Although it may seem pretty straight forward, it can actually be a difficult question to answer. Like in people, there is no magic number that, when your pet reaches that age, causes him/her to suddenly become old. Aging is a process, and how it effects your pet can depend on a lot of different factors.
In general, a pet can be considered to be a senior when he/she reaches an age that is at least 2/3rds of the total average life span for their species/breed. For example, healthy domestic rabbits are said to live up to an average of 12 years. They are generally considered to be seniors when they reach the age of 8. Dog breed that are estimated to live an average of 15 years can generally be considered senior citizens when they reach the age of 10.
Those numbers, however, are just an approximation. Just like some people die young, while others live passed 100 - some animals outlive their expected lifespan, while others, unfortunately, pass away before ever reaching old age. Take rabbits for example again. Although they generally live somewhere between 8 and 12 years, the oldest living rabbit to date passed away shortly after his 17th birthday! These types of variations in age can be influenced by many factors, such as health, diet, and even genetics.
With so many different variables involved, it's easy to understand why it can be hard to say for sure at what age a pet should be considered old.
Rather than preoccupying ourselves with our pet's age - age is just a number, after all - why not just keep a close eye on your pet's general health? It's something most pet owners do already, and there are certain medical conditions that become much more common as animals age. They can include...
- Cognitive disorders
- Prostate disease
- Intestinal issues
- Vision problems
- Dental disease
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
Make sure your pets receive regular wellness exams from their veterinarian. Even if your pet is still young, preventative care throughout an animal's life can help to reduce the chances of them developing serious issues later in life.
Most importantly, love your senior pet! Just because an animal is old, doesn't mean he/she can't still enjoy life. Sure, daily walks may need to be shorter, but exercise is just as important to senior pets as it is for their younger counterparts. Many older animals enjoy remaining active, both physically and mentally, well into their senior years. And even if your pet does start to slow down a bit, he/she will still enjoy spending quality time with beloved pack members. You'll be hard pressed to find a companion more loyal than a senior pet who's grown old under your loving care.