How To Care For Your Aging Pet

They’re there when you need a friend and a gentle touch; they’re with you through adventures and misadventures; they’re there at 5 a.m. when they sense you really want to play. Your pets are valued members of the family, and that doesn’t change as they age. They’ve always been there for you; now it’s time to be there for them. How can you best care for your older pet?

What To Expect As Your Pet Ages

Just as humans do, pets encounter health issues and challenges that accompany old age. Some of the most common:

 

  • Arthritis.
  • Dental disease.
  • Cancer.
  • Heart, kidney, and liver disease.
  • Decreased immune function.
  • Senility.
  • Weight gain in geriatric dogs; weight loss in geriatric cats.

Tips To Make The “Golden Years” Great

Whether your pet has one or more of these conditions or you hope to prevent them, you can make his senior years comfortable and content.

  • Make regular vet appointments. If your cat or dog appears healthy, a yearly visit will help spot signs of trouble. As he ages, increase the frequency to twice yearly. Visits will be more involved, and may require bloodwork, dental exams, and, always, weight checks.
  • Practice good oral hygiene. As dentists are fond of saying, “You don’t have to brush all your teeth: just the ones you want to keep.” The same applies for your dog or cat. You can buy pet toothbrushes and paste, or, at the very least, try dental-friendly treats. Good dental health allows them to enjoy a nutritious diet and impacts overall health.
  • Modify his diet. As pets age, their nutrient and calorie requirements change and weight becomes a concern. As mentioned, cats tend to lose weight. They need a diet high in protein and fat and lower in carbohydrates.

Dogs, on the other hand, tend to gain weight. Adjust his calories downward, make sure he has essential nutrients, and provide plenty of water. Vets now recommend adding some fruits and veggies to his diet: carrots, cantaloupe, spinach, apple slices, pumpkin, sweet potato, and Brussel sprouts are good options.

  • Modify your home. It may become harder for your pet to climb stairs, hop on the couch, or, for cats, access the litter box. If you have a multi-story home, make sure all of your pet’s necessities are on one floor. Invest in a low-rise litter box, and provide a soft, comfortable floor-level bed or pad for sleeping.
  • Provide stimulation and exercise. Exercise for pets, just like humans, helps stave off joint pain, arthritis, and other health concerns. Dog owners, make sure to walk regularly and fit in games of fetch in the yard. Go at his pace. Cat owners, encourage movement and stretching with scratching posts and play together with toys.Mental stimulation is just as important because it helps prevent senility or slow its progress. Food puzzles are a great way to engage both cats and dogs, particularly when you are not home. Other goodies include new toys, walks, exploration in the yard (you can leash your cat if you’re concerned about him wandering around), and, of course, interaction with you.
  • Be prepared for accidents. As pets age, mobility and health issues may make them more prone to accidents. Remember, they never mean to do this. As it does humans, incontinence affects the dignity of your pet. They need your understanding and support.

Keep litter boxes conveniently located, use plasticized mats for sleeping, pay attention to cues to go outside, and be prepared with a good cleaner for the messes you can’t avoid. Enzymatic cleaners with Ordenone digest organic messes and eliminate odors completely. Not only does this ensure your house stays fresh, it allows your pet a clean, comfortable space to rest and sleep.

As your pet gets older, plan for and accommodate the realities of age. You can still offer him a wonderful, loving, and full life – and guess what? He will do the same for you.