As your pet ages, his metabolism slows—and his bone density decreases. Advanced age means your dog or cat can experience reduced appetite, increased fragility, and increased risk of arthritis, urinary incontinence, and even major diseases such as cancer.
Pets are more delicate as they age—but you can still give your dog or cat a good life during the senior years. Here are some tips for caring for an elderly pet.
Give your pet a good place to sleep
Aging brings health problems for pets—but you can help your pet lead a high quality life by being sure your home is safe and pet-proof.
Talk to your vet about food
It’s not always enough to just buy the “senior” label dog or cat food at the store. Technically, “senior” pet food has no legal meaning and there are no set requirements pet food recipes must fulfill to get that label—it means more for marketing than it does for the health of your pet. Talk to your veterinarian to determine what types of food are the best match for your pet’s habits, energy level, age, and breed.
Make your pet’s food appetizing
Wet food may be too high in calories for your pet—but dry food can be tough on senior teeth. In addition, your pet may experience a loss of appetite along with age. Make dry food easier on your pet’s teeth—and get your pet interested in dinnertime again—by adding a low-salt broth to dry food and warming it in the microwave for a few seconds.
Be sure your home is safe and easy to navigate
If you have an older cat, be sure there are litter boxes on each floor of the house so your cat doesn’t have to navigate the stairs. For a pet with vision problems, night lights can be helpful in allowing the pet to find his way around the house or pet-friendly senior communitiy at night. Include a ramp to help your pet get up and down on couches and beds.
Schedule visits to the veterinarian twice a year
Aging pets need to see the veterinarian more than they did when they were young. Many vets advocate examinations every six months. A thorough exam would include a head-to-tail assessment, urinalysis, fecal exams, blood screening, and possibly X-rays. If you get a thorough exam this frequently, it can help you detect cancer, arthritis, and other health problems that can be more easily treated earlier in onset. This saves you money and helps prolong the life of your pet.
Don’t forget about your pet’s mind
Older pets aren’t as active as they once were—but they still need plenty of love, interaction, and play. Slow down your games of catch with an older dog—but don’t stop playing. Keep walking your dog to new places to keep him engaged and interested. Buy new toys for an aging cat, and take the time to play with her when she’s interested. Don’t assume that because your pet is slowing down, he or she needs less interaction with you.
Aging brings health problems for pets—but you can help your pet lead a high quality life by being sure your home is safe and pet-proof, providing a comfortable place to sleep at floor level, and taking your pet to the vet at least twice a year for a formal exam. Follow these tips, and your pet is likely to live a longer, healthier life.