Life stages of dogs and cats

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When it comes to the life stages of dogs and cats, while there is a lot of similarity in what it takes to look after them, their life stages are a little different.

Cats in general have a longer average lifespan compared to dogs, indoor cats doing better than their outdoor counterparts.

While a dog’s average lifespan is around 12 years, depending on breed and size – smaller dogs generally live longer.

It’s important to not only understand the differences between the life stages of dogs and cats, size and breed, but how you need to adapt your care for your pet as they age.

That’s why a health check at least annually with your vet is so important, twice yearly for seniors.

So, what are their different life stages of dogs and cats?
Puppies versus kittens

For dogs, the puppy stage involves the rapid growth period and lasts until around 6 to 9 months, depending on the breed. For cats, this kitten stage lasts until 12 months.

During the puppy stage, dogs learn most of their social skills from their mother, littermates, and the people around them.

That’s why early positive socialisation with as many animals, people, environments and situations is so vital.

Young Adult life stage

Next is the young adult stage, lasting up to 3 to 4 years in dogs and 6 years in cats.

Having reached their physical and social maturity, dogs may start to exhibit more independence and test their boundaries.

Mature Adult

Mature adult is the next life stage at 7 to 10 years in cats. It’s more variable for dogs, with the larger breed dogs entering their senior years at an earlier age.

During the adult stages, growth and activity levels drop, so it’s important to keep an eye on weight and oral health, as obesity and gum disease can impact greatly on overall health and wellbeing.

Senior years

Cats are considered to be in their final stage, the senior years, when over 10 years of age.

For dogs, it’s basically the last 25% of the expected lifespan for their breed and size, which is as early as 6 or 7 years for giant breeds.

During this time, senior pets may begin to slow down and experience age-related health problems, such as osteoarthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.

So, it’s important to see your vet twice a year in the final stage, to allow for early detection and treatment. Dietary and exercise adjustments will also need to be made.

It can be harder to get your cat to the vet, so check out my tips to help HERE.

Care at all life stages

Although the needs of pets can change as they age, there are some constants too during all life stages of dogs and cats.

Regular grooming, exercise, good diet, vaccination and parasite protection are a critical component of preventative health care at all life stages.

Dr Melissa Meehan is a highly experienced and respected veterinary surgeon with over 14 years experience. Dr Melissa obtained her Members in Small Animal Medicine through examination in 2008 and now runs her own veterinary ophthalmology service. 

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