As your pet ages, their care needs change. Painful arthritis may mean your dog no longer follows you upstairs at night, vision impairment may give them pause before stepping outside, and cognitive dysfunction syndrome may leave them lonely and lost in their once familiar home.
Whether your senior pet is entering their double digits, or already a Silver Whiskers club card-carrying member, you can support your furry friend through their golden years with these helpful tips from Chatham Animal Clinic
#1: Bring your pet to our clinic for routine wellness examinations and bloodwork
While young pet care focuses on disease prevention, geriatric pet health is dedicated to detecting pain and disease at the earliest opportunity, to improve your pet’s outcome and quality of life. We recommend twice-yearly visits for dogs and cats older than 7 years of age, so we can closely observe your pet’s body condition, mobility, and organ function.
#2: Maintain your senior pet’s daily routine as much as possible
Predictable routines give pets a sense of security and comfort. As your pet experiences age-related changes, they may become apprehensive or fearful. Reassure your pet by creating a daily framework for their feeding, elimination, exercise, and rest.
#3: Keep your senior pet lean with a high quality diet
Senior pets are prone to weight gain, because of their reduced activity levels, or mobility restrictions. Ensure that your pet maintains a healthy body weight to reduce the risk for obesity-related illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and respiratory disorders. If your pet is overweight, contact Chatham Animal Clinic to schedule a weight-loss consultation.
Senior pet nutrition is not one-size-fits-all, but must be individualized for your pet. Therapeutic diets are available from your veterinarian for common senior conditions, such as kidney and liver disease, digestive disorders, and cognitive health.
#4: Ensure your senior pet has access to their basic resources
If your pet’s mobility has changed, their environment should, too. Take a close look at your senior pet’s food, water, and litter box—can your pet easily reach their resources without using the stairs or traveling a significant distance? Consider moving them to a central area, or adding additional resource stations throughout the home.
Also, can your pet access their dishes or litter box comfortably? If not:
- Provide a low entry to high-sided litter boxes, so arthritic cats can step in and out without pain.
- Raise food and water dishes off the ground, to prevent painful neck flexion in senior dogs.
#5: Be proactive about senior pet behavior change
Sudden behavior changes in your senior pet aren’t always “old-age.” Instead, they may indicate a new or progressing medical condition. When senior pets undergo vision loss, disease progression, or cognitive impairment, they may behave uncharacteristically in response to their pain, anxiety, or fear. Anxious or disoriented senior pets may be hypersensitive, and overreact to sudden stimuli, painful or not. Never punish or shame your senior pet for abnormal behavior—have them examined at Chatham Animal Clinic.
#6: Provide your senior pet with consistent and appropriate exercise
Keep your senior pet moving, to ensure they maintain a lean weight, or to work toward a weight-loss goal. Physical activity improves health, reduces anxiety, relieves boredom, and maintains muscle mass.
Replace physically demanding exercises (e.g., Frisbee, fetch, jumping, and running) with safe, low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, or underwater treadmill therapy.
#7: Help your senior pet maintain their mobility and confidence
In addition to arthritis, aging pets experience a decline in balance, body awareness, and abdominal core strength. Once a senior pet begins to slip or fall, they may become anxious about walking on slick floors, stairs, or jumping on or off furniture. Protect your pet and their confidence with these techniques:
- Install pet ramps to your pet’s preferred areas (e.g., couch, bed, or the car).
- Purchase a body harness to help large dogs rise from a resting position, or to support them navigating stairs.
- Place non-slip rugs over slick surfaces.
#8: Groom your senior pet regularly
Health issues and senility may affect your pet’s ability to groom. This is especially true with cats, whose hair coat often reflects internal health. Pets should be routinely brushed, and dogs should be bathed every eight to 12 weeks, depending on their coat. Also, senior pets should be kept on year-round flea and tick preventives, to prevent infestation.
Senior pets may experience urinary or fecal incontinence, so keep their urogenital and anogenital areas clean and dry, to prevent infection or urine scald.
#9: Keep up with your senior pet’s dental care
Oral bacteria from excessive plaque and tartar can invade the bloodstream, and cause damage to your pet’s heart and liver. Fractured or infected teeth can cause intense pain and discomfort. Visit Chatham Animal Clinic for annual pet dental cleanings. In between, brush your senior pet’s teeth daily, or give them a Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)-approved dental chew.
#10: Give your senior pet daily attention and affection
Senior pets may not solicit your same amount of affection, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need quality time together. Spend time each day telling your senior pet how lucky you are to have them in your life. Social relationships can improve your pet’s health, and yours.
Caring for a senior pet calls for patience, understanding, and adaptability, as their needs change. With devoted at-home care and regular visits to our clinic, you and your senior pet can continue to make happy memories for a long time to come. To schedule your senior pet’s geriatic care services, contact the team at Chatham Animal Clinic.