If you are blessed enough to have a pet who has lived into their golden years, you’ve experienced the years of joy and unconditional love they’ve given you. They become our babies, confidants and our friends. Their only “downfall” is that they have a much shorter life span than their human companions. Naturally as pets get older, their needs change and evolve. It’s important to be conscious of these changes and pay attention to what your furry friend is trying to tell you. Senior citizen pets require special care and pampering!
As pets age, they will start to have less energy, they might develop hearing issues or cataracts and their organs may also stop functioning as efficiently. While your pet’s nutrition is always important; it is crucial to ensure that they are on an age-appropriate diet as they age. Senior pets are at higher risk for getting diabetes, kidney or liver disease or obesity. Make sure you find the best dog/cat food that is specially designed for senior pets. For dogs particularly, these are often lower in fat and have fewer calories and will complement the nutritional need of your dog. Since older pets tend to develop different conditions; check with your get to see if their is a specific type of senior food for their particular need. Animals also tend to drink more water as kidney function increases with age, so keep your pet’s water bowl filled and place several around the house.
Routine vet care is essential when it comes to caring for older pets. As our furry friends age, their immune systems before weaker which make them much more vulnerable to all sorts of ailments. Vets suggest twice-yearly checkups for older pets. Your cat or dog will get whatever vaccinations are needed and will get a physical exam, along with tests to follow up on any problems. Blood and urine tests are also recommended to gather information on kidney and liver health and thyroid hormone levels among other things. This is a good time to mention any changes you’ve seen in your pet such as drinking more water, loss of appetite, lethargy, etc. Pet insurance can be extremely helpful with veterinary bills for routine visits and most common procedures senior pets will require. While pet insurance is more expensive as pets age, it’s a good idea to get a plan at some point. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance offers a variety of plans for pets of all ages that can help ensure your pet’s golden years are the best they can be!
Much like humans, often older pets will suffer from arthritis or other joint problems that can affect their mobility. Pet steps are a great solution your furry friends to access areas like the couch, your car or bed. Soft bedding that is easy to access (i.e. doesn't require jumping or climbing into) is also key. Place your pet's bed near their bathroom and food areas to ensure that they have easy access to all of the necessities in their resting space. Placing multiple litter boxes in your home will help an aging kitty who can no longer get around as easily. Not only do cozy beds help with achy bones, they can also help regulate body temperature. Keeping their body temperature up will help diminish joint and muscle stiffness. Set your dog’s bed near a heat source on chilly days, let your senior kitty curl up on a heating pad and make sure you have a coat or warm sweater for walks outside in cold weather. It’s also a good idea to place area rugs and carpets around the house. They will alleviate the pressure on your dog's joints and help arthritic dogs with their footing. Stairs can sometimes prove difficult and in some cases might exacerbate problems. One solution would be to buy a doggy ramp or simple install doggy proof gates to restrict their access to stairs.
Aging pets can easily become anxious; especially if they don't sense their owner nearby, so try to spend as much time with them as you can. Even if they can’t see you or hear you; they will be able to feel your presence. They need this for their emotional and mental wellness. Older cats might become more dependent on relationships and find comfort in their daily routine so make sure to take some time every day to spend quality time with your senior kitty. Most importantly; remember to be patient and understanding. Your furry friend has given you years of love, affection and companionship; they deserve your patience and lots of extra TLC.
While not all pets will age the same way or at the same age, they will all get old at some point. Sadly, it's the natural progression of life and pet owners should be prepared for it. Because dogs and cats do age so rapidly (about seven times faster than humans), health problems can progress faster too. It’s crucial to stay on top of your pet's health and pay attention to any changes or warning signs. Early detection and proper care and attention will help ensure your elderly pet maintains good health and lives a happy life for many years to come!