Dr Sara Elliott, founder and director of British Veterinary Hospital (BVH) Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Whether your pet is considered a senior depends on its size. For cats and smaller dogs, old age is anything above seven years. Larger dogs, however, are senior at five years old. While old age is not a disease, older pets are more likely to develop health concerns, including a greater risk of heart disease and weight control. Here is what you can do to keep your four-legged friends in tip-top condition:

Weight gain: As older pets tend to be less active, you should decrease your pet’s intake of calories and exercise them.

Dental disease: Many cat flu viruses contracted by kittens on the streets of Dubai actually cause tooth damage throughout their lives. It is important to provide professional dental cleaning and seek advice from veterinarians on special diets and at-home treatments.

Arthritis: You may have noticed your older pet having difficulty walking or standing up. While prescribed supplements may prevent the onset or progression of arthritis, a good diet contains all the nutrients your pet needs. A wide selection of balanced and nutrition-dense pet foods is available throughout the UAE. A therapeutic massage combined with extra brushing and additional grooming can also help with improved circulation.

Cognitive dysfunction: Pets over the age of nine can often suffer from symptoms of cognitive dysfunction, including disorientation and confusion. Pets that are house trained may even start to go to the toilet in the house. It is important to note these pets are not being naughty, they are just getting forgetful in their old age. Again, a good diet high in anti-oxidants can be very beneficial in combatting these symptoms.

Disease: Older pets are at a higher risk of developing illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and thyroid problems. Regular check-ups are offered at most animal hospitals, enabling us to detect these ailments early and manage them through treatment.

Pain: Just because your pet is not crying does not mean it is not in pain. Look out for subtle behaviour changes, such as not wanting to play, lack of appetite or being less sociable. Visit your vet if you have any concerns.

Regular vet check-ups are vital for all pets, but they become even more important for senior pets. Therefore, having your pet checked by a vet every six months is recommended.

- The writer is founder and director of British Veterinary Hospital (BVH)