Caring for Middle Aged and Elderly Pets

by Angela Hickey | 2 min read   March 7th, 2019

The average lifespan of our pets is unfortunately much shorter than our own. It is therefore important to look out for signs of ageing to provide the best care possible for our middle aged and elderly dogs and cats.


Large Breeds of Dogs Age Faster

Average lifespans for larger dog breeds tend to range from 6-10 years, while smaller breeds can often live to 16-17 years on average, with a higher likelihood of reaching even their 20s. Because of their shorter life span, larger dogs could be described as ‘middle aged’ at 3 to 5 years old! Crossbreed dogs  frequently live longer than purebred dogs because of less genetic illnesses.

Indoor Cats Often Live Longer

Cats have an average lifespan of 12-16 years depending on whether they live mostly indoors or outdoors. Indoor cats often live up to 18 years and even into their20’s. They avoid risks like road traffic accidents, attacks by dogs and other cats, and life threatening viruses like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia Virus.

Regular Check ups

When we consider an average lifespan of 12 years, it means that a veterinary check up once a year is equivalent to a human seeing a doctor only once every 7 years! As our pets progress beyond the middle age years of 4-6 it is clear that they need a check up at least twice a year to catch and treat early symptoms of illnesses.

Increasing Health Issues

Unfortunately, from their middle years onwards, our pets can experience the following:

  • Wear and tear of joints and spine leading to arthritis, disc disease, and more.
  • Failing of internal organs e.g. kidneys, liver or heart over time.
  • Metabolic and hormonal imbalances such as Thyroid disease, Adrenal Gland disease and Diabetes.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Eye problems such as cataracts and reduced sight.
  • Ageing cells are more prone to cancer. The risk is higher as your pet ages.
  • Confusion and behaviour changes.

Some pets will have a number of these illnesses at the same time and will need a lot of care and daily medication.

How to Help Your Ageing Pet

There are many things we can do at home to help our older pets live more happily.

  • Watch for small, subtle changes in behaviour and wellbeing that indicate they are in pain or unwell.
  • Do a physical check up monthly to look for swellings, lumps, rashes, or soreness.
  • Look out for changes in appetite, water intake, breathing, mobility, toileting, and grooming.
  • Get regular vet check ups and use Nurse Clinics to check your pet’s weight. Follow advice regarding diet and exercise.
  • Treat regularly for parasites as advised by your vet
  • Provide non-slip mats on slippery floors and ramps to access your car for an arthritic dog. Extra bedding helps to avoid pressure sores. More easily accessible litter trays will help an arthritic cat. Use pet nappies for incontinence, etc.
  • Clip nails and groom more often.
  • Get regular dental check ups and watch for bad breath or difficulty chewing
  • Avoid missing a dose of your pet’s daily medication
  • Provide as stress free an environment as possible
  •  Don’t delay in seeking advice if you are concerned about any aspect of your pet’s health as you know your pet best.

At Allianz, we know your pet is just as much a part of your family as anyone else. Following these steps may help to give them a better quality of life for longer.

This guidance is for general information purposes only. Allianz accepts no responsibility or liability for any losses that may arise from any reliance upon the information contained in this guidance.


Information correct as of date of publishing. This blog will not be updated or edited so the information may become outdated.

Angela Hickey
Allianz in-house vet and qualified psychotherapist.