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Senior nutritional requirements for cats and dogs

02 November 2023
10 mins read
Volume 14 · Issue 9


Ageing is a normal process that will occur in all individuals with sufficient lifespan, starting just after maturity is reached. Although physiological changes occur, ageing is not considered to be a disease but a state in which homeostasis is reduced as a result of physiological and external stressors which reduce the individual's viability, leaving them prone to disease and ultimately death. Changes in body composition are a normal part of the ageing process and often resting metabolic rate decreases as pets age. Changes to digestion and kidney function can also occur. It is important that nutritional assessments are performed for each individual, to ensure specific nutritional needs are met. Dietary recommendations should be reviewed frequently because requirements may change more often in senior pets.

The age at which cats and dogs become ‘senior’ is not well defined, but the term typically refers to the last third of the lifespan of the animal. The expected lifespan of cats and dogs differs widely between species, among different breeds, and also among individuals. In dogs, the lifespan of giant and large breeds is typically shorter than smaller breeds (Table 1) (O'Neill et al, 2013). In cats lifespan also differs, though less breed variation is observed (Table 2) (O'Neill et al, 2015). Although maximum lifespan in both species has stayed around the same, advancements in veterinary medicine have allowed for an increase in average lifespan, such that senior pets currently make up around 40% of the population, with approximately 30% being >11 years (Metzger, 2005; Laflamme, 2012).

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