There is something so special about older dogs and cats; something so endearing and soul-full. They just melt our hearts. We have spent so many years together with them, getting used to their quirks and silly ways and them with ours. They have been there with us through so much and now it is time for us to be there for them in their golden years.
So what are the needs of our senior pets and what can we do to give them the best and longest life possible?
1) Diet: Good nutrition is always important, but nutritional needs do change as our pets pass through different life stages. As metabolism slows and senior pets tend to be less active than their younger counterparts, caloric needs decrease. It is important that our pets maintain an ideal body weight to avoid excess strain and pressure on their joints. Some senior diets have added ingredients to aid in joint health and mobility such as glucosamine, chondriotin, omega three fatty acids and green lipped muscle. These ingredients when present in therapeutic levels can decrease the clinical signs of arthritis and improve your pet’s comfort. A senior diet should be of high quality, lower calorie and have added benefit to aid in joint health. However, if your pet has another illness or condition, they may already be on a prescription diet that is best suited to them. Be sure to ask your veterinarian what diet would be best for your senior pet.
2) Exercise: Although our senior pets may not be catching fly frisbees in the air as they once did, daily exercise is still important to their health and wellbeing. As the aging process can cause painful arthritic change in your pet’s joints. It is so important to maintain muscle mass in order to support the weakened joints. Daily exercise can help prevent this. Whatever your pet is up for; a romp in the dog park or a slow steady stroll or chasing a laser pointer again and again; you will both be better for it!
3) Pain control: It will happen to the best of us, arthritis (inflammation of the joints) will affect us all. It is a slow steady ache that is progressive over time. It mainly affects our middle to older age pets, causing them to slow down and be less active. It often gets mistaken for aging alone and can be hard to detect. Signs of arthritis can be slowing on walks, reluctance to do stairs, sitting on the floor instead of their favorite chair, stiffness after getting up from rest and pacing or circling prior to lying down. Although changes on x ray can show arthritic changes, there is no test for arthritis. If you are concerned that your pet may be painful, talk to your veterinarian. A two week trial can be beneficial in helping to determine if you can improve your pets comfort and mobility. An active pet is a happy pet and a comfortable pet can be an active pet.
4) Regular checkups: Our pet’s age more rapidly than we do and it is important to be preventative about their health. Both dogs and cats can be very good at hiding the early signs of disease, making it hard for us as their caregivers to realize that they are ill. Often by the time we have noticed the weight loss or other clinical signs, they are in the later stages of an ailment that we might have been able to slow down or treat had we known earlier. Regular check ups for our senior pets are essential in maintaining their health and picking up on the early signs of disease, helping your pet to live a longer and better quality life.
5) Love em and spoil em! Our senior pets are our most loyal and loving of family members. Their world revolves around our comings and goings…..and the odd tasty morsel. Take the time to love them, cuddle with them and let them know how special they are to us. They deserve it!!