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Nourishing dogs and cats through their twilight years

02 March 2018
13 mins read
Volume 9 · Issue 2


Ageing dogs and cats represent a significant proportion of the canine and feline population. Factors attributed to increasing longevity in these species include improved veterinary health care; nutrition; and a healthier lifestyle. Lifespan is also reportedly influenced by genetics and breeding, gender, size, breed and neuter status. Appropriate nutrition and dietary management have contributed to improved quality of life, and life expectancy of senior dogs and cats, and should be considered a key component of the care of these companion animals. The current article will explore the terms used to describe an ageing dog or cat; consider the species-specific nutritional adaptations required during this latter life-stage; and discuss how these can be met through dietary provision.

The companion animal population is ageing with approximately 40% of pet dogs and cats aged 7 years or older (Laflamme, 2012). Continued improvements in veterinary care and disease prevention strategies, veterinary nutrition, breeding and husbandry are just a few of the factors contributing to pet longevity, resulting in a significant population of senior small companion animals (Day, 2010; Biourge and Elliott, 2014; O'Neill et al, 2015).

The average lifespan is documented to be around 13 years, with a maximal life span of 27 years, for domestic dogs; and around 14 years, with a maximal life span as high as 25–35 years, for domestic cats (Wortinger and Burns, 2015). A recent study by O'Neill et al (2013) investigated longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England. Of deceased dogs with information available, 3961 (77.9%) were purebred and had a median longevity of 11.9 years. Longevity in crossbred dogs exceeded purebred dogs by 1.2 years. The authors later revealed similar findings in relation to cat longevity with the median life expectancy of crossbred cats (14 years) exceeding that of purebred cats by 1.5 years (O'Neill et al, 2015).

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