Taking Great Care of Your Senior Pet
Whether you already have a senior pet or are considering adoption, a little grey on the muzzle can be a wonderful thing. Senior pets are special; they have lived long enough to know the routine, yet often have years of good health and love yet to give.
Like humans, pets who are aging need certain adjustments to help keep them comfortable. But because of better pet nutrition, advancements in veterinary medicine, and our better understanding of what pets need to stay healthy, we can all give senior pets the healthy happy golden years they deserve. Read on to find out how.
The Senior Life Stage
When exactly does your pet becomes a senior?
Generally speaking, dogs and cats are considered seniors at age 7; but this varies greatly based on breed. Your veterinarian can help you determine when your pet is entering this life stage, one reason annual preventive exams are so important.
Early Detection of Disease
Since pets age at a much faster rate than humans, we like to see them twice a year beginning at age 7. In addition to the information we get from a physical exam, lab work and other screening tests are an important way to know if your pet is healthy. With screening tests, we can often detect small problems and treat them early, rather than waiting for full blown disease to show up.
Early detection means less pain and discomfort for your pet, and less expense to you. Some age related changes we can often catch early with screening tests are:
- Dental disease
- Addison’s disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Hip dysplasia
- Lumps and bumps
- Arthritis and joint diseases
Sometimes pet owners assume that pets are “slowing down” due to age, but often pets are suffering from pain and discomfort that can be remedied with simple treatment.
Golden Years Vigilance
Pets (especially cats) are masters at hiding signs of pain and discomfort, even from their closest people. It’s important to keep a close eye on them to know if they need our help. Some signs to watch for include:
- Changes in weight (especially weight loss)
- Decreased appetite or changes in appetite
- Increased water consumption
- Changes in elimination patterns (urine or stool)
- New lumps, bumps, or swellings
- Persistent cough
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing or breathing heavily while at rest
- Difficulty climbing stairs or moving around
- Foul mouth odor or drooling
- Seizure or convulsions
- Sudden collapse or bouts of weakness
Keeping Your Senior Pet Comfortable
Caring for your senior pet also means making some changes to your home environment. As an owner of a senior pet, you should focus on two main areas: safety and comfort.
Older pets tend to be less agile and nimble than in years past, and they don’t always realize it. They are more likely to slip on floors, fall down stairs, or have trouble navigating hills and uneven ground. It’s best to avoid putting older pets in potentially dangerous situations, even if those situations didn’t seem dangerous in the past.
Concerning comfort, there are several things you can do to help your senior pet.
- Provide cozy sleeping spots to keep older pets warm
- In warm weather, ensure senior pets have cool places to relax, in air conditioning if needed
- Move food bowls and water bowls within easy reach, possibly avoiding stairs or having to jump up to access them
- Evaluate your cat’s litter box to make sure she can get in and out easily
- Use ramps to help your older dog get in and out of the car and up and down stairs
- Keep a stable routine of feeding, bathroom breaks, and exercise
- Groom your senior pet regularly, keeping nails short
- Provide plenty of TLC, cuddles, and petting so your senior pet feels your love and attention
If you feel your pet is in any pain, please talk to us right away. Veterinary medicine has made leaps and bounds in pain management for pets, and there is absolutely no reason your senior pet needs to be painful or uncomfortable.