“My face may be white, but my heart is pure gold. There is no shame in growing old.”
Our love for our pets grows fonder with time. But, as our beloved friends accumulate months and years, it becomes evident that their needs are changing. Being prepared for the delicate senior years can help you and your pet maintain a happy, healthy bond for years to come. The following guidelines will help you care for your senior pet during this special time in her life.
Take your senior pet to the vet
Regular veterinary care is essential throughout any pet’s life, but senior pets generally require more frequent check-ups. On average, dogs and cats age roughly eight times faster than their human owners, so your pet has essentially aged another four human years every six months. Age itself is not a disease, but a lot of changes can occur in a short time. Your veterinarian may recommend the following for your senior pet:
- Semi-annual exams — A physical examination is recommended at least every six months for senior pets, defined as any pet age 7 and older. Your veterinarian will assess your pet’s body from nose to tail, looking for any changes that may signify disease or discomfort. Pets are experts at hiding pain, but veterinarians are trained to look for it.
- Preventive care — Routine preventive care shouldn’t go by the wayside because your pet is older and spends most days lazing on the couch. In fact, preventing disease becomes more important during this life stage. Examples of preventive care that may be recommended include:
- Screening tests for heartworm disease, thyroid changes, diabetes, and other diseases
- Preventive chest or abdomen X-rays, to look for signs of disease
- Regular core vaccinations and others, depending on lifestyle
- Routine dental cleanings
- Routine deworming and heartworm, flea, and tick prevention
Keep a close eye on your senior pet
Our DVM,dvm Dr. Langholz can guide you on specific signs to look for in your individual pet, but in general, senior pets require close monitoring. If you notice any of the following signs in your senior pet, contact us to schedule an appointment or to speak with our veterinary team:
- Appetite changes
- Lethargy or decreased activity level
- Increased drinking and urination
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Fecal or urinary incontinence
- Difficulty standing up, sitting, or laying down
- Trouble with stairs, or other climbing or jumping
- Obvious pain
- Attitude changes, such as newfound aggression or apathy
- Disorientation or confusion
Feed your senior pet a wholesome diet
Feeding a nutritious diet is essential for whole-pet health. Senior pets may benefit from commercial foods specialized for aging pets that often contain supplements, such as antioxidants and glucosamine for brain and joint health. Dr. Langholz can help you choose the best food for your pet, who may need a specific diet.
Modify your senior pet’s environment
As our pets age, getting around can be increasingly difficult. Help make their lives easier by making some modifications around the home—but don’t change things too drastically, since pets with vision loss may bump into furniture or other items if they are moved to unexpected places. Support your pet at home by doing the following:
- Laying rugs on slick hardwood, tile, or marble floors for better traction
- Placing ramps near beds or cars to minimize the need for jumping
- Providing plenty of bedding and soft spaces
- Raising food and water bowls, if necessary
Stimulate your senior pet
Mentally and physically stimulating your pet can help keep her mind and body sharp. Keep her feeling good with adequate daily exercise in the form of a walk, gentle off-leash play, or a swim. Never force your pet to exercise, but encourage her to be physically active on a daily basis. Contrary to popular belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks—in fact, training is a great way to keep your pet’s mind bright and nimble. Current research into human dementia suggests that education and routine brain exercises may prevent this debilitating disease, and this may be extrapolated onto dogs, who also suffer from a similar cognitive disorder.
Contact us today with your senior pet questions or to schedule her semi-annual wellness exam.