Is your pet a senior citizen now? As they age, it can be sad to see them slowing down. You remember how much they played as a puppy and kitten, and now, you’re adjusting to their changing behavior and needs. How can you protect your pet’s health as they get older and as they become less active? Proactive preventative care can be tailored to your pet’s age, activity, and their lifestyle. To help provide for your senior pet’s needs, there are healthful habits you can incorporate into their life.
1. Exercise is Still a Necessity
As pets age, they are unable to maintain the same activity level as when they were younger and more rambunctious. Your dog used to be able to fetch the ball forever and your cat loved chasing birds on the dangling string. While they may not be able to do that any longer, it’s still important for your pet to maintain an active lifestyle, so that their muscles remain healthy. Once a pet becomes older, they need to keep their muscles healthy to maintain muscle tone, mobility, and flexibility.
Continue to keep their physical and mental engagement interesting. It will allow your pet’s mind, muscles, and joints to be as strong as possible.
- Keep daily walks during cooler parts of the day. Hot pavement is sensitive for all dogs, but it may be even more so for a senior pet.
- If your dog enjoys swimming, it’s a lot more gentle on their joints, while being a fun activity outdoors. If they love running, consider joint supplements to enable pain-free play.
- Keep their mind active with engaging games and agility training. Training treats aren’t just for puppies!
- Increase your cat’s toys and make them easily reachable.
- Install ramps to help increase their mobility. If they don’t have a ramp to the top of the tower, your senior cat may hide in low locations, and limit social interaction.
- Set aside at least 15-30 minutes a day for interactive sessions, such as petting and playing. Who doesn’t love that?
- Encourage use of catnip to keep them calm and playful.
2. Dietary Adjustment
Just like their human counterpart, your pet’s metabolism can slow down. Their dietary needs are changing as they age. Pets need a diet with fewer calories and a focus on ingredients that can support their brain, heart, joints, and digestion.
One question we often receive is, “How do I know when to transition my pet to a senior diet?” It’s tricky to determine that because all pets age at different rates. Larger dogs tend to have a shorter lifespan than smaller dogs, whereas cats have life spans up to 20 years. To determine if your pet is ready for a senior recipe, look for indications that your pet isn’t getting what they need out of their current diet.
Signs to keep an eye out for:
- Your pet is gaining weight, even with daily exercise.
- Your pet is slow to respond: physically and mentally.
- Their coat is dull or shedding incessantly. Or their skin is dry and flaky.
3. Dental Hygiene is More Important Than Ever
It’s easy to overlook your pet's dental care. Gum disease is linked with a shortened lifespan, an increase in chronic pain, and organ disease. Dogs have a more alkaline mouth than humans and need more support. All pets need an annual cleaning and senior pets may need cleanings twice a year. A healthy mouth is a sign of a healthy pet. So check their teeth weekly, if not daily.
Dental disease can take years off your precious pet’s life. To ensure a long quality of life, provide them with daily dental chews and schedule your pet’s dental cleaning to ensure their teeth and health as can be. Your vet can even remove teeth that have already been negatively impacted.
4. An Increase in Veterinary Visits
After they got through their puppy and kitten years, you adjusted to bringing your pet to the vet annually, instead of so often. Even though we love seeing your pet’s curious face each time they come in, we love it when they remain healthy even more. Once your pet reaches their senior years (between 5 and 11 years old), they start to need veterinary checkups twice as often.
Veterinarians recommend that senior dogs and cats come in twice per year to ensure that they’re healthy. But why do older pets benefit from more frequent vet visits?
You and your vet want to detect any sign of disease early. Senior pets, like people, are often more vulnerable to succumbing to illnesses. If an early diagnosis is possible, then it can be treated promptly for a better prognosis. Running bi-annual blood work can help catch issues before they worsen. We can also respond to your pet’s changing condition, such as suggestions for physical activity or diet, to meet your pet’s specific needs.
5. Quality Time
You’ve always loved spending time with your pet and showering them with affection. As they age, you’ll notice that their desire to cuddle and have affection increases their endorphins and creates a more positive outlook.
Taking extra time to talk to your pet, pet them, and groom them will keep you and them emotionally happy.
Some of Their Best Years Are Still Ahead
When it comes to your pet’s seniority, you want to provide them with everything you possibly can. They love your comfort, affection, and attention. You may have questions regarding your senior pet’s health and we’re here to make the transition easier. We can answer questions about familiar and common problems that elder pets face such as: incontinence, lumps and bumps, dental decay, and diminished vision or hearing.
Call us at (715) 463-2536 to schedule an appointment online now for your senior pet.
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