Our pets are living longer lives these days! Because of this, it’s important to make some changes to help our pets age gracefully and with dignity:
1. Regular Vet Visits
An aging body changes more quickly than a young one which is why older pets require regular and more frequent visits to the vet. During these visits, it’s important for owners to discuss changes in their pet’s behavior, as well as ways to modify an aging pet’s daily routine. Your family veterinarian will also want to be on top of diagnostic testing in order to detect any “illnesses of aging” as early as possible.
These illnesses include:
- Chronic Renal Disease
- Cushing’s Disease
- Hypo or Hyperthyroidism
- Dental Disease
- It’s very important to have your family veterinarian evaluate your pet’s mouth during regular wellness exams. Many senior patients need dental care including routine cleanings and sometimes more advanced procedures such as extractions.
This list is scary, but many of these ailments can be successfully treated. Treatment and management of these illnesses will make your pet more comfortable as well as improve their quality of life.
It may be time to consider switching your pet’s food to one with a balance of macro and micronutrients appropriate to your pet’s age and health issues. Discuss with your family veterinarian to determine which food would be best for your pet. Keep in mind that just like in elderly people, aging pets experience changes in their ability to taste and smell which can greatly affect their appetite. In other words, your pet may get pickier with age! Often, pet owners wind up experimenting with many different factors of their pet’s eating habits to uncover these new preferences. Such factors may include changing flavors, warming food in the microwave, or transitioning to canned food. Be very careful to make these changes slowly, and not too often, in order to avoid upsetting your pet’s digestive balance and causing vomiting or diarrhea.
3. Lifestyle Modifications
Some of the most effective ways to make your aging pet more comfortable are mild changes around your home and in your daily routine. Your senior pet still needs exercise, but you may have to modify the workout. For example, if your dog is no longer able to run alongside you during a long bike ride, you may choose to instead take your dog for shorter, gentler walks several times a day.
Like humans, dogs and cats often become arthritic as they age. In addition to appropriate activity and medication, here are some things the can be done to help your pet cope:
- Place steps/stairs/ramps around your home to help your pet get up on furniture that they can no longer easily jump on/off of.
- Provide a well-padded, heated bedding.
- Protect your dog with a coat and boots while they are outside
- Switch your cat’s litter box to one with lower walls to make getting in and out easier on creaky legs.
- If you have hardwood floors, use area rugs, yoga mats, or toe grips to make it easier for your pet to maneuver without slipping.
- Consider acupuncture, massages, oral medications like Dasuquin, or physical rehabilitation to help your pet’s joints, as well as their overall health and comfort.
Even small changes can make a big difference in your senior pet’s life. If you have any questions about how to help your pet or if you have any concerns about their health, contact your family veterinarian.