Tips on Keeping Your Senior Pet Healthy
Like people, senior pets may require a little extra care, but it doesn’t have to be a burdensome task for their owners. Here are a few tips to keep your furry loved one healthy.
Regular veterinary visits
While younger pets should get an annual health screening, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends taking in your senior cat or dog every six months for testing, bloodwork, and detection of age-related diseases.
Maintain good oral health
Preventing plaque buildup is good for your pet at any age, but dental problems can worsen as Fluffy or Fido get older. Too much buildup can result in lost teeth and may make eating painful, resulting in unhealthy weight loss.
Brushing your pet’s teeth regularly can help prevent dental problems. If brushing isn’t possible, you can try dental treats. Some issues may require a cleaning by your veterinarian.
Exercise and mental stimulation
Maybe your senior dog isn’t up for those long hikes as much as he used to be, but it is important that he gets regular exercise. Shorter walks or smoother terrains (sidewalks as opposed to mountains) can help. As with any change you make, consult your veterinarian to ensure it is appropriate. It’s also important to know if your dog is experiencing any pain stemming from arthritis, and if that can be treated before implementing an exercise regime.
Keeping an exercise routine may be more difficult for a cat. Maybe your kitten used to run around the house playing with her toys and batting at strings, but is less interested now that she is older. Some cats like catnip, so sprinkling some on her toys may stimulate play. Also, some cats may be leash-trained and may enjoy a brief walk around the block or just your backyard.
Your dog or cat would greatly benefit from mental stimulation like interactive toys and food or treat puzzles.
Regular exercise and mental stimulation may prevent, or at least delay, the effects of dementia in your pet.
The right diet
As with younger animals, maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for senior animals, as obesity increases the risk of health problems like heart disease and cancer. A dog’s and cat’s needs change when they get older. This includes their diet. Your veterinarian may recommend food that is especially made for senior dogs or cats. Before making any changes to your pet’s diet, always consult your veterinarian as this may require an exam.
For your dog, keep up with nail trims as well as regular brushings to avoid matting. Cats generally groom themselves, but as senior cats get older, this can become a challenge. Regular brushing can keep their fur smooth and healthy. The number of times you need to groom depends on the cat’s fur length. For instance, you may need to brush a Persian more often than a Siamese.
Monitor changes in behavior or activity
Unlike people, cats and dogs don’t just decide to change their ways. Any change in behavior or activity can be a cause for concern. For example:
- Increased nervousness or aggression may mean the beginning of senility.
- With cats, they may stop grooming due to illness or pain.
- If your dog is having trouble getting into the car, or your cat no longer sits on top of the couch like she used to, these may be signs of arthritis.
If you notice any change in pet’s behavior or activity, call your veterinarian.
There may be a little more grey in the fur and they’re not as energetic as they once were, but becoming a senior pet doesn’t mean their days are numbered. With advancements in medicine and a little extra care, your senior cat or dog can live a long and healthy life.