Celebrating Senior Pets

Of course they say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks (which we don’t believe) but you can celebrate your senior pets this month with some good old fashioned awareness and appreciation. Our older pets have a much closer spot in our hearts, as they have lived alongside us through different stages and journeys in our lives. If dogs could talk, imagine the stories they would tell! This month we have some great tips for caring for the oldest members of our pet families.
New Habits
Bathroom Breaks
Just like people, elderly animals require more frequent trips to the bathroom, and it’s important to recognize that as your pet gets older, he may be less and less likely to alert you to the fact that it’s time to go NOW. With your dogs, be aware of changing bladder and bowel function, and adjust your walking schedule accordingly. And with your cats, be sure to keep the litter box clean to account for increased use. For both cats and dogs, be sure to alert your vet to any significant changes such as constipation, diarrhea or an increased urgency to urinate.
Behavioral Changes
In their younger years, Fido and Fluffy may have been bursts of energy, racing after toys or running circles around the yard. As they grow older, their need for play may lessen and their behavior in general could change. Once outgoing pets could become more quiet and need more time to themselves, or on the flipside, quiet pets may suddenly need your attention more and more. Understand that, just like us, gaining in years can sometimes make our buddies tired, grumpy or anxious. Be patient with your friend and understand that sometimes he’s just feeling his age.
Dietary Changes
Packing on the Pounds
As pets get older, their metabolism can slow and they can start packing on the pounds. Senior pets need you now, more than ever, to pay attention to the ingredients of the food going into their bowls. Even if your pet is just a little husky (and I don’t mean Siberian!), it’s up to you to modify the type and portion size of their food. Luckily, dedicated pet food experts have worked for years to develop tasty offerings that help manage your pet’s weight. Selecting the best food for your pet doesn’t have to be complicated, and you can always ask your veterinarian for guidance on your pet’s diet.
Fiber and Other Needed Nutrients
Regardless of food type, as pets age, more fiber should be added to their diets to help regulate their digestion. Bran, apples, and even pumpkin can all add a powerful punch of fiber in your pet’s food, and this added boost of fiber will help ensure proper digestion, decrease risks of certain types of cancer, and encourage weight loss, among other benefits.
New Health Focus
Feeling it in the Joints
Arthritis can set in fairly quickly for our senior pets, and the discomfort it can cause can change a pet’s entire daily routine. Some dog breeds are more prone to joint or bone problems in later life, so it’s important to know what is to be expected with your particular pet. Upon seeing the first signs of joint stiffness, it’s a good idea to increase the intake of certain joint-friendly supplements, like fish oil or glucosamine, both of which can be found in certain types of foods and treats as well as in oil or pill form.
Dental Care
As pets grow older, more attention must be paid to their dental care. Offering toys that promote cleaner teeth is a good place to start, along with regular brushing and plenty of access to fresh water. With bi-annual veterinary visits, your vet can alert you if it’s time for a full cleaning, or if there are any issues that require stronger attention, such as an abscessed tooth.
Vision and Hearing Loss
Cats and dogs may experience some vision and/or hearing loss as they age, so it’s important to have the veterinarian check your pet’s eyes during each visit. If you or your vet determine there is sight or hearing loss, you can make proper adjustments to ensure the safety and comfort of your senior pet, both at home and outside the house.
Comfort
Sleeping Arrangements
Your beloved little buddy may have always slept on the foot of your bed, but pay attention to what he needs now and make arrangements for him to have restful nights in his older age. Many pet care companies now make orthopedic bedding specifically for aging pets, so do some research on what type of bed can provide your pet the most comfort at night.
A Little Help, Please
Dogs that have always been allowed on the couch or bed, or even invited along for rides in the car, may have more difficulty now getting situated in their normal spots. Sporting dogs who have always jumped eagerly into the back of a truck may now find it difficult to make it past their front paws. Placing steps or ramps in typical places of entry can help your dog feel at home in all his favorite places, no matter how tired his bones feel that day.
Our pets are our friends, companions who have stayed true to us through thick and thin. And now, as they are growing older, it is our responsibility to provide them with the proper care and courtesy afforded to any respected elder. Take good care of your buddy and keep him for as long as you can and he will love you his entire life.