Over the past several decades, our understanding of pet health and the aging process has exponentially grown thanks to veterinary studies and scientific research. As a result, we’ve realized that pets are living longer, healthier lives thanks to better nutrition, access to top-of-the-line veterinary care, and pet parents’ increased understanding of pet health.
Most pets are considered seniors at age 7, depending on breed and size. One of the most important things to remember is that age is not a disease! Senior pets can still live active, healthy lives for years to come. Age indeed comes with certain conditions, but it’s just a matter of paying attention to your pet’s needs and making certain adjustments along the way. How can you do this? We work closely with you on the answers.
Start With a Veterinary Visit
If you have noticed your pet slowing down, don’t just chalk it up to old age. Certain conditions that manifest with age can be helped by visiting your veterinarian. Most pets need once yearly veterinary visits, but starting at age 7, we recommend seeing your pet twice a year. Cats and dogs age much faster than humans, after all. By seeing your older pet more often, we can monitor age-related changes, catch diseases in the earlier stages, and treat your pet before more serious problems arise.
During your senior pet’s comprehensive physical exam, your veterinarian will check for any abnormalities and changes in their health. Diagnostic testing, such as urinalysis and blood work, is another essential component of senior pet care and often reveals problems pet owners were unaware of.
Some of the diseases we can catch early with screening tests include:
- Dental disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Addison’s disease
- Kidney, heart, and liver disease
- Arthritis and other joint diseases
Keep a close eye on your senior pet and be vigilant for the first signs of lurking problems. Animals (especially cats) are masters at hiding signs of discomfort and pain, so if you notice any of the following issues, schedule a checkup immediately so we can get to the root of the problem.
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Decreased appetite
- Drinking more or less
- Bad breath
- Decreased mobility
- Sleeping more
- Brittle/unkempt coat
- Changes in weight
- Respiratory problems
Nutrition Changes for Senior Pets
Once any urgent problems are addressed, your veterinarian will work with you on a supportive care plan, most of which you can provide at home. Your veterinarian may recommend a diet change based on your senior pet’s activity level and general health. Choosing a balanced diet to maintain the correct body weight for your pet will help guide them through their golden years. Obesity is a common problem in seniors, and keeping your pet on the lean side not only helps them feel better but can also help them live longer. If your pet is diagnosed with a chronic health condition, there are also therapeutic diets that have been proven to manage a variety of disorders in dogs and cats.
Creature Comforts for Older Pets
Small changes can make a big difference in your older pet’s comfort.
Keep them hydrated – Water is a critical element of health, and older pets sometimes need help staying hydrated. Your pet may need easier access to the water bowl, so lowering or raising bowls, increasing the number of water dishes around the house, or even trying a pet drinking fountain can help encourage good hydration. In addition, your veterinarian may recommend adding wet food to their diet for its higher water content.
Support their body – Senior pets are more affected by changes in temperature than younger pets. Ensure your senior pet has ways to warm up or cool down as the weather dictates. Soft, warm beds, blankets, and draft-free rooms help in cold weather. In the summer, ensure they have plenty of shade, fans, a cool house, and fresh water available at all times.
Take it easy – Dogs and cats with greying whiskers can develop mental or cognitive changes that affect their behavior. Older pets appreciate their routine, so keep walks, bathroom breaks, and meal times stable. Consider giving your pet a few options for where to be in the house, from a quiet space to a spot where they can be a part of the hustle and bustle. Older pets thrive on regular attention and interaction with the people they love, so make time to spend snuggling with them, too.
Manage pain – Like people, older pets can sometimes suffer from aches and pains caused by arthritis or other conditions. Help your pet stay mobile and comfortable by making small changes such as placing litter boxes on the same floor, helping them with stairs, and providing soft beds so they don’t need to jump on furniture. Supplements such as Omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine can help. And if needed, talk to your veterinarian, who can prescribe medication or a combination of supplements and other remedies to relieve chronic pain.
Working with us during your pet’s golden years can make that precious time happy and healthy for both of you. Call us with any questions or to schedule an appointment to evaluate your senior pet’s health, and help make their senior years the best yet.