From the moment we get them, our pets become part of our family. We promise to love them and take care of them forever. One day you look up and realize it has been “forever,” and your beloved pet is a senior. Transitioning into this new part of their life can be scary, but it can also be an enjoyable experience if it is met with patience and love. Whether it’s a dog or a cat, the guidelines for senior pet care are much the same.
As your pets get older, their metabolism slows down, so switching foods and feeding habits can help with a myriad of issues that may arise with old age. Depending on your pet, caloric intake may be more or less important to their health. If your animal is getting thinner with old age, having food with more fat and protein is important to maintain a healthy weight. If weight gain is a concern once your pet has slowed down some, then changing to a food with less fat is ideal.
Another thing to consider is how difficult eating dry food can become for a senior pet. Wet food can give the same nutrition as dry food and help with hydration. Certain types of animals do not always drink as much water as they should, and when animals become older, they may drink less and less. With wet food being high in moisture, it helps keep your pet hydrated.
There is a famous saying that goes, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” This saying can also be applied to your senior pets. If you allow activity to decrease when your pet gets older, the rate of mobility decline could increase sooner than anticipated, ultimately causing other issues. Arthritis can set in and take over the less the body is worked. Keeping their favorite toys throughout their living area in easy-to-reach places can spark an interest in playing. Being an active part of playtime with your pet is a great way to keep them engaged and happy. Taking walks or throwing toys for your pet to chase can help improve joint and muscle weakness and ensure a good quality of life. Be sure to pay attention to your pet and never extend walks or playtime past a point they can handle.
As mobility becomes slower or harder for your pet, consider making some changes around the house. If you have a pet that likes to sleep in your bed, try adding a pet ramp. If the couch is where they like to snuggle with the family, a small stepstool could be the answer. Alleviating some pressure on the joints of your pet during their daily routine can help keep them active for several more years.
Having an oral hygiene routine is extremely important for pet care. Research shows that by the age of three, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have a form of periodontal disease. The severity of the disease increases in senior animals. Oral infections and dental diseases can impact major organs, including the liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, and in some cases, the bladder. If left untreated, infections can get into the bloodstream, ultimately causing heart disease. Brushing your pets’ teeth a few times a week and having regular check-ups will decrease the number of teeth that would potentially need to be extracted due to these oral diseases.
Having a vet you trust is imperative to your pets’ quality of life. Regular vet visits to have blood work done and dental health checked could help you spot organ problems, infections, or early signs of cancer. Dogs eight years and older and cats 11 years and older should have blood work done every six months.
Senior pets offer so much love and depend on us as their owners to ensure a better quality of life as they age. Making the right changes for your senior pet can help extend their life for many years.