Senior Pet Care: Prolonging the Life of Your Best Friend
Our pets are often our best friends, and it is important to do right by them. Taking good care of a pet as they enter their golden years is a great way to repay them for all they do for us. Blue Valley Animal Hospital is here to help you provide senior pet care that your four-legged companion deserves.
What is a Senior Pet?
Pets can’t order off the discount menu at Denny’s or qualify for Medicaid, so how do we know when our faithful friends are entering their sunset years?
The overall agreement is that pets are considered to be senior at the age of seven. Because smaller breeds tend to age a little more slowly than do their larger counterparts, we often consider large and giant breeds to be seniors a little earlier (around 5 or 6) and smaller toy breeds to be seniors a little later (at more like 8 or 9).
How is Senior Pet Care Different?
Good wellness care is important for pets of all ages. So just how is senior pet care different from caring for any other animal?
A good senior pet care program has all the same factors as any other pet care plan, but our older pets often need special or additional care considerations. Things to give special attention to when it comes to aging animals include:
- Mobility concerns and challenges
- Pain management
- Overall comfort
- Nutritional needs
- Mental health
- Frequent wellness exams
- Advanced care for medical diagnoses
- Quality of life and end of life care
Caring for My Old Dog
Because pets age so much more quickly than do humans, major changes can happen in a pretty short period of time. This is why preventive care for senior pets is even more crucial. Early detection of trouble and intervention is vital to helping pets live longer and healthier lives.
Perhaps the most important part of senior pet care is having your pet examined at least annually (ideally twice per year) and allowing recommended testing such as wellness blood work and radiographs.
Other ways you can improve care for your older dog include:
- Make accommodations for vision or hearing loss such as providing texture cues like rugs at the tops of stairs, using hand signals, and taking care to not startle them.
- Provide a soft, supportive resting area.
- Adjust for mobility issues by providing stairs or ramps to access higher spots and considering a mobility harness.
- Encourage gentle exercise.
- Learn how to massage your pet.
- Contact us if you feel your pet is in pain.
- Allow professional dental care for your senior.
- Provide mental stimulation and enrichment.
- Ask about nutritional recommendations for your pet.
Caring for My Old Cat
Good senior cat care includes many of the same elements as does good senior dog care. Cats in particular benefit from social, mental, and physical stimulation since they tend to be less exposed as an indoor pet.
Be sure to engage kitty by:
- Encouraging daily play sessions.
- Using a strategically-placed bird or squirrel feeder to entertain them.
- Creating a kitty exploration area with cardboard boxes and such.
- Giving them a grooming session.
Cats also may need litter box accommodations to help them not have accidents. You may need to choose a box with lower sides or no lid so that they can enter and position without difficulty. Deeper litter can also be hard on achy joints. Consider adding more boxes around the house to make them more accessible.
Whether your senior pet is a cat or a dog, paying attention to their normal habits and behaviors is also a very helpful thing to do. Knowing their daily routine, eating and drinking habits, grooming routines, bathroom habits, and social norms can help to alert you if something is not quite right.
Never hesitate to let us know if you feel that your senior pet might not be themselves. An important part of senior pet care is advocating for your best friend and making sure that they are as happy and comfortable as possible.