How to care for senior pets

It is one of those things that no pet owner eager to discover – the signs of your furbaby’s aging. A patch of grey fur on your pooch’s snout or the lack of former vigour in your once playful cat. You notice them sleeping longer hours during the day and no longer expressing much interest in chasing that tennis ball across the room back and forth. Unfortunately, our beloved pets age quicker than we do and it is very hard to accept that they are stepping into the final stage of their lives and becoming “senior”. But following some basic guidelines on how to care for senior pets will help you keep your furbabies healthy and comfortable in their golden years.

It is generally accepted by the veterinarians that a medium size dog is considered to be senior at around 7 years of age and a cat at around 11 years mark. As they age, our pets, just like us, humans, develop some age-related behavioural changes. It is often heard that older pets are great companions for aging people. They can share that relaxing lifestyle, lazy walks in the park and afternoon snuggles in front of tv. While senior pets for seniors is, indeed, a great combination, one must remember that there are often increased costs associated with caring for aging pets and this could sometimes become challenging for someone living on a pension. 

In addition, aging pets are more prone to developing some age-related health problems. Among the most common, according to the Vet Street, are:

  • arthritis

  • vision loss

  • hearing loss

  • kidney disease

  • cancer

While some of these conditions may be genetically presupposed, there are many other factors that influence your pet’s health, including diet and lifestyle. Therefore, whether you’re a senior living with pets or a busy worker caring for an aging furry family member, these care tips will help you give the best possible care your furry friends deserve in their golden years.

  1. Closely observe behavioural changes

Senior pets may develop a variety of problems, and needed budget pet products. While some of them may be easily noticed, others may take time to become obvious. Unfortunately, our pets can’t speak and cat owners especially know well that cats are masters of disguise. Therefore, noticing any changes in your pet’s behaviour is vital as this may be a clue to their health problem and help to catch it early. The signs to look out for are:

  • Increased agitation or irritability

  • Loss of appetite

  • Increased thirst

  • Changes in toilet routine or urination

  1. Visit your vet regularly

This is a very important part in senior pets care! Whether you schedule your vet visits every 3, 6 or 12 months, regular medical exams and consultation with your vet often help in catching any age-related problems before they become serious.

  1. Keep them on healthy diet

Optimum nutrition is vital in maintaining longevity and quality of your senior pet’s life. As they age, pets become less active and therefore need fewer calories to prevent weight gain and potential problems associated with it. Increased fibre is very important for their digestive system, as well as reduced phosphorus, protein and sodium (to reduce the risk of kidney disease). Again, your vet will be able to advise on the best diet for your pet.

  1. Maintain regular exercising

Your aging pet might not be as active as he used to be, but keeping them moving is vital for maintaining healthy joints, keeping their weight down and stimulating muscles. Exercising is also very important for your pet’s mental health.

  1. Make adjustments to your home

Senior pets may not be as mobile as before but you can certainly make you aging furry friend’s life easier by making some adjustments to their surroundings:

  • Make sure they have easy access to water

  • Keep your aging pets warm as they become very sensitive to temperature changes

  • A quality orthopaedic bed would be great for pets with arthritis

  1. Watch out for early signs of arthritis

Arthritis is a very common condition found in senior pets and it may cause them a lot of pain and discomfort. Thankfully, there are medical treatments, diets and supplements that help to manage arthritis. Take your aging pet to the vet if you noticed any joint stiffness, difficulty standing, seating or climbing the stairs in your pet. Remember, the sooner the problem is recognised, the sooner your pet can be helped.

  1. Check for dental diseases regularly

Dental disease can be a very big problem and unfortunately it often goes unnoticed. It may lead to a mouth infection which, if left untreated, damages the ligaments and bones supporting the teeth. It may also lead to a serious heart and kidney problems if bacteria enters the bloodstream. Don’t take it lightly and check your furbaby’s teeth regularly! The symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Bad breath

  • Inflamed red gums

  • Teeth discolouration

  1. Be aware of the early symptoms of cognitive dysfunction

Aging dogs may sometimes develop canine cognitive dysfunction, which is the equivalent of human Alzheimer’s. This disease cannot be physically diagnosed, therefore you need to watch out for such signs as reduced interest in socialising, anxiety, increased fear of loud noises, disorientation, wondering. If you noticed these symptoms worsening over time, that’s a very good reason to make an appointment with your vet.

  1. Cancer

Just like humans, senior pets may develop cancer. The most noticeable symptom is the lump growing on parts of their body, although cancer may also affect internal organs and continue to grow without any visible signs. Pay attention to any sudden changes in your pet’s routine, decreased appetite or sudden weight loss. Make sure to address any of these symptoms to your vet as early as possible. Many forms of cancer can now be treated. However, it is always very important to consider all potential complications that may affect your pet’s quality of life.

  1. Make quality of life a priority

Your senior pet may no longer be as playful and silly as he was once before, but he can still enjoy life in his golden years. Take this time as an opportunity to bond even more. Give your furry friend an extra cuddle, buy them their favourite treats, spend more time talking to them. Take this as an opportunity to spend quality time together and make your furbaby’s golden years beautiful. After all, feeling loved is what makes their and our lives complete.

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