Dogs and cats are usually considered seniors when they reach 7 years of age. Although the aging process is different for each animal, certain changes are common in most cats and dogs as they age. They slow down physically, just like humans do. Problems related to age usually cannot be cured, but many can be managed successfully if detected early.
Tip #1: Diet for Aging Pets
Diet is an important part of your senior pet’s overall health. Slowing metabolism and lower activity levels make older pets more prone to obesity. The nutritional needs of older pets are significantly different from when they were younger. They require fewer calories, protein and salt, and more vitamins and minerals.
Fatty acid is important for skin and coat health.
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Tip #2: Bi-Yearly Vet Exam for Older Pets
As a rule, larger animals enter their senior years before smaller animals, but each animal is a little different. Your vet is the best judge of your pet’s aging. As your pet approaches senior status, your vet may recommend basic blood and urine tests as a baseline for measuring future changes. Regular blood testing can help identify diseases in their earliest and most treatable stages.
Ask your vet to clean your dog’s teeth regularly and follow the cleaning with recommended dental care at home. If your pet has not been spayed or neutered, ask your vet about having this done to avoid tumours of the mammary or prostate glands. Also visit your vet for a senior health care exam at least every six months to monitor changes in your pet’s health.
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Tip #3: Exercise for Senior Dogs
Exercise such as swimming or walking is ideal for old dogs. Joint movement will reduce stiffness and pain. Exercise will help reduce weight, which in turn will make movement easier. It is also a wonderful fact that while exercising an aging dog, we too get some exercise.
Exercising your dog’s mind is just as important as exercising his body. Older dogs will take longer to learn a new trick or game, but they will enjoy it just as much as they did when puppies. A new game or trick will add excitement to a senior dog’s life, adding zest to the day’s activities.
Tip #4: Furniture for Senior Dogs and Cats
If the stairs get a bit too much for us as we grow old, they will for our aging pet too. Changing things around in the house can really improve a senior pet’s quality of life. A foam bed with easy access, will be a welcome spot for resting. Dog stairs to the sofa or bed will ease the stress on joints. A ramp will help an old dog to climb into a car. And having rugs on hardwood floors will make walking easier.
Tip #5: Toilet Time for Older Cats and Dogs
Senior pets need to relieve themselves more frequently than before. It’s a great idea to install a pet patio door to give them free access to the yard whenever the mood strikes them.
Tip #6: Grumpy Old Dogs
Pain, especially arthritic pain, can make older pets more grumpy. Pain management will help reduce such patterns of behaviour. Groom your senior pet at least once each week. Check for lumps, sores, parasites, bad breath, and ear discharge.
Have a look at the TAH internal promotion section on page 3 to find out more about our geriatrics specials for the month of June.
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How to identify a senior pet:
- Just not acting himself or herself
- Interacting less often with family
- Responding less often or less enthusiastically
- Having difficulty climbing stairs
- Having difficulty jumping
- Exhibiting increased stiffness or limping
- Drinking more often
- Urinating more often
- Change in eating patterns
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Losing housetraining abilities
- Becoming confused or disoriented
- Experiencing changes in coat, skin, or growths
- Exhibiting bad breath, red, or swollen gums
- Inability to chew dry food
- Exhibiting tremors or shaking