, and they may have more difficulty navigating their environment. As your dog’s sense of smell and taste decline with age, so will their appetite. Appetite changes can also be a sign of dental issues or other underlying disease and should always be checked.
              • Behaviour:It is normal for your dog to spend more time sleeping and become more sedentary. Other changes in behaviour however, may point to an underlying health issue causing your dog pain or discomfort, and should always be discussed with your veterinarian. These include an increase in anxiety or irritability, lack of interaction, increase stiffness and a reluctance to move. Canine cognitive dysfunction (similar to dementia) in dogs can affect up to one third of senior dogs, especially as dogs enter their geriatric years. Common signs of this condition are inappropriate vocalisation, altered sleep/wake cycles, restlessness, disorientation and house soiling.
              • Weight:: Mature dogs tend to become more sedentary and as such, have an increased risk of gaining weight. It is critical to ensure your senior dog is kept an ideal bodyweight, as this will help to reduce pressure on their joints and other body systems. Weight loss or sudden changes in weight may be suggestive of an underlying health issue and should always be checked by your veterinarian.
              • Health Issues: Generally speaking, the most common health issues in dogs are osteoarthritis, cognitive issues, dental disease and cancer. The signs of osteoarthritis in dogs vary but typically include stiffness getting up/sitting down, lameness after exercise, reluctance to move and persistent licking of their joints. Any changes to your dog’s thirst, appetite and/or weight may be a sign of other health issues. Ensure you also take note of any abnormal lumps and have these promptly checked by your veterinarian.


It is important to discuss any of the above changes with your veterinarian, as these may be an important sign of an underlying health condition, where early detection and management is always preferred and in the best interest of your dog.


Nutrition For Senior Dogs

A critical part of supporting your senior dog is ensuring they are eating an appropriately tailored senior diet. Senior diets are formulated to help support senior dogs, through the inclusion of specific nutrients to help slow the onset of age-related disease and help alleviate the signs of ageing. For dogs, senior or mature diets are available in various sizes to help support the age-related changes of particular breeds and sizes.

                  •Highly digestible protein, and the inclusion of specific amino acids, that help your dog maintain lean muscle mass
                    •Adapted calorie content to ensure your dog maintains an ideal bodyweight. Many mature or senior canine diets contain increased fibre, l-carnitine and have a moderate calorie content to ensure your senior dog stays at a healthy bodyweight.
                      •Reduced levels of phosphorus to help support healthy kidney function
                        •Rich in antioxidants to help slow down the ageing process
                          •Strong smelling diets to help entice older dogs and support a healthy appetite
                            •Specific nutrients such as glucosamine, chondroitin and omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil to support joint health


Senior pets are unique and deserve the additional veterinary care and tailored nutrition to help support their health and wellbeing. If you’re ever concerned about your senior pet, we recommend a check-up with your veterinarian.

Royal Canin Senior Health Management Range

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Royal Canin Vet Care Senior Consult Mature Small Dog Food - 3.5kg

Royal Canin Vet Care Senior Consult Mature Small Dog Food - 3.5kg

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RRP $54.00 Save up to $7.68
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Royal Canin Vet Care Cat Senior Consult stage 1

Royal Canin Vet Care Cat Senior Consult stage 1

$29.14
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Cardiac Wet Dog Food - 12 x 410g Cans

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Cardiac Wet Dog Food - 12 x 410g Cans

$54.88
RRP $58.20 Save up to $3.32
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Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Mobility C2P+ Dog Food

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Mobility C2P+ Dog Food

$37.73 - $139.78

RRP: $44.00 - $176.00

Save up to $36.22

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Chicken Wet Cat Food - 12 pouches x 85gm

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Chicken Wet Cat Food - 12 pouches x 85gm

$24.44
RRP $25.00 Save up to $0.56
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Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Cat Early Renal  - 12 pouches x 85gm

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Cat Early Renal - 12 pouches x 85gm

$22.28
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support Wet Dog Food - 12 x 420g Cans

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Support Wet Dog Food - 12 x 420g Cans

$58.96
RRP $64.00 Save up to $5.04
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Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Dog Food

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Dog Food

$37.73 - $107.19

RRP: $44.00 - $117.00

Save up to $9.81

Royal Canin Vet Care Senior Consult Mature Large Dog Food - 14kg

Royal Canin Vet Care Senior Consult Mature Large Dog Food - 14kg

$134.22
RRP $141.00 Save up to $6.78
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Royal Canin Vet Care Senior Consult Mature Medium Dog Food

Royal Canin Vet Care Senior Consult Mature Medium Dog Food

$46.32 - $100.34

RRP: $54.00 - $110.00

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Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Tuna Wet Cat Food - 12 pouches x 85gm

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Renal Tuna Wet Cat Food - 12 pouches x 85gm

$24.44
RRP $25.00 Save up to $0.56
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Royal Canin Vet Care Senior Consult Mature Wet Dog Food - 12 x 400g Cans

Royal Canin Vet Care Senior Consult Mature Wet Dog Food - 12 x 400g Cans

$54.03
RRP $58.20 Save up to $4.17
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Royal Canin Senior Health Management Range

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