Your senior pet has given you a lifetime of love and adoration. Return the favor with special care designed to support their aging body, and ensure their comfort and good health in their golden years. Although age is not a disease, it does come with many age-related illnesses that can be alleviated through multimodal treatment plans and excellent at-home care. Keep your golden oldie in great shape well past the time their muzzle turns gray with the following senior pet care tips.
#1: Engage in routine, low-impact exercise with your senior pet
Losing muscle mass is a typical part of aging, but you can slow its progress in your pet by encouraging daily physical activity. Your older pet may want to sleep more, but exercise is still an important part of their mental and physical health, and you may need to change the exercise type for safety. For example, rather than playing a vigorous game of fetch, gently roll the ball at your elderly dog. Or, switch to swimming or leisurely strolls instead of briskly hiking steep slopes. For cats, ease up on the typical feather wand play that encourages abrupt movements and jumps, and move at a slower speed.
#2: Keep your senior pet’s mind sharp with mental enrichment
Cognitive dysfunction can affect cats and dogs, although it’s more common and easier to identify in dogs. Keep your aging pet’s mind sharp with mental enrichment that varies daily. A few great ways to keep your pet’s mind in shape include:
- Using food or treat puzzles, such as rubber Kongs, snuffle mats, and LickiMats
- Purchasing interactive toys that encourage physical and mental activity
- Engaging in training sessions
- Encouraging daily play sessions
- Changing walking routes
- Trying new exercise activities
Any changes in your pet’s daily routine can help perk up their cognitive function and boost mental enrichment, keeping their mind sharper, longer.
#3: Support your senior pet’s joint health with supplements
The majority of senior pets—and adult pets—suffer from osteoarthritis. As pets age, their joint cartilage degenerates from the daily wear and tear of physical activity over the years. While many senior pets will need medication to alleviate their arthritis pain, you can help ward off discomfort for as long as possible with a high quality joint supplement. Glucosamine, chondroitin, and many other ingredients can reduce joint inflammation, repair cartilage damage, and nurture new cartilage growth to help your pet feel young again.
#4: Modify your home to help your senior pet with navigation
Senior pets can’t move around as well as they used to, and leaping onto their favorite furniture or windowsill may no longer be feasible. Help your pet navigate tall furniture and get to their favored resting areas by installing ramps, or placing orthopedic beds in their favorite location. Add carpet runners to slick floor surfaces to provide traction for unsteady pets, and keep all resources on a single level.
#5: Switch to a special diet for senior pets
Senior pets have different nutritional needs than their younger counterparts, which can be met by switching to a diet specifically geared toward aging organs. Phosphorus, protein, and calorie levels may need adjusting for your senior pet, so speak to your Groves Veterinary Clinic veterinarian for advice on the best diet. Also, many senior pets develop diseases, such as kidney, liver, or thyroid disease, that may benefit from a prescription diet as part of their multimodal treatment plan.
#6: Invest in more frequent wellness care for your senior pet
Pets sadly age faster than we do, and that is certainly apparent in senior pets. A significant number of health changes can occur in a few short months, which is why our veterinarians recommend biannual—or more frequent—wellness exams for senior pets. In addition to a thorough physical exam, we will perform baseline blood work and additional screening tests based on your pet’s risk and history. A urinalysis, blood pressure check, and chest X-rays may be warranted, along with thyroid testing and early kidney disease evaluation. By staying on top of your pet’s health and baseline values, we can catch disease much earlier, offering a better prognosis and more successful treatment.