According to the veterinary literature, dogs are considered geriatric when they turn 7 (5 for some larger breeds of dog, 9 for some smaller breeds). My little Maya is eight, which means she is now, officially, a senior citizen. (Does this mean we get discounts on dog food?) She is still active, and when she's out running with me, she looks sleek and beautiful. But I notice that she sleeps a lot more these days. She is getting all kinds of lumps under her skin (called lipomas) and various skin tags are growing on her eyebrows and chin. The fur beneath her eyes is streaked with white.
Within the population of companion animals, the elderly is the fastest growing category with over 35% of all pets in the U.S. now considered, by their vets, geriatric. There are about 78 million companion dogs in U.S. households and 94 million cats, which means roughly 27 million geriatric dogs and 33 million geriatric cats. These numbers are likely to grow, as veterinary medicine offers an ever wider range of treatments, from organ transplants to hip replacements, and as better lifelong care increases pet life expectancies. In step with the changing pet demographic is a growing appreciation for the final stages of our companion animals' lives: there are geriatric specialists, old-dog and old-cat foods, products designed help older animals maintain functionality, books devoted to caring for old pets, advice from trainers about how to deal with age-related behavioral changes, and old dog and old cat rescue organizations.